"Black Magic" Poem Analysis
"Black Magic" by Dudley Randall is a poem about fascination. Contextually the poem bears clear reference to race. Overall, though, it focuses on attraction. The speaker expresses clear admiration for a "black girl," describing her with glowing imagery; use of poetic patterns highlights the favorable comparisons he makes in the poem.
An effective entrance into poetry analysis is considering the speaker and audience. In "Black Magic" the narrator is addressing a woman he clearly finds attractive since he describes her in glowing terms. He tells her, "You walk as a rising bird" and a "falling star." Dudley is utilizing the poetic technique apostrophe, addressing an absent subject directly. He even accuses her of casting a spell that makes his heart "jump stop shake." From these types of descriptions, the speaker comes across as a likely young man, well-smitten since he describes the woman so reverently.
Context is important to understanding Randall's poem. "Black Magic" appears in the1970 collection "Love You" Randall published with Broadside Press, which he established in 1965. Broadside Press, renowned for publishing works of African-American poets and political writers, comes after Randall's poem, "Ballad of Birmingham," was made into a song; Randall wrote the poem about the tragedy of four girls being killed in a Birmingham church bombing. This context helps explain the repetition of "black" and Randall's evident reverence for the color; the poem comes, after all, during the height of the Civil Rights Movement of which Randall was a part.
Patterns appear in the 12-line poem. Content and repetition show Randall wrote three distinct quatrains, though not in formal stanzas. The clearest pattern, refrain, comes in the repetition of the line "Black girl black girl" at the beginning of each stanza, thus drawing the reader's attention. Refrain usually comes at the end of a stanza, though. Likewise, the repetition resembles another poetic technique, anaphora, in which poets use repetition to create parallelism, or a feeling of reciting a litany. Writers often use this technique in religious and devotional poetry, fitting considering the speaker's clear reverence of the girl's "powers."
Randall's sensory images come in the form of similes when he uses fruit to describe the look and sweetness of her lips. Metaphorically, though, she is either a bird or a star in the "magic" of her walk. Though neither act is actually magical, the description highlights the speaker's awe for the girl. Randall refers to magic again in the final stanza, asking the girl what spell she's cast that creates his reaction. In fact, the entire poem plays on the idea of "black magic," which normally carries negative connotations. Randall, however, writes an admiring poem highlighting the beauty of a kind of "black magic."
- Modern American Poetry: Dudley Randall's Life and Career; Naomi Long Madgett
- The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Writing Center: Poetry Explications
- Poetry Foundation: Dudley Randall
- Poetry Foundation: Refrain
- Poets.org: Poetic Technique: Anaphora
- University of Texas at Austin Writing Center: Analyzing Poetry
- The Poetry Foundation: Apostrophe
Nadia Archuleta has a B.A. in English writing. She spent five years working abroad and has traveled extensively. She has worked as an English as a Foreign/Second Language teacher for 12 years.