“Yet Do I Marvel” is a sonnet written in fourteen lines of iambic pentameter with a strict rhyme pattern. The poem begins with the speaker expressing his faith that God is good and kind. He goes on to give several examples of God’s actions that seem to contradict this goodness. However, the speaker argues that God must have a reasonable explanation for all of this. God will not demean Himself enough to explain these reasons to us, and even if He did explain why seemingly cruel things are allowed to happen, the puny human brain would not be able to comprehend.
The poem ends with a surprising turn when the speaker says that the thing that surprises him most among the surprising things God does is His choice to “make a poet black, and bid him sing.” Without saying so directly, the speaker implies that it is an extremely difficult thing for a black person to be a poet. By the time we get to the final lines of the poem, it becomes clear that this is a subtle critique of racism and the unique pressures faced by African-American artists.
Written in 1925, the poem suggests that society routinely denies black people the education necessary to become accomplished poets. Secondly, even for those African-Americans with the opportunity to read and write poetry, society does not take them seriously as artists; this is why a black poet is a “curious thing," as the famous final lines of the poem express it. Finally, societal pressures make it so that being black and being a poet appear to be contradictory things. That is, poets are supposed to write about what unites everyone, but the black poet also feels pressure to address the specificity of being black. Among all the cruel and hard-to-explain things God has done, the speaker implies, this is by far the cruelest and most inexplicable. In this way, though the poem began by affirming the speaker’s faith in God’s goodness, it ends by ironically casting doubt on it.