Asynchronous Assignment on “Present But Unseen (Pages 151-173)

Asynchronous Assignment (due on 5/11 before the class)

Matthew Pettway argues that Manzano’s use of dream sequences in his poetry represents the powers of spirit to transform the black subject. He considers these poems as visions of black familial love and as symbolic acts of emancipation.


Thinking of these arguments:

.Pick an excerpt from ONE of the poems written by Juan Francisco Manzano and highlighted by Pettway: “A Dream” (Pages 155-164), “Poems” (Pages 164-167), or “The Poet Vision Composed on a Sugar Plantation” (Pages 167-171).

.In the comment section down below describe Pettway’s interpretation of your selected poem.

.Insert your views: do you agree with Pettway’s points and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about the excerpt written by Manzano do you want to bring into the discussion?

19 thoughts on “Asynchronous Assignment on “Present But Unseen (Pages 151-173)”

  1. I selected “A Dream” to analyze. To begin, Pettway’s interpretation begins by stating some central themes of the poem. He states, “a narrative poem that reminisces about Manzano’s childhood, laments the horrors of slavery and pays reverence to his deceased parents imbuded with a profund sense of nostalgia for family”(155). He describes the first stanza as “fraternal affection”, “signifying intimacy of their homosocial bond” which is very apparent through Manzano’s remembrance of being with his brother, Florencio. Manzano states, “yes, you, who in bygone days would calm my suffering”. This is a very powerful line, because previously Manzano was that synergy for his mother and it seems to be passed down through lineage- a comfort the younger ones release to their family members. I loved Pettway’s interpretation of the first stanza by bringing up masculinity. Pettway states, “Manzano produced what is probably the most empathetic and humane image of black masculinity in Cuban colonial literature.” I found this to be an impactful interpretation because masculinity within past history is something that keeps a man from indulging in their own emotions. Men are often told to keep it internalized in order to display their manliness, but this poem and much of Manzano’s literature is very vulnerable. He allows you to feel his own emotions through his writing and represents the opposite of hyper masculinity that is so embedded in Cuban and African society. In addition, he is able to express love for his brother which is the beauty of his writing.

    In addition to Pettyway’s interpretation, I would like to add upon his familial connection in the second stanza. Pettway examines his cultural and religious connection to the poem, but does not comment upon the deeper matter at hand. Within the poem, in the second stanza, Manzano states, “confused and aggrieved, burdened by a thousand woes.” This emphasizes how apparent his parents are within his mind when thinking about his own freedom and gaining it for his brother. His mother and father died, leaving no one to stand up for his little brother within slavery. Manzano had to take on this duty to create a better future for his family. He also carries on his back the lives of the many other slaves who were unfortunately lost due to the inhumane conditions. He has to carry the weight of millions of dreams, and changes that need to be made within the slavery system. He is the surviving force who is attempting to break down the barriers of freedom for his brother and those who come after.

  2. I chose the “Poet Vision Composed on a Sugar Plantation” written by Manzano. This poem is about his life when he was beleaguered on the plantation and crying for his liberty. Throughout the poem, it shows themes of ; the dream sequence, magical flight, spirit revelation and Baking inspired ritual. In the poem, visions from the other world astonish him, he takes off in a magical flight, and Venus the Roman goddess of beauty appeared to have rescued him from his locus horrendous. This poem was introduced as a symbol of emotional camouflage. The poem’s emphasis on black sentience creates space for an African descended selfhood that slave society rendered virtually impossible. Manzano’s “stolen fate” might have been an allusion to how his mistress dispossessed him of the inheritance his mother had bequeathed him. Manzano wrote about his dead father throughout the poem. “Manzano’s father was a nfumbe not only because he was a dead one but also because he was the force of the dead” (p.169). He wrote about his paternal ashes which implied a belief that his father resided within those mortal remains and if properly beseeched, might act on his son’s behalf. Manzano’s poetic persona held his father’s ashes in his hands and proceeded to ritually cleanse himself with “versions of dead”.
    I think that Manzano wanted to create his dreams that he had. He tried and believed that he could achieve them in life. In this particular poem, he expresses his feelings about the plantation and what led to it after which led to him being scared about not fulfilling his dreams. For example on page 171 it says: “Manzano employed the Romantic trope of awakening from a dream to insinuate his fear that his dreams might not be fulfilled”. In the poem there is a connection between the Romantic trope and his dreams. Dreams were the most significant rhetorical device for Manzano because they created an oneiric space where multiple religious worlds might coexist. He was scared that the political realities of slave society might frustrate his dreams of emancipation and family reunification which are very important to him.

