Poetry is a way of passing messages in ways that are not easy for people who are not keen to understand cannot decipher. It is a very broad branch of literature that requires keen understanding and analysis for it to make sense. “Telephone Conversation” by Wole Soyinka and “The Subway” by Sharon Olds are poems with similar themes. “Telephone Conversations” by Soyinka is about an African man being denied tenancy by a British landlady for being black. “The Subway,” is a reflection of a white woman on how easy her life is because she is white compared to that of a young man she sees while riding a train in the subway. In the two poems, there is the theme of racism and discrimination. The white lady in the subway notices and acknowledges the fact that being white makes her life easy compared to that of the black young man standing with her in the subway. In the “telephone conversation,” the theme of discrimination and racism is further carried on by the white lady who asks the caller whether he is light or very dark. It is important to note that when these poems were written, the theme of racism was very open and people did not bother to hide it or feel ashamed to admit that they were racists.
The literary elements in the poem by Soyinka, “Telephone Conversation,” are tone and metaphors. This is evident in the line where the land lady asks the caller whether he is black or light, her tone changes so drastically that the poet terms it as clinical. “Her accent was clinical, crushing in its light impersonality.” (Soyinka)This indicates a tone that is unfriendly and unapproachable. It also presents the theme of discrimination greatly. The landlady does not want to accept a black tenant just because of his color. It is a theme in line with racism. The landlady discriminates the caller yet she has not even seen him in person just because she heard that he is black.
In the poem by Olds, “The Subway,” the theme of racism is evident from the personas admission on how easy her life is just because her skin is white. “ (Olds)There is no way to know how easy this skin makes my life.” It is important to note that in this poem, it is the white lady’s thoughts that the poet has used. The literary elements in this poem are imagery and allusion (Skeamey, 2017). The poet creates the image in our minds that makes the black man vulnerable yet in the white woman’s mind, she is the vulnerable one. Allusion is evident in the idea of racisms which has always been there and still is present in the lives of people.
To conclude, the two poems have executed the themes of discrimination and racism very elaborately. The literary elements in both poems have also been used well enough to support the theme of racism and discrimination by making clear the race references. Poetry being an art of expression that is timeless, is justified by these poems given that the theme is still relevant today as it was during the time when the poets wrote the poems. The two poems only differ in the personas but the theme remains the same. The, “Telephone Conversation,” is from the perspective of an African man while, “The Subway,” is from the perspective of a white woman.
Olds, S. (n.d.). On The Subway. Retrieved from Poetry Magazines: www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazines/record.asp?id=2161
Skeamey. (2017, January 31). Literary Elements of Poetry. Retrieved from Quizlet: quizlet.com/18058407/literary-elements-of-poetry-flash-cards/
Soyinka, W. (n.d.). Telephone Conversation. Retrieved from All Poetry: allpoetry.com/poem/10379451-Telephone-Conversation-by-Wole-Soyinka
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