Alabanza. Praise the cook with a shaven head
and a tattoo on his shoulder that said Oye,
a blue-eyed Puerto Rican with people from Fajardo,
the harbor of pirates centuries ago.
Praise the lighthouse in Fajardo, candle
glimmering white to worship the dark saint of the sea.
Alabanza. Praise the cook’s yellow Pirates cap
worn in the name of Roberto Clemente, his plane
that flamed into the ocean loaded with cans for Nicaragua,
for all the mouths chewing the ash of earthquakes.
Alabanza. Praise the kitchen radio, dial clicked
even before the dial on the oven, so that music and Spanish
rose before bread. Praise the bread. Alabanza.
Praise Manhattan from a hundred and seven flights up,
like Atlantis glimpsed through the windows of an ancient aquarium.
Praise the great windows where immigrants from the kitchen
could squint and almost see their world, hear the chant of nations:
Ecuador, México, Republica Dominicana,
Haiti, Yemen, Ghana, Bangladesh.
Alabanza. Praise the kitchen in the morning,
where the gas burned blue on every stove
and exhaust fans fired their diminutive propellers,
hands cracked eggs with quick thumbs
or sliced open cartons to build an altar of cans.
Alabanza. Praise the busboy’s music, the chime-chime
of his dishes and silverware in the tub.
Alabanza. Praise the dish-dog, the dishwasher
who worked that morning because another dishwasher
could not stop coughing, or because he needed overtime
to pile the sacks of rice and beans for a family
floating away on some Caribbean island plagued by frogs.
Alabanza. Praise the waitress who heard the radio in the kitchen
and sang to herself about a man gone. Alabanza.
After the thunder wilder than thunder,
after the shudder deep in the glass of the great windows,
after the radio stopped singing like a tree full of terrified frogs,
after night burst the dam of day and flooded the kitchen,
for a time the stoves glowed in darkness like the lighthouse in Fajardo,
like a cook’s soul. Soul I say, even if the dead cannot tell us
about the bristles of God’s beard because God has no face,
soul I say, to name the smoke-beings flung in constellations
across the night sky of this city and cities to come.
Alabanza I say, even if God has no face.
Alabanza. When the war began, from Manhattan and Kabul
two constellations of smoke rose and drifted to each other,
mingling in icy air, and one said with an Afghan tongue:
Teach me to dance. We have no music here.
And the other said with a Spanish tongue:
I will teach you. Music is all we have.
Literary Analysis and Close Reading
Figurative language vs. Literal
Literal language – When artists use plain (or fancy) words to convey what they mean in concrete terms. For example: I am upset. I am in love. The dog died.
Figurative language – When artists use figures of speech to be more effective, persuasive, or impactful. For example: I see red. My love is like a red, red rose. The dog walked over rainbow bridge.
In our first reading of the semester, Martin Espada tells a story of 9/11 in his poem “Alabanza.” As a poet, Espada has done his job by crafting this poem, but it is up to the reader (us) to decide what it ultimately means. And, unlike the math textbooks of my younger days, there is no answer on page 527 at the back of the book to let us check to see if we got “the” answer right.
Before you continue, please enjoy a musical interlude.
I do not want to give you the impression that interpreting a text is without challenge because part of interpreting a text is convincing your readers to accept your interpretation. And this can be tricky. Think of the case of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.” Some have interpreted this song and have argued that not only does it fall into the Country genre, it should have been considered for the Country Music Charts. Others vehemently disagree. To make their case, each side might analyze not only structural elements such as beat, rhythm, and tempo but also content or lyrics.
In other words, their analysis and ensuing argument is highly organized. Much like these Lil Nax X fans, when we analyze literature, we are also trying to get at what something might mean, and we do so using some pretty specific methods.
To arrive at a particular meaning, we keep moving back and forth between understanding small points and the ways in which the small points build (even when they contradict) to create an overall point.
Author vs. Narrator vs. Characters vs. Literary Analyst
Author: The author is the creator/writer of the text (poem, short story, play, novel, painting, song, and so on).
Narrator: This is the person or people who are telling the story. As noted above, there are different types of narration – and some of those narrators are untrustworthy.
Characters: The people who exist in the text.
Literary Analyst: This is the person who analyzes a text and who makes a particular argument. The literary analyst will look at words and/or images and listen to sounds and then make the argument that something is a metaphor .. or a symbol ..or contributes to a theme.
Alliteration – when a group of words all have the same first sound.
Allusion – brief, indirect reference to a person, place, thing or idea that creates additional meaning. To “riff.”
Anaphora – deliberate repetition of words and phrases from the first part of a sentence.
Antihero – A protagonist who has the opposite attributes of a hero.
Assonance – repetition of internal vowel sounds in nearby words that do not end the same – for example: “asleep under a tree” or “each evening” or “asleep in the deep.”