  3. Pettway’s view of “The Poet Vision Composed on a Sugar Plantation” explains Manzano’s tormented life in the plantation with a bit of magic. He went on to say that Manzano introduced the nightingale in “La vision del poeta” as a symbol of emotional camouflage. The nightingale appears to sing but it really cries out the terrible pain Manzano has undergone through, the death of his parents and his status of unfreedom. Pettway explains that Manzano turns so deliberately to his ancestors to resolve his predicament. Further Manzano wrote “I go bathing myself in my father’s ashes.” Pettway interprets this as Manzano having the desire to envelop himself in his father’s essence.
    I think it might go beyond Manzano’s wanting to envelop himself in his father’s essence but he misses their presence in his life. It’s as if Manzano would want to join his parents in the hereafter to take the voyage where the soul leaves the body and join the ancestors. He is crying out of solitude, pain and wants to be by the side of his parents now more than ever. He is desperately finding refuge by bathing himself in this father’s ashes. If only he could go back and rewind everything, Manzano would not want to be in the stage he is right now as Pettway explains. If he had the power, Manzano would change his fate, become free and absolutely write his heart out and express himself as always through poetry.

  4. The excerpt that I choose written by Juan Francisco Manzano and highlighted by Pettway is “A Dream” (pages 155- 164). This piece is very powerful to me. The words that are reflected sums up the feelings that Manzano has for his mother and brother. It also reflects all the means and actions he would take to ensure that he finds some sort of liberation through emancipation. Pettway interpretation of the exert is aligned with my thoughts when I read it,

    Remembering the “innocent games and their mother’s love”
    That we spent absorbed
    In Innocent games
    Our mothers Love
    Joyful gathering

    Manzano is feeling so engulfed with the exuberate feeling of love. Pettway interprets “Manzano cries for the lost innocence, companionship an familial union of his youth”. I think this is what Manzano imaged it would be if he was brought up with his brother. These are the actual things that he missed being enslaved and away from his family. Manzano’s youth was stolen away. He did not have the chance to be a big brother to his siblings. In actuality, he did not have any cherished times spent with his brother. That’s why I feel that it is extremely important for Manzano to use all his resources to free his brother. In the beginning of this stanza, he say’s,

    There I sit down for a while
    Shedding a thousand tears
    Remembering, though in vain
    Those tender years

    I feel through these words, he is crying about not being able to fulfill his obligation of being a father to his brother. Manzano feeling pressure because of the torment that he endured throughout his days on the Matanzas planation. He is a living being and the only way he can accomplish this task is through imaging what he could do, what that would look and feel like.

  5. The excerpt I chose is from the poem entitled “A Dream”. It says, “Huyamos, caro hermano, / Partamos por el viento; / Por siempre abandonemos / Nuestro enemigo suelo.” (Pettway 163). This excerpt supports Pettway’s interpretation of this poem. According to him, “A Dream” represents Manzano’s desire to liberate his brother from slavery. Pettway also claims that as Manzano’s only antislavery poem ” ‘Un sueño’ is a narrative poem that reminisces about Manzano’s childhood, laments the horrors of slavery, and pays reverence to his deceased parents.” (Pettway 155).
    I agree with Pettway’s interpretation. I think “Un sueño” was written for Manzano’s brother. He says “brother” a few times so that’s the proof. I also believe this poem cries out Manzano’s experience as a slave. When he says “Nuestro enemigo suelo” that let me know that he was talking about slavery. He wanted to fly out with his brother in his arms. He wanted to be free. His dream gave him wings and the first thing he thinks about is liberating his brother. We can infer that Manzano’s parents are already dead. I think that he would think of his mother first if she was alive. His brother is his only family. That explains the original muse of the poem.

