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Ma Rainey

Ma Rainey


by Sterling Brown

Ma Rainey Analysis

Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay

Form and Meter

"Ma Rainey" has form, that's for sure. But we're not dealing with any traditional meters or feet here. We're singing the blues. The poem mimics the loose rhythm of blues music. All the even-numbere...


Our speaker comes from the very world he's talking about. He knows Ma Rainey, he knows the blues, and most importantly, he speaks the language of black southerners. But if that's all he was, he'd b...


Allow Shmoop a brief daydream:Sprawling across the benches of a crowded concert hall, Ma Rainey's fans are filled with excitement to see the show. You'd think they would be worn-out from traveling...

What's Up With the Title?

This probably goes without saying, but you would think that a poem titled "Ma Rainey" would talk a lot about Ma Rainey. But here's the weird part: she's hardly even in the poem. We know she sings,...

Calling Card

There's a reason that Brown's only major book of poetry was titled The Southern Road: because many of his poems are about the African-American experience in the rural American south. "Ma Rainey" is...


The only hurdles here are the dialect of the poem (a few words might trip you up here and there), and the geographical references. As for the dialect, we recommend you read it aloud; you'll be surp...


Talk about an educational pedigree. Sterling Brown studied with the best of the best, earning degrees from Williams College and Harvard University. Fancy-shmancy, Mr. Brown. (Source.)With that acad...

Steaminess Rating

No sex here, folks. Move right along.


Cape Girardeau, Missouri (5)Poplar Bluff, Missouri (6)Mississippi River delta (15)New Orleans, Louisiana (15)Mobile, Alabama (16)Ma Rainey (throughout)"Ma's Black Bottom Blues" (19)"Backwater Blues...

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