“Do it for the vine”

I think the poem “Kudzu,” by Saeed Jones, is about how he feels as if he does not belong within his society. Kudzu is an extremely fast-growing invasive plant species that is native to Eastern Asia. Kudzu was introduced to the United States in the late 19th century, and the plant completely took over the South of the United States. The poem is shaped on the page to match the nature of vines, in a wavy line down the page.  

Jones, who was born in Tennessee and grew up in a rural Texas town, alludes to Kudzu because he also feels as if he does not belong due to his sexuality. Jones conveys the theme of estrangement within the poem with the lines, “Pines turn their backs / on me. They know / what I can do / with the wrap of my legs” (30). The pines in this passage are symbolic of the people in Jones’ life, and the metaphor suggests that the people in Jones’ life are turning their backs on him due to his sexuality. Jones also makes indirect references to his estrangement in the poem, including, “I won’t be forgiven / for what I’ve made / of myself” (30). With this passage, I think Jones references his sexuality as what he has made for himself and will not be forgiven by those around him. The passage is also written in such a way that he blames himself for his sexual deviance rather than the people around him, showing that Jones also battles with his own internalized homophobia. He suggests, by using the word “made,” that his sexuality was an active choice that he made, rather than it being completely natural. 

4 thoughts on ““Do it for the vine””

  1. I enjoyed your comparison of the speaker’s sexuality and the Kudzu vine. It is an interesting and challenging thing—considering sexuality as a choice. But I thought that Saeed’s choice to say “what I’ve made of myself” is especially interesting in comparison to the Kudzu weed. Because, the Kudzu weed grows and cannot choose what structures it overtakes, or the vastness in which it grows—it is only its nature. The Kudzu weed cannot choose what it makes of itself. Similarly, the speaker cannot choose or control how his identity spreads through his community. The kudzu and sexuality are both natural and therefore uncontrollable to a degree. Yet, both the kudzu and the speaker have made something of themselves and they will both still be subject to the opinions of others for it. The wrath these two entities face is similar to how a community feels after a particularly harsh winter, a bad hurricane, or an earthquake. There is a distinct refusal to see beyond the personal impact.

  2. I hadn’t even thought about the shape of the poem in reference to the plant! Jones seems to constantly connect nature and identity throughout this selection of poems, which I find very interesting. Obviously, in the case of ‘Kudzu’, the implication is that his identity is invasive to his life, however, in ‘Pretending to Drown’, the connection between identity and nature is powerful and intimate.

  3. I agree with this analysis, and I was really intrigued by your title! I feel that this whole poem is Jones’ feeling that he is “too much” the way that Kudzu spreads and is harmful for the environment. It’s interesting to compare this “invasive” species to Jones’ own queerness – because much like ecology, the concept of invasiveness is defined by the environment it is in. Perhaps in a different place, under different contexts, Jones’ might feel as if he belongs and is accepted – like kudzu does when its at home in Southeast Asia 🙂 I also think you nicely highlighted the shame that Jone’s feels, but along with that, the power that he holds as a sexual deviant in his community. To be afraid of something is also to acknowledge that it has power, which seems to be his experience growing up.

  4. I agree with your analysis and also love the the title of your blog post. I really like how you present information that contextulizes the poem and it’s meaning. Another piece of work I think shares similar themes is “Speaking In Tongues” by Gloria Anzaldua as they both discuss marginalized people’s relationship with their identity in a world that is largely unaccepting. Jones shows how living in an unaccepting world can result in the internalization of prejudiced ideas through personal experience while Anzaldua’s writing expresses resistance to the ideas that marginalized people have internalized using language that persuades people to take action.

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