    Rosa Tejada

    1. The excerpt and references that Rosa chose was very powerful. In her assessment of the poem, A Dream, she makes an insightful reference to Manzano’s poignant inclination to free his sibling from the horrors of slavery. Manzano, through his survivor’s remorse, was recognizant of the turmoil that he experienced. He also could not stomach what his brother might be going through.
      One of the worst feelings for a former slave was post-liberation thoughts of cruelty that family members were still experiencing. However, another traumatic happenstance is arduous event of risking their lives, and importantly their freedom, to help their family escape enslavement, just to find out that the family member was uninterested.

      Regardless of the latter, Pettway’s interpretation of Un sueño, not only showed readers Manzano’s positive intent for his brother, but also the magnitude of his conscientiousness.

  6. I chose to talk about “Poems” written by Manzano. In the excerpt that we read Pettway talked about the relation between Manzano and the spiritual world, and the practices of afro-descendent influence that he practiced as a Liberto. Pettway explains that “encanto” is referring to enchantment or magic. He believes that this poem is talking about the spiritual beings and the magic of dealing with the Spirit. I agree that in the context of Manzano’s setting and what we know about the culture, this probably has everything to do. with this practices; however, it is beautiful to see this poem from other perspectives. When I first read the poem I thought that he was talking about that desire, that goal, that dream of freedom, that for so long was only possible in dreams. In his imagination he has wanted for so long the moment where freedom becomes a reality. Then he mentioned how that fantasy, that was so far from reality, was able to be manifested in his life, as he mentions “como del genio y la ilusión llevado a un prado descendi”. He was able to see how what he had only imagined for so long was able to happen. He finalized saying that the “beings” “seres” revealed the destiny or fate of men. I thought he was saying that the actual place of freedom that he thought in his imagination that was his fate was finally existing. In that way, this poem that has such beautiful wording would express the misticity of human desire, and the way we as humans describe our achievement as given by someone else, as gifts, as fate or destiny.

  7. For this assignment, I have decided to analyze the poem titled “Poems” written by Juan Francisco Manzano and highlighted by Pettway. Manzano was a recently liberated slave and in the section, Pettway talks about Manzano and the practices of afro-descendant spirituality. I liked this poem because I can relate to it because I am a black person, who has a disconnect with the spirituality of my ancestors as a result of colonization and the erasure of history.
    I agree with Pettway’s interpretation of the following first few lines.
    “From the motherland of bewitched dreams
    how marvelous a revolution
    I contemplated that imaginary world
    always unknown, always new
    for the dark human world.” (165)
    Manzano is talking about his imaginary world, one that is full of the freedom that he wasn’t permitted to have. We know from the book that Manzano would often dream about a place to get away from the harsh treatments of his master. That’s why I believe that even after he has left, he still has this place in which he dreams. Dreams of the unknown and dreams of a place that is told in the African slave stories, where everyone is free. When he states “for the dark human mind!” I don’t think he is talking about a mind that is riddled with evil. Instead, I think he is talking about a black, or a person with darker skin, mind. A place that is normally explored by people who have lighter skin because they have the luxury to do so and that is why it is always unknown and new to the dark mind.
    He also goes on to say:
    “My pen is immersed in your inkwell
    whose beautiful colors juxtapose with
    the human replica, I will prepare uttering
    as if carried by genius and illusion
    I descend upon a pasture. Believe me, oh beings,
    touched by fervent illusions
    that revealed to Man his Destiny”
    These are the lines that really stood out to me overall. I believe that Manzano is, finally, accepting this new spirituality or this new way of thinking into his life. He is seeing this new reality “whose beautiful colors juxtapose with the human replica”, the human replica being his reality or the reality that he thought was real. He is being enlightened and finally shown the other side of life that he wasn’t able to see before. This also made me as an individual more hopeful and open-minded about personal issues that I am facing. I told me that I too have that place, that imaginary world, that once unlocked would bring me peace and freedom.

