Poem #48: The Puppet-Player by Angelina Weld Grimké

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

Title: The Puppet-Player
Photograph of Angelina Weld Grimké
Source: Wikimedia

Author: Angelina Weld Grimké

Source:  Poets.org


Sometimes it seems as though some puppet-player,
   A clenched claw cupping a craggy chin
Sits just beyond the border of our seeing,
   Twitching the strings with slow, sardonic grin.

In some ways, this feels like the opposite of Dunbar's "We Wear the Mask."  Instead, of people hiding behind masks and thus, being their own sort of puppeteers in control of what others see, Grimke suggests we're at the mercy of some puppet master.  This puppet-master does not seem to be the same as God or at least, not a god that Grimke sees in any good light.  Then we get that gorgeous line "A clenched claw cupping a craggy chin".  We get the alliteration of the first 4 c-words and even the fifth c-word produces a hard sound.  Between the sound and the description--nothing about that line suggests benevolence--we feel a menacing puppet-master at hand. In addition,puppet-master carries a "slow, sardonic grin"--as if taking pleasure in both the twitching of the strings (that is, the control of people) and in unseemly results. 

I do wonder what inspired this poem and whom Grimke imagines this puppet-master to be. Of course, that leads me to think about if I believed in a puppet-master like this, what would it look like?  Would it be of a particular gender, race, physical appearance?  And, of course, in that act of composition, I would have a lot of interesting realizations about myself to consider.
Those are my thoughts.  What did you find interesting about the poem?

About the reflections
This poem is part of a 365 day challenge project that focuses on a poem a day.  Similar projects have included short shorties and photo reflections. Part of the intention of this year's project is to develop a better appreciation and means of reflecting on poetry, something that has never been a strong suit for me.  These reflections therefore do not represent a definitive assessment of the work by me. They are merely an opportunity for me to have a public conversation about what they mean in order to help myself better understand them and mayhaps have a conversation with readers for further insight.  

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