All teenagers are rebellious creatures. Many would deny that fact, but it’s true. It doesn’t matter how good you are, there is a part of you that wants to rebel against what adults tell you to do. This includes me. I am a very good person. I do what I’m told and I don’t talk back, but in my head I always have a witty remark or the urge to defy authority and stay up late on school nights or tap the glass of fishbowls. That’s the very reason I read “Beware: Do Not Read This Poem” by Ashamed Reed.
The exact moment I saw that warning on paper, I had an undeniable need to read it like Odysseus had an undeniable need to Join the sirens. And I loved it. Reed pulled me in with his repetitive warnings and errors, making it impossible to turn away. In his poem “Beware: Do Not Read This Poem”, I incorrectly interpreted that Ashamed Reed was trying to express the dangers of human temptation. However, with further research and assistance from professional literary critics, I realized that he was trying to express the vain notions of Western civilization and how it destructs African ultra in America.
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Upon interpreting the poem by myself, I came to the false conclusion that Reed’s work portrays human temptation. Although the first three stanzas did not make sense, the last four were seemingly very clear. By using the repetition of the line, “back off from this poem” (21) combined with the “it has drawn in yr” (22) statements, Reed depicts the teenager-sis need to ignore the constant warnings and to continue reading. Like the shirtless Jogging horseman who ignored the warning to evacuate Washington, D. C. Ring Hurricane Sandy and Harry Potter ignoring Dobby warning not to return to Hogwash’s, the reader ignores Reed’s warning to stop reading. However, like the great Lamarckian and his theory of evolution, I was proven wrong. As it turns out, the poem is a piece of political satire trying to express the vain characteristics of Western civilization and shows how it negates African culture. Lynn Davidson, a poetry writer, found that Reed used irony to challenge American politics. She has said that Reed uses irony to give the poem a double meaning. The poem is a bubble edged sword.
The title gives the reader caution of a danger in the poem but in truth, it is Just a poem. This forces the reader to have two viewpoints and starts a debate. Davidson also says the first three stanzas, that were meaningless to me, told the story of Narcissus, a beautiful man. One day he went to a spring to get a drink and caught sight of his reflection. He soon fell in love with himself and tried to reach down to touch his image in the water. Unfortunately, the gorgeous Narcissus falls in and the world loses a man almost as gorgeous as Justine Bibber.
Davidson believes that Reed uses the old woman’s story to compare Western civilization to Narcissus. However, Ashamed is not insulting Westerners. By including the story, “Reed is acknowledging o D TN ten realness AT western culture Ana ten tragedy Tanat It Tell I love with itself, thus entering a relationship of deception, sterility, and exclusivity’ (Davidson). Further in the poem, the tone switches and Reed begins to use pronouns like “his” instead of “yr”. Davidson shed a new light on previously unnoticed change and, like my life the moment I found One Direction, my understanding of the poem took a three hundred sixty degree turn.
Reed’s switch of pronouns and stating, “nobody can hear you can they? ” (29) creates a very discomforting environment for the reader. Davidson says he creates a mood where the reader feels like the poem is forcing things on them, things that shall not be named, like Voltmeter. Davidson believes he was trying to show the reader the feelings felt by students of African descent while reading English literature. Reed uses this poem to show how poems can be mirrors that negate culture (Davidson).
Although my understanding of “Beware: Do Not Read This Poem” was incorrect, Lynn Davidson helped me understand that Ashamed Reed was truly trying to show the vain characteristics of Western civilization and show how it can negate African culture.