Today's Main Post

For More Videos Visit Our Channel

I Was My Own Route || Julia De Burgos Gracia || Compulsory English Grade 12


I Was My Own Route || Julia De Burgos Gracia || Compulsory English Grade 12




I was my own route


About the Poet:

                    Julia de Burgos Gracia was born on 17 Feb 1914 and died on 6 July 1953,

                    She was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, which is on Caribbean Island and is an unincorporated territory of the USA. It is neither an independent country nor a US state. It has a self local government.

                    Teacher, activist, journalist, poet etc.

                    She studied at the University of Havana in Cuba,

                    An advocate of Puerto Rican independence,

                    A civil rights activist for women,

                    Oldest of thirteen children of her parents, her six younger siblings died of malnutrition,

                    Taught at Feijos Elementary School

                    Themes: blackness, feminism, love, migration, nationalism

                    Pioneer of Nuyorican movement- a cultural and intellectual movement led by Puerto Rican descent (poets, writers, musicians and artists), who live in or near New York City.


About the poem "I Was My Own Route"

A precursor to the contemporary Latina/o writers, de Burgos, in her poem “I was my Own Route,” depicts how the women are burdened with the patriarchal ideologies from the past. Therefore, de Burgos urges the women to detach themselves from the past so as to locate their identity within. As a feminist poet, Julia encourages women to seek freedom. As a pathfinder, she struggles hard to make a new way that is branched out from the old route. The prevailing gender discrimination was pushing women backwards. Even she was a victim of a male-dominated society however she dared to pursue equal rights. Women should not be like puppets in the hands of males. They must move ahead being courageous and powerful breaking the chains of male ideologies. They are equally born on this earth.



Stanza wise analysis


1st Stanza

I wanted to be like men wanted me to be:

an attempt at life; 

a game of hide and seek with my being. 

But I was made of nows, 

and my feet level on the promissory earth 

would not accept walking backwards 

and went forward, forward,

mocking the ashes to reach the kiss 

of new paths.



In the first stanza, we learn that society may impose many labels or standards and that no one should be subject to hide or negate their talents, abilities, and aspirations just to “fit in.” She just tried to be like the women men wanted. Males denied women to have freedom and she was trying to avoid male domination. She was determined to liberate women race from the grip of male chauvinism despite several difficulties. She stood firmly on the promissory earth never walking backwards. She challenged the exited norms and values made by males to touch the new path. She wanted to break the chain of patriarchal ideologies.


2nd Stanza

At each advancing step on my route forward 

my back was ripped by the desperate flapping wings 

of the old guard.



In the second stanza, she describes the demoralization of acting or being different in an intolerant society. Julia moves on to affirm her decision to become free of the stigmas and build a new beginning regardless of the implications. She exemplifies bravery, decisiveness, and commitment to her individualism. It was a very difficult path for her. She was being pushed back by male domination however she advanced her steps on her route forward.



3rd Stanza

But the branch was unpinned forever, 

and at each new whiplash my look 

separated more and more and more from the distant

familiar horizons; 

and my face took the expansion that came from within,

The defined expression that hinted at the feeling

of intimate liberation; 

a feeling that surged 

from the balance between my life 

and the truth of the kiss of the new paths.



In the third stanza, the poet tells us about a branch of way detaching from the main road. The road was flexible to her as it was separated from the distant familiar horizons (male domination). As she approached her destination that is intimate liberation her face glimpsed with happiness. She made a balance between her life and the truth of the kiss of the new paths.  


4th Stanza

Already my course now set in the present, 

I felt myself a blossom of all the soils of the earth, 

of the soils without history,

of the soils without a future, 

of the soil always soil without edges 

of all the men and all the epochs.



In the fourth stanza, she expresses her happiness in being able to overcome all the obstacles. She becomes able to be detached from the past.  She compares herself to a blossom that flourishes in a difficult place. This suggests that she has made her own way which later becomes a highway to all-female races. The route is unaffected by the patriarchal ideology totally different from the submissive female identity. Her path leads all women to intimate liberation.





5th Stanza

And I was all in me as was life in me…


In the fifth stanza, she admires her strength to dig such a difficult path which let entire women walk safely to their liberation.


6th Stanza

I wanted to be like men wanted me to be: 

an attempt at life; 

a game of hide and seek with my being. 

But I was made of nows; 

when the heralds announced me 

at the regal parade of the old guard, 

the desire to follow men warped in me, 

and the homage was left waiting for me.



In the sixth stanza, she repeats her attempt and strength to avoid male domination in such a situation when men were avoiding women. The miserable and painful conditions of women because of rigid patriarchal ideologies urged her to combat against them and as a result, she got huge respect.



promissory (adj.): containing or conveying a promise

whiplash (n): a blow with a whip

epochs (n): periods of time in history or a person's life, especially the ones marked by important events of special characteristics

regal (adj) : of, like or fit for a king or queen; royal

wrapped (adj): twisted out of normal or natural shape; strange and unpleasant

homage(n): things said or done to show great respect


Understanding the text

Answer the following questions:

a. Why did the speaker try to be the way men wanted her to be?

Ans:- The speaker tried to be the way men wanted her to be because she was a modern woman and actually she didn't like to be a puppet of male ideologies. In fact, she was determined to fight against the prevailing male domination.


b. What do you understand by her feet 'would not accept walking backwards?

Ans:- The term 'her feet would not accept walking backwards' means that she didn't like to live a life being inferior to men. She was digging out her own route that could lead the entire female race in a similar position to men that is the destination of freedom.


c. Who are the old guards? Why did they grow desperate?

