Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson

So in one of my classes this semester I was introduced to Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson. She lived 1875-1935 and was an African American, Anglo, Native American, and Creole woman who wrote poetry and short stories. She was mostly known for her prose, having published her first book Violets and Other Tales when she was only twenty. She was also married to Paul Dunbar for a while. I wanted to bring her up as a poet because I really love her poem You! Inez! which is definitely a poem about a woman lover. I think that because she is writing about a woman lover, even though from what I’ve learned this poem was not really meant to reach anyone’s eyes except maybe her lovers, it’s hard to know if this poem would be read the same way.

I always feel that looking back on the writing of the generation that they wouldn’t have understood even what I would consider blatant homosexuality in writing because it wasn’t really represented at that time. I think that there is a complexity of being distant for the intended audience, her lover, the situation, and being a modern reader now.

So this is the poem:

You! Inez!
Orange gleams athwart a crimson soul
Lambent flames; purple passion lurks
In your dusk eyes.
Red mouth; flower soft,
Your soul leaps up—and flashes
Star-like, white, flame-hot.
Curving arms, encircling a world of love,
You! Stirring the depths of passionate desire!
To me the striking exclamation marks are an obvious rebellion against the times and the expectations of whom a woman should love. If this is a poem to Inez her love than I believe that the act of being this blatant is meant to get that reaction out of the lover. Also the obviously feminine images such as the “red mouth; flower soft” and the “curving arms.” Read and see what you think guys!

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