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A Song in the Front Yard

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by

Katherine Petersen

on 28 April 2014

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Transcript of A Song in the Front Yard

Poem:
Detailed Analysis:
Symbolism:
the "front yard" in the poem is a symbol of how white families during the time lived (front yards are typically clean, well-kept and meant to draw others into the home) (lines 1, 4)
the "back yard" in the poem is a symbol (to the narrator) of the African-American society and culture (back yards are usually hidden from others, like how the parents of the narrator keep the culture hidden from the young girl) (lines 2-6)
the "brave stockings of night-black lace" is a symbol for how the narrator views the African-American children, who she believes has fun and lives an even care-free life (lines 7, 9, 10, 17-20)
Imagery:
the narrator describing the back yard as "rough" and "untended" (line 3) creates the resemblance of the care-free attitude of young children of the African-American culture while they play, something the narrator does not know due to her parents sheltering her throughout her life (lines 3, 11-16)
Comprehension:
My comprehension of the poem when I first read it is that the narrator is a young girl whom had lived a safe life in one location and is curious on how the others in her neighborhood live their lives. She appears to be tired of her life, and have the wrong impression on what is living happily and having fun.
Definition of Important/Key Words:
sneer- a contemptuous/mocking remark or tone
strut- an arrogant or conceited walk
A Song in the Front Yard
Facts Supporting my Interpretation & Analysis:
About Gwendolyn Brooks:
was the first black author to win the Pulitzer Prize and was the first black woman to hold the position of poetry consultant to the Library of Congress
"Many of Brooks' works display a political consciousness, especially those from the 1960s and later, with several of her poems reflecting the civil rights activism of that period."
according to Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor George E. Kent her body of works gave her, "a unique position in American letters. Not only has she combined a strong commitment to racial identity and equality with a mastery of poetic techniques, but she has also managed to bridge the gap between the academic poets of her generation in the 1940s and the young black militant writers of the 1960s."
"by the time she was seventeen she was publishing poems frequently in the Chicago Defender, a newspaper serving Chicago's black population"
she worked for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and began writing poems focusing on urban blacks
Basic Ideas Supporting Comprehension of the Poem:
she has lived a safe life (line one: "I’ve stayed in the front yard all my life."
she is curious of how others live, she wants to witness how they do (lines 2&3: "I want a peek at the back/Where it’s rough and untended and hungry weed grows.")
she is tired of living in safety, and wants to live like the others too (line 4&5: "A girl gets sick of a rose./I want to go in the back yard now")
she has the wrong impression that doing bad things are "fun" (line 9&10: "They do some wonderful things./They have some wonderful fun.")
I’ve stayed in the front yard all my life.
I want a peek at the back
Where it’s rough and untended and hungry weed grows.
A girl gets sick of a rose.
I want to go in the back yard now
And maybe down the alley,
To where the charity children play.
I want a good time today.
They do some wonderful things.
They have some wonderful fun.
My mother sneers, but I say it’s fine
How they don’t have to go in at quarter to nine.
My mother, she tells me that Johnnie Mae
Will grow up to be a bad woman.
That George’ll be taken to Jail soon or late
(On account of last winter he sold our back gate).
But I say it’s fine. Honest, I do.
And I’d like to be a bad woman, too,
And wear the brave stockings of night-black lace
And strut down the streets with paint on my face.
by: Gwendolyn Brooks
1st Stanza:
2nd Stanza:
3rd Stanza:
Interpretation:
Rhyme Scheme:
My interpretation is that the poem is not actually about a young girl who was very safely guarded by her parents and is just curious of how others in her neighborhood live. After re-reading the poem, learning a few key facts about the author of the poem, and focusing on key phrases I came to the interpretation that the poem is about segregation. I think the poem still may be about a young girl, but one that belongs to a white (possibly upper-class) family. Instead of others in her neighborhood she is curious about how the African-Americans were living, and curious about the culture that she has witnessed very little of. Her parents had kept her sheltered from the African-Americans in their society, and were most likely segregated against them. The narrator felt differently, disagreeing with her mother's opinions that she stated and wanting to even be a part of the culture she had not been introduced to.
Outside Words to Know:
segregation- policy, practice, or belief of separating people of different races, classes, or ethnic/culture groups, as in schools, housing, and public or commercial facilities; especially as a form of discrimination
I’ve stayed in the front yard all my life.
a
I want a peek at the back
b
Where it’s rough and untended and hungry weed grows.
c
A girl gets sick of a rose.
c
I want to go in the back yard now
d
And maybe down the alley,
e
To where the charity children play.
f
I want a good time today.
f
They do some wonderful things.
g
They have some wonderful fun.
h
My mother sneers, but I say it’s fine
i
How they don’t have to go in at quarter to nine.
i
My mother, she tells me that Johnnie Mae
f
Will grow up to be a bad woman.
j
That George’ll be taken to Jail soon or late
k
(On account of last winter he sold our back gate).
k
But I say it’s fine. Honest, I do.
m
And I’d like to be a bad woman, too,
m
And wear the brave stockings of night-black lace
n
And strut down the streets with paint on my face.
n
Work Cited for Facts about Gwendolyn Brooks:
Poetry Foundation. "Gwendolyn Brooks." Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation,
n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2014. <http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/
gwendolyn-brooks>.
The End!
Full transcript