  8. In Manzano’s poem, “A Dream”, he has a dream where he had wings and he could fly. The ability to fly could be viewed as a freedom not only to transport, flee easily, but also to express oneself. As soon as Manzano gains this ability to “fly”, he is thinking of freeing his brother from bondage. He returns to the plantation, greets him and encourages him to escape.
    “Let us flee, I told him, From this horrible place, More terrible in my view Than hell itself”
    “Let us flee, dear brother, Let us leave on the wind, Let us abandon forever, Our enemy soil” (Pettway 163).
    I agree with Pettway interpretation of Manzano experiencing that the entire land of Cuba is “enemy soil”. African descendants were not made home there, they were brought in bondage, and were to serve their whole life. Due to a political landscape in Cuba, the idea of freedom seemed so unreachable that the only way to think of freedom, is to be somewhere else. Uniting his family was very important to Manzano, as a last wish of his mother and for a deep bond and “brotherly love” he had for him. Despite many attempts he was failing at it. In his dream, in this oneiric space full of “mysteries of the spirit world” (Pettway 157) this beautiful dream was a reality.

    1. MAGICAL REALISM although not coined before the 20th century it has been a strong form of literature in Spanish culture. We must dream of hope and strength in times of adversity. We imagine and find solace in the narratives we construct in our minds, it’s an escape from the reality we are experiencing. That was Manzano’s ability to sound hopeful and optimistic to give strength to his readers but to also shed light on the cruelties of men and church. Manzano codified in his poem “dream” the hardships he and his brother experienced but also a glimpse of slavery and the love and hate slaves had for their country. The hate slaves had for the land was because they did not identify with the land but politically, that land was all they knew. Manzano knew that politically he needed to garner support of black power to change the powers that ruled the land.

  9. I selected Pettaway’s highlighting of the poem “A Dream” by Juan Francisco Manzano. Pettaway describes and interprets such poem as a romantic poem recounting Manzano’s struggle to liberate his younger brother from the plantation. It is also a reminiscing poem about Manzano’s childhood, where he laments the horrors of slavery and pays reverence to his deceased parents. Pettaway also brings forth that this is the only poem of Manzano’s work that was published in Cuba during his lifetime.

    I have to absolutely agree with Pettaway’s interpretation of “A Dream” by Juan Francisco Manzano. Not only his analysis helped bring more light and understanding to this already interesting poem, but Pettaway brings interesting concepts and comparisons too that made for a deeper analysis of the poem. Such as the definition of a dream by the ndozi. When reading “A Dream” by Juan Francisco Manzano I couldn’t help but reminisce about my own experience with my younger brother and the experiences we shared growing up. Confiding and being there for each other, albeit situations could never be compared to the ones lived by Juan Francisco and Florencio. To close and to furthermore agree with Pettaway, I do believe Manzano produced what is probably the most empathetic and humane image of black masculinity in Cuban colonial literature, perhaps showing all the Caribbean and Latin America, positive and healthy black masculinity.

  10. Pettway’s interpretation of Manzano’s “A Dream” are elaborate and extremely detailed. It shed light on what, in my limited knowledge, my understanding is of the work, for which I am very appreciative. It beautifully highlights the love and bond between Juan and Florencio. It actually elevates it to a level that feels more like parent-child than sibling-to-sibling. However, we know the Juan was charged with taking care of Florencio, to become his “father”, after both of their parents died. The weight of this responsibility coupled with his love for his entire family as well what I intimate as the deep despair at the inability to exist and be with his family, is reflected in “A Dream” as excerpts on Pages 162-163 of Pettway’s “Present but Unseen” chapter.

