Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Themes

"Ma Rainey" gives us a good cross-section of the South and the Mississippi river valley. What vision do we get in the poem? One of swampy river towns, where poverty is rampant and folks everywhere sing the blues. As a professor and a poet, Sterling Brown was captivated by the southern black community, and this poem is just one of his many attempts to give it a literary spin.

Questions About Visions of the South

  1. What specific places does the speaker name in the poem? Does this add anything to the poem for you?
  2. What are the people like in these towns? How would you describe them, using evidence from the poem?
  3. What is it about the blues here that seems particularly southern?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

This poem could only take place in the south. Ma Rainey has a uniquely southern appeal.

The mention of specific southern towns only takes away from the poem's universal themes.

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