Ans:- The old guards are the rigid members of male-dominated society. They behave women as inferior creatures and dominate them in each and every aspect of their lives. They grow desperate because Julia was advancing her steps to the liberation of the women race.


d. How did the speaker have 'a feeling of intimate liberation'?"

Ans:- The speaker had ' a feeling of intimate liberation' by advancing steps forward to a new route despite difficulties. Ultimately she made a separate route separating more and more in spite of pains from the old route made by males.


e. Why did the speaker's desire to follow men wrap in her?

Ans:- The speaker's desire to follow men wrapped in her because she sensed the rigid rules and regulations imposed by men on women. She wanted to become independent, enjoy freedom and happiness, utilize her own potentials which were suppressed by men ideologies that is why she twisted them.


Reference to the Context

a. What does the speaker mean when she says 'she was playing a game of hide and seek with her being'?

Ans:- The line 'she was playing a game of hide and seek with  her being' appears in the third line of the first stanza and is repeated in the last stanza too. Hide and seek is a game played by the children in which one player is blindfolded, other players hide in different places and the blindfold is unfolded and he or she  finds the other places from the hiding places. "A game of hide and seek' is also used as an idiom which means a situation in which one party is constantly evading or avoiding the other. In the poem, the line 'a game of hide and seek with my being' means the speaker is trying to avoid the norms and limitations set by males to females. Men wanted her to be a woman defined by males but as a modern and rebellious being, she was evading males.


b. Why, in your view, was her back ripped by the old guards as she was advancing forward?

And:- The speaker says, "At each advancing step on my route forward/my back was ripped by the desperate flapping winds/of the old guard." in the second stanza. She was walking ahead on the path of women's liberation challenging the chains of male ideologies. As she was advancing forward the desperate flapping wings of the old guard was pushing her back. The limitations and chains of patriarchal ideologies as she says "the old guard" was obstructing her on the way forward intimate liberation of women race. In her advancing steps forward the old guard imposed several threats to her.


c. What, according to the speaker, did it feel like to be free?

Ans:- According to the speaker she felt to be free is like getting cherished liberation. It is like shaping own independent identity being free from all kinds of social norms and limitations imposed on women. 


d. Why does the speaker prefer the present to the past?

Ans:- The speaker prefers the present to the past because the situation of her past was miserable. She was one of the victims of male domination. Her family background was. Even one of her siblings died of malnutrition. She was living under the shadow of a male-dominated society. But in the present, she has become an iconic person, a pathfinder, and a savior of the female race. She has set a route for all the women who walk freely pursuing their own identity. She feels proud of herself and deserves the homage.


e. John Donne, in his poem “No man is an island”, says “Noman is an island entire to itself.” Would Burgos agree with Donne? Do you agree with Donne or Burgos?

Ans:- John Donne (1572-1631) is an English poet and is considered the preeminent representative of the metaphysical poets. He is also famous for his quotes. The quotation, “Noman is an island entire to itself.” is taken from his poem “Noman is an Island” which means that no one is truly self-sufficient. Everyone must rely on the company and comfort of others in order to thrive. Donne believes in co-existence. Every man is a part of the whole. All humans are an equally integral part of the collective whole of humanity. We must value and respect all lives. We are all social beings and we can’t live alone.  After reading the poem “I was My Own Route” by Julia de Burgos, I don’t suppose that she agrees with Jone Donne. She seems to be a radical feminist who believes in a radical reordering of society in which male supremacy is eliminated in all social and economic contexts. She totally negates the roles of males in shaping female identity. I don’t agree with Burgos, because is said that “a man and a woman are two wheels of a cart”. The cart can’t move ahead if one the wheel is broken. Burgos wants to avoid male’s existence in terms of getting liberation to women. Males are females are equal and the co-existence of males and females shape a balance in society. Her concept is impractical in reality; it is just a way to express her rage against males.


Reference beyond the text

a. Write an essay on My Idea of Freedom.

Answer will be available in the description of the video.


b. Not all people, however, seem to agree with the kind of freedom upheld by Burgos in this poem. For example, William Faulkner, in his novel Requiem for a Nun, says, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past. All of us labor in webs spun long before we were born, webs of heredity, and environment, of desire and consequence, of history and eternity.” Do you agree with Faulkner? Why? Why not?


Ans:- The freedom Julia de Burgos upholds is totally negates the existence of the past. For her past is miserable and wants to detach herself totally. By negating past, she wants to surpass the existence of males to shape her identity. But this is not possible. Being a radical feminist, she expresses her rage against male domination. But the world can’t go ahead avoiding males. Both sexes are equally important for the continuation of human existence.

William Cuthbert Faulkner (1897-1962) is an American writer, who is best known for his novels and Short stories. The famous line, "The Past is never dead. It's not even past. All of us labor in webs spun long before we were born webs of heredity, and environment, of desire and consequence, of history and eternity." is taken from his famous novel Requiem for a Nun (1951). According to Faulkner, there is no present; it is always past. It means we are always living in the past. Our past experiences form our memories and shape our actions. Our life is in linear motion along with the time. Our every single moment becomes past moving us forward. Every single event becomes our past but the memory it gives remains in our mind so past is never don; only certain moments are dead. The past will always be in existence. The past is not past if we still remember it and use it in current decisions. Everything that we perceive is recorded by our consciousness. It is with us every second of every day until we die.


When I read these two people, I agree with Faulkner. His philosophy about the past is realistic. Our past shapes our identity and helps us in every decision making. We can not ignore it, as Burgos says in her poem.

Post a Comment