The: (Pained but Apparently Necessary?) Trophy Man

After attending the Poetry Reading by Aaron Coleman, I was intrigued by a multitude of things and greatly moved by his readings of his poetry. Prior to hearing him read them, it was slightly difficult for me to fully connect to his writings, I deeply wanted to know the tones, the emphasis, the slight elevations in pitch that came with every word, line and punctuation mark. I knew that there was a powerful message within each line of poetry, but I needed to hear what came between the lines to completely resonate with the works, and for those reasons I am so grateful that I got to attend such a great event.

Upon my first read and even more as I listened to Coleman, a poem that resonated with me was “Viciousness In Ends”.  I remember being immediately struck by the line, “because we swore a man is born where he breaks”. I thought about how concepts of masculinity are outlined by violence and roughness, showcased in the poem by references to boxing and BB guns. Coleman discussed in the talk how the palindrome structure used in the poem references the feeling of being trapped that comes with masculinity, and I feel like as a reader I got the same feeling of trapped-ness in the poem “American Football” with Coleman’s description of the football helmet as [caging his] face, and [hugging his] skull. These lines feel constricting and uncomfortable. Much like the cyclical nature of toxic masculinity, especially for men who may not fit the status quo of what the expectations masculinity are. In “Viciousness In Ends” the lines “swing harder” gave feelings of instruction, indicating that these notions of masculinity are ones that are taught and inherited through means of observation rather than naturally occurring in society. In “American Dream” the lines, “I know the boy I am” and “We reset and collide” insinuate a knowledge of what it means to be masculine and a duty to uphold it, with Coleman going on to describes a boy “zagging lines, side to side as if his life depends on it.” The reader also sees a steady conflation of pain and masculinity in each poems, ranging from blood in the mouth and sweltering blows in “Viciousness in the Ends” and ringing ears and dizziness in “American Dream”, illustrating how the tie to masculinity can be degrading to both the mental and physical body.  

I think the same overarching concepts that I got from Coleman’s poems can be easily applied to behavior we see in black male figures in our films. We see that each of the male figures masculinity styles either are products of their environments like The Young Intellectual, Duff and Malcom X, or are becoming products of their environments like James, with each of the types of masculinities observed in the films having elements of pain in them. Through both poems, I feel like Coleman illustrates well the relationship between environmental influence and masculinity.

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