An Agony. As Now

An Agony. As Now Musical Rhythm and Unconventional Punctuation in "An Agony. As Now."

As the reader moves through "An Agony. As Now," the voice in her head will rise and fall over the rhythm of Baraka's poetry. Although "An Agony. As Now" does not have many of the formal features traditionally used to create rhythm in poems (e.g. conforming to a strict meter or rhyme scheme), Baraka's poem is deeply and complexly musical in its portrayal of psychological torture and fear. One of the ways Baraka creates rhythm is through the repetition of phrases and ideas. For example, the continuous repetition of the word "pain" in Stanzas IV-V helps to speed up the rhythm over the formal climax of the poem. "The yes" creates a musical repetition over Stanzas V and VI as the language becomes much more fragmented, with frequent end stops (commas or periods).

Baraka also employs non-traditional punctuation in order to push along the rhythm in "An Agony. As Now." Whenever a reader encounters an end stop, in a poem, her voice pauses over that symbol before continuing on to the words after it. As the reader comes upon stanzas that are heavily laden with sentence fragments and end stops (e.g. Stanza VI), the regular repetition of short phrases causes the voice in her head to speed up. Additionally, parentheses cause the speaker's voice to shift in register. Including open-parenthesis that do not have a corresponding close-parenthesis and vice-versa does interesting things to the reader's voice, as it raises and lowers in accordance with the punctuation.