    There I set down for a while,
    Shedding a thousand tears
    Remembering though in vain
    Those tender years
    * * *
    But since I couldn’t
    Quell in my heart
    The tender impressions
    Of sweet brotherly love,
    Let us flee dear brother
    Let us flee on the wind
    Let us abandon forever,
    Our enemy soil.

    Pettway presents it as Manzano’s “cries for the lost innocence, companionship and familial union of his youth”. (Page 163) Manzano honors his family, humanizing them forever, by using the word “Ethiopian” to “circumvent the indignity of the word black in slave society”. When Manzano does use the word “black” is without “pejorative meanings”.

    The power and determination of one’s self, at any time but especially in times of horrific turmoil/despair, is incredibly empowering and astounding. Manzano: self-taught, self-educated, persistent, unyielding, powerful, beautiful.

  11. In Juan Francisco Manzano “A Dream” is the most empathetic and humane image Black masculinity in a Cuban colonial lecture as mentioned by Pettaways in where i would have to agree. Pettaway begins by talking about the theme of what “A Dream” is about he mentions that touches about Manzanos childhood and the horrors of slavery. It was also written from a perspective to pay respects to his deceased parents. Within the first stanza Pettaway states how Florencio and Manzano were ” brothers bound by a fraternal affection”.Pettaway’s interpretation within the first stanza brings up the theme of masculinity by mentioning that Florencio consoled his elder brother he states it is a form of intimacy that should not bring shame but joy considering that they share the experience of ” justified and understandable sorrows of slavery.

  12. Blog post
    Asynchronous Assignment on “Present But Unseen (Pages 151-173)

    I would like to focus on the dreams Juan speaks about “Poems” (Pages 164-167). Pettway considers the poems are transformative for Juan and a way of liberation. Through the poems, Juan is also able to connect with spirits/family and God. I think that Pettawayos right that writing poems are a way of “emancipation” because the freedom of expression is not something he was allowed to have but he takes that power back when la Marquesa is not watching. He made it seem as though he had to stop writing poems and painting by showing his focus on the house chorus. On page 162 Juan says “… I copy the smuggles poem then set them aside and write verses of my own…”, which shows he is breaking free from the resistance. These small acts of resilience are what lead him to escape later on. It’s these small taste of what he could have and knowing that he should be free. Writing poetry helped him express himself but he also expressed that he sold many empty words because he knew that if he tries to sell what he was actually feeling he would get in trouble. Emancipation means to be free from restraint, control, or the power of another especially and when Juan was writing for himself that is how he felt. When he was writing his verses he was in control and he had all the power through words. Creative art gave Juan wings but he was caged and he knew he needed to escape to fly.

  13. Manzano definitely used dream sequences in his poetry to represent the powers of spirit to transform the black subject. Manzano wrote a poem called “THE DREAM.”, Which was specifically addressed to his ybrother. The poem was about how even though there was so much suffering and sadness they had each other and found some pleasurable moments in their lifetime.

    Manzano goes on and says that there’s a new “course” basically a new transformation that will take place he mentions all the suffering endured however, in the afterlife he will not continue to endure anymore he will be free from it. In the end he wrote “Let us flee dear brother, Let us flee in the wind, Let us abandon forever,Our enemy soil.” I think this means, he is still with his brother spiritually even though he isn’t physically with him and they are cleansed from the pain from the past.

    Matthew Pettway argues that Manzano refers to spirituality. I believe it is evident, because Manzano constantly uses birds throughout his poem. In some Hispanic and African cultures birds in dreams are considered good omens that represents life, rebirth, intelligence, peace, hope, love and freedom.