Catharsis – the release of the emotions of pity and fear by the audience at the end of a tragedy.
Character, characterization – a person presented in a dramatic or narrative work, and characterization is the process by which a writer make that character seem real to the reader.
Conflict – The struggle within the plot between opposing forces. The PROTAGONIST engages in the conflict with the ANTAGONIST, which may take the form of a character, society, nature, or an aspect of the protagonist’s personality.
Connotation – Associations and implications that go beyond the literal meaning of a word, which derive from how the word has been commonly used and the associations people make of it. I.e.: red = blood/danger; eagle = freedom. These are cultural constructions.
Denotation – The dictionary meaning of a word.
Didactic poetry – Poetry designed to teach an ethical, moral, or religious lesson.
Elegy – A mournful, contemplative lyric poem to commemorate someone who is dead, often ending in consolation.
Epiphany – When a character suddenly experiences a deep realization about him or her or their self.
Foil – A character in a work whose behavior and values contrast with those of another character in order to highlight the distinctive temperament of that character.
Foreshadowing – The introduction early on in a story of verbal and dramatic hints that suggest what is to come later.
Form – The overall structure or shape of a work, which frequently follows an established design.
Genre – “Type” as in type of literature. Some examples are poetry, fiction, drama, and essays.
Hyperbole – exaggeration such as “I am dying of shame.”
Imagery – using figurative language to appeal to a person’s senses.
Irony – words are used in a way that the intended meaning is different. This speaks to the difference between appearance and reality.
Metaphor – implicit, hidden, or implied comparison with two unrelated things.
Narrator -The voice of the person (not the author!!) telling the story.
Onomatopoeia – A word that imitates the natural sound such as “gushing” stream or “whisper.”
Oxymoron – two opposite ideas are joined to create an effect such as “cruel kindness.” This typically happens between just a few words.
Paradox – something that is contradictory but true. Paradox is close to oxymoron but happens on the sentence level. Consider Orwell’s writing: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” (Animal Farm)
Personification – thing, idea, or an animal given human attributes. This gives the reader the ability to look at something as a human, which many argue helps us to understand the idea, thing, or animal better.
Point of view – this refers to who tells us a story and how it is told.
Protagonist – The main character of a narrative; its central character who engages the reader’s interest and empathy.
Resolution – The conclusion of a plot’s conflict and complications. This is also known as “falling action” following the climax.
Sarcasm – to speak bitterly.
Simile – A comparison using “like” or “as”.
Subject – big idea of the text.
Symbolism – an object that is itself and something more.
Theme – main idea – or the thing that is being captured.
Why Work with Us
Top Quality and Well-Researched Papers
We always make sure that writers follow all your instructions precisely. You can choose your academic level: high school, college/university or professional, and we will assign a writer who has a respective degree.
Professional and Experienced Academic Writers
We have a team of professional writers with experience in academic and business writing. Many are native speakers and able to perform any task for which you need help.
Free Unlimited Revisions
If you think we missed something, send your order for a free revision. You have 10 days to submit the order for review after you have received the final document. You can do this yourself after logging into your personal account or by contacting our support.
Prompt Delivery and 100% Money-Back-Guarantee
All papers are always delivered on time. In case we need more time to master your paper, we may contact you regarding the deadline extension. In case you cannot provide us with more time, a 100% refund is guaranteed.
Original & Confidential
We use several writing tools checks to ensure that all documents you receive are free from plagiarism. Our editors carefully review all quotations in the text. We also promise maximum confidentiality in all of our services.
24/7 Customer Support
Our support agents are available 24 hours a day 7 days a week and committed to providing you with the best customer experience. Get in touch whenever you need any assistance.
Try it now!
How it works?
Follow these simple steps to get your paper done
Place your order
Fill in the order form and provide all details of your assignment.
Proceed with the payment
Choose the payment system that suits you most.
Receive the final file
Once your paper is ready, we will email it to you.
No need to work on your paper at night. Sleep tight, we will cover your back. We offer all kinds of writing services.
No matter what kind of academic paper you need and how urgent you need it, you are welcome to choose your academic level and the type of your paper at an affordable price. We take care of all your paper needs and give a 24/7 customer care support system.
Admission Essays & Business Writing Help
An admission essay is an essay or other written statement by a candidate, often a potential student enrolling in a college, university, or graduate school. You can be rest assurred that through our service we will write the best admission essay for you.
Our academic writers and editors make the necessary changes to your paper so that it is polished. We also format your document by correctly quoting the sources and creating reference lists in the formats APA, Harvard, MLA, Chicago / Turabian.
If you think your paper could be improved, you can request a review. In this case, your paper will be checked by the writer or assigned to an editor. You can use this option as many times as you see fit. This is free because we want you to be completely satisfied with the service offered.