Yet Do I Marvel

Yet Do I Marvel Study Guide

Yet Do I Marvel” was published in Countee Cullen’s first and most famous poetry collection, Color (1925). At the time, he was just twenty-two years old. Alongside “Heritage” and “Incident,” this poem is one of Cullen's best-known. As a perfectly crafted sonnet that humorously and subtly critiques racism, the poem encapsulates multiple aspects of Cullen’s poetic identity. He mastered the dominant traditions of Anglo-American poetry and sought recognition not as an African-American poet but simply as a poet. At the same time, alongside other writers associated with the Harlem Renaissance, Cullen found himself addressing issues related to the struggles and experiences of African Americans. The success of poems like “Yet Do I Marvel” shows that there was no contradiction between being a successful poet and being a poet who discussed race. However, this poem also sheds light on the pressure American society created for people trying both to succeed as artists and to describe their experiences as oppressed minorities.

“Yet Do I Marvel” is a demonstration of Cullen's ability to draw upon classical literary allusions to ironically critique religious and racial hypocrisy. On the surface, the poem asks the reader to be aware that God’s plans are beyond the comprehension of man’s understanding. However, the poem ends with a soul-shattering conclusion: the final stanza asks what the all-knowing creator was doing when He endowed a black person with the soul of a poet in a world that barely recognizes a black person’s right to call themselves a human being.