I shall hate you
Like a dart of singing steel
Shot through still air
As pines are sober
When they stand etched
Against the sky.
Hating you shall be a game
Played with cool hands
And slim fingers.
Your heart will yearn
For the lonely splendor
Of the pine tree
While rekindled fires
In my eyes
Shall wound you like swift arrows.
Memory will lay its hands
Upon your breast
And you will understand
Gwendolyn Bennetta Bennett (1902 –1981) was an African-American poet, essayist, short-story writer, artist, and teacher who was a vital figure in the Harlem Renaissance.
In 1906, when Bennett was four years old, her family moved Washington D.C., so her father could study law at Howard University. But her parents divorced when she was seven years old, and although her mother had gained her custody, she was kidnapped by her father, who compelled her to live in various places, along with her stepmother.
At high school, Bennett was awarded first place in a school wide art contest, and was the first African American to join the literary and dramatic societies.
After graduating, she taught fine arts. and was a journalist, becoming one of the prominent figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Her heritage is a main theme in her poetry. Her works reflected the shared themes and motifs of the Harlem Renaissance: racial pride, rediscovery of Africa, recognition of African music and dance. She also created a romantic vision of being African through romantic lyric. Her ballads, odes, sonnets, and protest poetry are notable for their visual imagery; her best-known poem is the sensual “To a Dark Girl.”
Bennett presents a notion of hatred that is polished and premeditated: it will be artful, clever, reserved. and composed, but deadly accurate, and long-lasting.
Since the initial lines hate does not appear as a raw emotion, but t is represented as a perfect dart aimed and fired away at the “you” character the poem is addressed to. Then it becomes a pine that is calm and majestic and grows regardless of what exists around it, assuming a stoic character that does not make it less frightening than the previous deadly force.
She later expresses her pleasure in hating that person , which underlines her great emotional connection with the person, or how horribly she was mistreated by the person. The emotions contained in anger and hatred are relatives to the similarly powerful emotions that accompany love. It goes without saying that love and hate are intertwined. Bennett asserts once more her supremacy, when she states that she will decide how this hatred will arrive on him. Yet, she does not show the root of her hate, we may just imagine it (the father who kidnapped her, white racists. a former lover?)
In the last lines memory (personification) will stick in his mind because the present is not immune to the past. It is the work of memory, not slaughter, that will kill, laying its hands on his breast.