In “Blind Boone’s Vision” by Tyehimba Jess, the poem speaks of a boy who confronts his mother about what she did with his eyes. He is blind and has no eyes. His mother explains that the doctor removed his eyes at birth in order to save his life. In an effort to preserve his life further, she buried his eyes beneath a small tree in the yard. Boone’s mother takes him to the yard to show him the tree and where it is buried, only Boone can’t see the tree but can tell its there from its smell.
Boone’s mother explains that his eyes feed the roots to the tree and soak in the sunlight which gives him the ability to see in ways that physical sight can never compare to. He takes on the persona of the tree through what he feels around him – the wind, the ground shaking beneath him, and the sound of rustling trees nearby. He believes in many ways he is the tree because his eyes are now part of it. He also believes the tree is big and majestic. Boone describes it as being between where he stands and heaven.
Although Boone’s eyes are not really responsible for the tree’s growth, his mother’s uncanny ability to make him see things with a new vision allows him to imagine all the tree can be and more. The poem’s author, Tyehimba Jess, is instrumental in providing for the reader a visual in much the same way that Boone visualizes his surroundings. Through reading the poem, readers gain a sense of the strength of Boone to see the world as if he had eyes to view it.
The first part of the poem enables the reader to grasp what has happened to Boone. He lost his eyes as an infant in order that his life might be saved. It seems odd that his mother would bury his eyes beneath the tree. However, Jess could be merely providing a metaphor for readers to imply that even without eyes, Boone still has the ability to see. The latter half of the poem describes how Boone reacts to his surroundings. Everything is understood until the last verse of the poem where Boone describes his reaction to the wind and there is mention of bird and bee that he releases from the tree. Again, the reader does not know if Jess is using another metaphor here to reinforce the notion that sight is more than a physical thing or if the poem can be taken literally.
The literary techniques and thematic purpose Jess uses in “Blind Boone’s Vision” is meant to convey a message to readers that things are not always what they seem. What one sees, or imagines is left to individual interpretation. Jess’s use of vivid imagery is effective in providing for readers the opportunity to imagine a world without being able to see through the eyes of Boone. Jess shows readers that sight might be physical but one does not need eyes to see necessarily. Beyond that, Jess gives readers an inside look at Blind Boone like never before. Boone may be physically blind but he does not allow that to alter his internal vision of how he sees the world around him. Boone uses his loss of eyesight as his gift that enables him to overcome and see things in ways as only he can (Edwards).
According to Dercksen (2017), using thematic purpose in writing gives the reader a theme of what the piece is about. In “Blind Boone’s Vision”, Jess uses Boone’s loss of eyesight as a running theme to capture the essence of sight in its metaphorical form. Jess gives the backstory on how Boone loses his eyesight, but then takes it and runs with it off into another direction to drive the point across about vision being more than a physical thing.
- Dercksen, Daniel. “Exploring the Thematic Purpose in Your Writing.” The Writing Studio, 5 July 2017, writingstudio.co.za/exploring-the-thematic-purpose-in-your-writing/.
- Edwards, Bill. “John William ‘Blind’ Boone.” RagPiano.com, www.perfessorbill.com/comps/jboone.shtml.
- Jess, Tyehimba. “Blind Boone’s Vision by Tyehimba Jess.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/90220/blind-boone39s-vision.
- “Literary Devices and Literary Terms.” Literary Devices, Literary Devices, literarydevices.net/literary-devices/.