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On "The Dogwood Trees"

John Hatcher

"The Dogwood Trees," an allusion to "an evil time" when "crooked crosses flared," when "shrill slums / were burning" and the speaker dared a "comradeship" with a white friend.

from From The Auroral Darkness: The Life and Poetry of Robert Hayden. Copyright 1984 by John Hatcher.

Pontheolla T. Williams

"The Dogwood Trees" is faintly reminiscent of Whitman's Calamus poems in its use of phallic symbols, especially trees, and the male comradeship theme. The dramatic action in this poem is set against the backdrop of violence that took place in this country during the sixties. As the speaker and his companion drive to their rendezvous, they do so with "bitter knowledge" of the "odds against comradeship." Nonetheless determined, they "dared and were at one." The note of ambiguity introduced by the phrase "crooked crosses flared" cautions against a too-strict promotion of the Whitman-like theme. Given the violent backdrop and the tenor of black-white relations, the implication would be different.

From Robert Hayden: A Critical Analysis of His Poetry. Copyright 1987 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.

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