Uploaded by Vanessa Matsukis


by Don Lee(Haki Madhubuti)
Background on the
• Born Donald Luther Lee in Little Rock, Arkansas, the poet
adopted the Swahili name Haki R. Madhubuti after traveling
to Africa in 1974. As he shared in a 2006 interview, he
sensed that “a new African name would help me in arriving
at a final definition of self.” Haki means “justice”
and Madhubuti means “precise, accurate, and dependable.”
• He writes experimental, free-verse, politically charged
poetry with a staccato rhythm - A series of short, sharp
separate sounds.
The title
The act of assassinating
(killing or murdering a person)
The title alone gives us an
indication that the poem is about
violence. This single word is
emotive, powerful, brutal and
commonly linked to the death of a
it was wild.
the bullet hit high.
(the throat-neck)
&from everywhere:
the motel, from under blushes and cars,
from around corners and across streets,
out of the garbage cans and from rat holes
in the earth
they came running.
they came running
toward the King-all of them
fast and sure-as if
the King
was going to fire back.
they came running,
fast and sure,
in the
The king in the poem refers to Martin Luther King jnr.
So just from the title and having read through the poem, we now know that
the poem is about the chaos that followed the assassination(murder) of
Martin Luther King Jnr.
Format and structure
Free verse poem.
Irregular and chaotic.
Staggered lines of different lengths.
No neat stanza structure.
Haphazard indents(lacking any obvious principal of organization).
Erratic structure with single words on lines.
Surprising punctuation.
The purpose of this layout is to enhance the ideas of chaos, wildness and madness of the mood
once the gunshot was fired and struck Martin Luther King Jnr.
• The tone is urgent, disassociated and disconnected.
No capital letter.
This heightens the
tension as it seems
as if it is a
continuation of a
’it’ is neutral.
Out of control
it was wild.
the bullet hit high.
(the throat-neck)
Connotation - vulnerability
Describes the direction of the bullet and where
the bullet penetrated MLK. This line is in
parenthesis( ), with indentation and is on its own,
this shows how shocking, violent and horrific the
event was.
Ampersand (the sign
representing the conjunction &from everywhere Examples in the next few lines.
and) – abbreviation for and,
the motel, from under blushes and cars,
contributes to disassociated
from around corners and across streets,
and urgent tone of the
out of the garbage cans and from rat holes
in the earth
Reminds the reader of a
swarm of insects,
claustrophobic sense of chaos
and confusion.
Negative connotation (derogatory terms)
Ambiguous: not
knowing who they are
and their intentions.
Adds to the chaos in
the aftermath of the
gun shot.
Guns were
now out and
This is
absurd, he
shoot back
as he just
got a bullet
to the neck,
he is down.
they came running.
they came running
toward the King-all of them
fast and sure--
Use of typography is evident here. Typography is the art and
technique of arranging type to make reading appealing, to convey a
message or action etc.
Here it specifically creates the rhythm of running footsteps.
This is an example of staccato.
King – Only capital letter, refers to Martin Luther King Jnr.
Dashes – draws attention to the ability and the haste of the
people. Creates a sense of urgency and speeds up the poem.
as if
the King-Repetition – they all came running People are running “toward the King” who
was going to fire back.
has just been shot – does not yet indicate that they are themselves assassins
nor confirm that they are instead policeman. The repetition here emphasizes
they came running,
the urgency.
fast and sure,
/ we are told that they are “fast and sure”, implying that they are competent
in the
and well trained.
This adds to the disjointed feeling and confusion.
Absurdity again! They should have run in the direction of the gunshot and not
towards MLK.
The use of typography in the poem as a whole.
The disjointed typography helps create the urgent, disconnected and disassociated tone and the sense that the
events are unfolding in real/live time. The fact that the lines are not aligned also emphasises the sudden
fragmentary and confusing nature of the assassination.
Absurdities in the poem.
1. Citizens are not equally protected
2. Lack of commitment in finding the assassin
Inevitability of death – reactions were in vain (because he died).
Food for thought.
The fact that the speaker emphasises that the police are running in the ‘wrong direction’ might suggest that they
deliberately choose not to chase the assassin because they do not want to catch him. It was believed by MLK
family that the government was involved in his assassination.
Intention of the poem / message?
Perhaps to expose the horror of the assassination, an emotive testimony of the uncertainty of time following his
Answer the questions after you have
made your notes on the poem.
Remember to answer in full sentences! Pay attention to the
mark allocation and elaborate by breaking the questions down
to identify the task words and what is expected of you.