Phillis Wheatley: Poems

Imagination and Liberation College

Phillis Wheatley is one of the most influential poets in American history, notably for paving the way from African American poets as well as female poets. Her rare, and arguably liberated, upbringing allowed her to relay her messages of freedom, reform, and religion to a wide audience of intellectuals. Though her messages appear, at times, to be sardonic, she uses her knowledge of Greek mythology, African American social issues, and political undertones in order to express her uninhibited cry for freedom. Phillis Wheatley’s On Imagination uses the metaphysical plane as a way to spiritually transcend the bonds of slavery and create a realm where all of humankind, more specifically slaves, have the ability to be free from the oppressive nature of the physical world through the guise of imagination.

Wheatley uses height, audio cues, and light in order to describe the powerful exodus of slaves toward metaphorical freedom and to exemplify the notion that the escape is spiritual rather than bodily. Wheatley describes the blissful escape as a heavenly plane, one that is high above the earthly world. She writes that one must be, “Soaring through the air to find the bright abode/ Th’ empyreal palace of the thund’ring God” (223), in...

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