Angelou and Thomas

In this essay I will be exploring, discussing and analysing two cross cultural poems. The first is called woman work, its by Maya Angelou, the second poem is titled Lore and its writer is R. S Thomas. Both Angelou and Thomas expLore and present their ideas in very different and contrasting ways. Through out the two poems it is easy to gain knowledge into the poet’s backgrounds and beliefs. The two poems are connected by the obvious theme of work, which both poems are clearly passionate about.

However the way in which they do work or view it is very different. Primarily culture defines a person’s origin, beliefs, actions and reactions to certain situations. I will begin by looking at Maya Angelou’s background. She was born in st Louis on April 4 1928 as Marguerite Johnson. She lived in a black segregated community in Arkansas with her grandmother and brother until the age of eight. Her grandmother was a hard worker. She ran a general store and the home, brought up the children and looked after her crippled son.

Members of the white community however often spoke down to her grandmother. At 8 Maya moved to live with her mother in St Louis, Illinois. Her mother was also a hard worker in clubs and enjoyed the high life. At 8 Maya was raped by her mother’s boyfriend She became mute until she was 13. Maya herself worked hard in her teens as a cook, waitress and brought up her son, born when she was 16. She had many occupations over the years as a poet, writer, scriptwriter and director. So Maya Angelou’s formative years were spent with strong hardworking women.

She experienced prejudice throughout her young life, which could explain why she seems to want to be white “cover me with white” this shows puracy and wanting to be white because generally they had more rights and an easier seeming life. Being white equalled having privileges. Maya Angelou’s poetry generally shows a lot of emotions. Like her wanting to rest, practically pleading to the reader, when she has a real need to be white in order to gain privileges and Maya Angelou has nothing to call her own, “Sun, rain, curving sky Mountain, ocean, leaf and stone Star shine, moon glow You’re all that I can call my own”.

Maya Angelou does such a long list of work daily yet; she has nothing of her own to show for it, no possessions, nothing. So instead of getting depressed because she has nothing. She is instead positive and says look I own all of this (environment) what more could I want. R. S Thomas’s background however is drastically different, which may explain why the same topics are covered in both poems but why the views on these topics are so contrasting. He had a very religious background. Thomas was born in Cardiff in 1913.

his full name is Ronald Stuart Thomas (characteristically strong welsh names). He Spoke the traditional welsh language, was ordained, became a curate, then a rector in the church. He was alienated from much of welsh country life, because of his position in the clergy.. He constantly remained concerned about the hard- working farmers and farm labourers of Wales, renowned for his suspicion of solace although he was unmarried. His poetry is uncompromising: images like slate – hard and sharp: his style – spare, unflinching, honest.

In both poems the characters are symbolic of different people. In the poem Lore Job Davies is a symbolic character of most welsh farmers, who are solitary and really gain pleasure out of hard manual labour. In Woman work even though Maya Angelou is speaking in the first person (I), however she is speaking really as her grandmother and all the other hard working women she has come across in her past, she seems to be speaking out for them and writing about their experiences and troubles. Maya Angelou’s poem conveys a sense of the tedium of her work.

For her it is difficult, tiring and tedious. The message of this poem is to communicate that a woman can’t continue the hard work she is doing, she hasn’t got the strength and she is physically exhausted and mentally worn out. She dreams of having a rest and having a better life for herself, she is standing up for her rights as a human being. She is not some ongoing machine. She wants others to take a break and dream of a better life in order to keep going and to reach their ‘perfect life’.