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A Song in the Front Yard

Gwendolyn Brooks
Ive 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.



About the author:




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Gwendolyn Brooks was born June 7, 1917 in Topeka Kansas and was raised in Chicago. Her mother was a teacher but stopped for marriage and motherhood. Her father was the son of a runaway slave and a Civil War veteran. With out proper funding he was not able to become a doctor, but instead had to give up on his hopes and become a Janitor. Throughout most of her life Brooks faced racial prejudices whether it be at school or in her neighborhood she saw it all. Through attending several different schools, an all black school, a leading white school, and an integrated school, she was able to see racism and repression from all different angles. She graduated from Wilson Junior college. Since an early age Brooks had been drawn to literature. She was heavily supported in her interests by her parents and by the age of 16 she had 75 published poems. After graduating she was not able to get a job writing for a local paper but instead had to get a typing job. She continued to write poetry on the side. In 1945 she wrote her first poetry book, A Street in Bronzeville, she quickly shot to fame winning several awards. Including the Pulitzer Prize for poetry becoming the first African - American to get the award. Brooks continued to publish new books and get awards. With all of her fame she was given the position of Poet Laureate of Illinois along with the library of congress's poetry consultant. Brooks started teaching creative writing classes at Universities surrounding the Chicago area but always staying close to her home town. Brooks' poems often deal with black repression, life in poor areas, female equality, and African- American culture. After a short stand with cancer brooks died December 3, 2000 at the age of 83.

Bibliography

Bloom, Harold, ed. Gwendolyn Brooks. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2000.
Kent, George E. A Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1990.
Melhem, D. H. Gwendolyn Brooks: Poetry and the Heroic Voice. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1987.

Read more: Gwendolyn Brooks Biography - life, family, childhood, http://www.notablebiographies.com/Br-Ca/Brooks-Gwendolyn.html#ixzz0Z2O2MdAE

Interpretation: Because the girl in the poem is brought up in a strict and proper society, full of luxury and little worry; she craves freedom and the opportunity to be like one of the "bad girls."
  • The title sets the location for the poem, but does not allude to anything about the theme. The poem title is unusual because it does not have a literal meaning, and can be interpreted in several different ways.
  • In the poem, a woman by the name of Johnnie Mae is referenced. Although it is not clear who is being talked about, one possibility is Johnnie Mae Matthews, a young African-American jazz singer.
  • The poem is 20 lines long and there is no rhythm. The lines are broken into sections of four lines, four lines, eight lines, and four lines. Every two lines rhyme with each other, except for the last stanza, in which both the first two lines rhyme with each other and the last two rhyme with each other as well.
  • Symbolism is a recurring literary device in this poem. The theme of the poem itself is portrayed through symbolism and epic simile which compares the girl's life with the freedom she desires through a "front yard" and "back yard."
  • The tone of the poem is both longing and simple. The narrator, assumed to be a young woman or girl yearns for freedom, and when her mother warns her that no good will come if such freedom, the narrator is quick to disregard her, saying, "but I say it's fine." in lines eleven and seventeen. The tone is relatively consistent within the poem, and complements the desire of the girl for freedom. In fact, the tone highlights the narrator's naivete.
  • Storyboard: The voice over starts playing as the viewer sees a young girl looking sad, followed by clips of the symbolic rose, the type of life she would like to have, her mother's disapproval, and finally her own images of a life of freedom and independence.
Sneer: to smile, laugh, or contort the face in a manner that shows scorn or contempt

Original:
Paraphrase:
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.

I’ve lived a privileged life
I want freedom
Where it’s not all prim and proper
A girl gets sick of being perfect

I want to go somewhere new now
And maybe into trouble
To where the less privileged people play
I want to have fun today

They do some wonderful thing
And have lots of fun
My mother disagrees, but I say it’s okay
they can stay out longer than i
she tells me that they are a bad influence and will grow
up to be bad
that George will be taken to jail either now or in the future

but I say it’s okay
and I will be bad too
and were mischievous clothes
and strut down the streets with paint on my face

video:





Group Members' Analyses:
Aishwarya
Steven
Leah B.
Vivian