  14. Juan Francisco Manzano’s poem as described by Pettway on pages 164-167 “explore the notion that spirits may have been the poet’s muse”. I agree, Manzano was grew up in the neoclassicism art era which focused more so on sharp clean lines and clear descriptions and depictions of subject matters and the romanticism era which took focus on spirituality, mystery, and religious forms of spirituality. Manzano was a severely tortured super intelligent slave who was allowed the uncommon privileges of art and poetic exposure. His interests and inspirations leaned towards the romanticism art era because his imaginary scenarios of escape helped strengthened him during his silent but creatively liberating artistic revolts. Forbidden was any association with African heritages, colonization forced Christianity and the grace of God and sacrifice of Jesus was the only religious outlet allowed. Furthermore, the Christian biblical ideologies stand against the worshiping of other Gods. Yet, Manzano defied these constructs by praising that which was forbidden to him. By defying the constricting boxes of neoclassicistic viewpoints Manzano found freedom in the blurred strokes of a romanticistic paint brush or pen.

  15. I choose the excerpt “A Dream” Pettway begins by saying “Un Sueno/ A Dream” is a narrative poem that reminisces about Manzano’s childhood, laments the horrors of slavery and pays reverence to his deceased parents. Imbued with a profound sense of nostalgia for family”(pg.55).When I read the poem it seemed to be, it is a narrative of course, but with a sense of diary entry where Manzano continuously exchange dialogue with his brother Florencio; it is more like an one-to-one conversation. Manzano begins the poem by talking about the hardships of his life “Florencio, you do know the sorrows that I grieve; how, justified and understandable, they torture my heart;” “Justified and understandable”, the way Pettway interpreted these two words was as Florencio was also a victim of slavery he very well understood his brother’s plight. However he did expand on why Manzano said his sufferings were “justified” because human beings do suffer from things that are “just” for them , we suffer from unjust activities . Nonetheless Manzano’s grief is understandable because the torments he had gone through being a slave, he could not get over it, which is causing him the dejection.
    The second stanza is my favorite, because it portrays brotherhood, love and the bond that Manzano and Florencio shared with each other. “Yes, you who in bygone days would calm my suffering, or together with mine your tears also ran” . These lines remind me of a quote “all for one and one for all” , like Manzano is saying the time when I had nowhere to go, I had you to lean on. You are my rainbow hidden under the dark clouds. These lines also depict one of the most powerful essence of human beings. That is the immense capacity of their hearts to love, we often think that money, power, fame, aristocracy gives us happiness, but these lines show us that at the end of the day it love, a warm hug that washes away all our griefs. The poem is not only about laments of torture, brotherhood or nostalgia, it also holds different aspects of human emotions and nature.

  16. I selected “A Dream” to analyze Matthew Pettway interpretation of Manzanos. It highlights the relationship between Manzano, his brother and his mother. “A Dream” also represents Manzano’s desire to liberate his brother from slavery. Pettway also claims that as Manzano’s only antislavery poem ‘Un sueño’, is a poem that reminisces about Manzano’s childhood, the horrors of slavery, and pays tribute to his deceased parents.” (Pettway 155).
    ‘Un sueño’ also highlights Manzano’s struggle to liberate his younger brother from the plantation and it also adds the idea that he cherished his relationships with his brothers.
    The poem portrayed the brotherly love and relationship between Manzano and his brother.

  17. Pettway’s interpretation of Manzano’s “A Dream,” is that it is a form of brotherly love expressed. He mentions that there are three motifs that readers should pay attention to the dream sequence as a spiritual portal, the forested wilderness as a space for ritual performance, and Icarus as a metaphor for black dreams deferred. Pettway states that Juan transforms himself into a bird that shows reverence to his dead parents as well as rescue Florencio from slave labor.
    Manzano’s love for his brother is greatly expressed. His use of symbolism is rooted in African spirituality references, which I found interesting.

    According to Pettway, “The Dream,” is a narrative poem that reminisces about Manzano’s childhood. the horrors of slavery, and pays respect to Manzano’s dead parents. (Pettway 155).
    Pettway discusses the significance of dreams for certain spiritual belief systems. I personally believe that dreams do have meaning. Like the reading mentions, it could be a reference to a divine message, good or bad, or a collection of thoughts and imaginations a person may have.

Comments are closed.