Humanitarian / Literature Essay


A Song in the Front Yard Analysis

"A Song in the Front Yard" was written by Gwendolyn Brooks in 1963. It explores the naivety of childhood in the absence of poverty. We grow, regarding poetry as an integral part of living: a genre of literature that holistically captures life in a very crude way.

With time, we learn the varieties of expressions in a poem; the way it succumbs to human sentiment and behavior. When people write poems, they write for expression, clarity, and understanding.

There is a myriad of poets that totally buttress their points succinctly — with poetry, capturing their ordeals in a jumble of figures of speech, literary devices, a discerned language or tone, and perhaps, a rhyme scheme.

To analyze a poem is to decipher every piece it is broken into, and when analyzing a poem, literary experts take these components into consideration.

For this article, Brooks’ poem — "A Song in the Front Yard" — will be broken into segments, it will be torn into pieces, eaten, digested and incorporated into one of life’s meanings. But first, we must understand the poet.

Gwendolyn Brooks

Brooks is many things. As one of the Black-American women to be honored with the title of “first Black-American woman” to attain duly honored undertakings in a list of prizes affixed to the writer, she is an influential twentieth-century poet.

Her body of work put her in a unique position as a civil rights defender in a racially segregated America and cleared a path for her numerous awards.

She was born in Topeka, Kansas, but later moved to Chicago with her family. Her father was a janitor and her mother was a school teacher and pianist. When she was thirteen, she had her poem published in American Childhood. When she was seventeen her poems found a home frequently in Chicago defender — a magazine for Black-American writers.

Asides from poems, Brooks also endeared herself with prose and essays tightly linked with her political tidings. She was the first black author to win the Pulitzer Prize, the first black woman to hold the position of poetry consultant to the Library of Congress, and poet laureate of the State of Illinois.

A Song In The Front Yard Analysis

This poem is a testament to the façade that is held steadfastly between the wealthy and the poor. Written in 1963, Chicago, Brooks scrutinizes this distinction in the thought process of a child. The poem has four stanzas and a total of twenty lines. It is highly symbolical, with hints of metaphor and superficial irony.

It begins with a child wanting to “…peek at the back” / Where it is rough and untended and hungry weed grows” having stayed in the front yard all her life. The “front yard” symbolizes wealth, as used in the first line of the poem.

It is obvious that the poet persona is a child, wanting to weave through the “rough and untended” parts of life because “a girl gets sick of a rose”. This child is tired of the regimented lifestyle construed by her wealthy parents.

In the second stanza, she says, “I want to go in the back yard now…/ To where the charity children play. / I want a good time today”. She sees the backyard as a harbor of fun to exhibit the galore of childhood, because, “They do wonderful things. / They have some wonderful fun”.

But her mother opposes this, she “sneers”, still, this child doesn't mind because the children in the backyard have unlimited freedom and “…they don’t have to go in at a quarter to nine”. The objection of her mother certainly makes us understand the hate that these poor folks are submerged in.

Society hates the poor with surreal discrimination. The poor people are bad and only commit atrocities, just as her mother tells her that “Johnnie Mae / Will grow up to be a bad woman”, and “George’ll be taken to Jail soon or late” because he is a thief.

The descriptions of Johnnie Mae and George portray how people of lower status are perceived; since they have nothing to their names, they try to supplement the void with stealing. But this is not evident in all poor folks, it is only a common stereotype that is uplifted by the wealthy.

The last stanza shows the child in defiance stance, “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.” The antagonism of the child is unprecedented. She wants to breathe their air and play on their soil.

This language is clear: the tone of a child who is adamant to get what she wants. This is why she wants to be a “bad woman”, it is a very direct comparison, a metaphor she finds solace in and is eager to strut in.

But this poem is very ironic. Imagine a person of wealth wanting to go into the suburbs to live. The irony lies in the decision of the child to go into the poor catacombs, in fact, it seems paradoxical and only makes sense when you reason that it is a child that wants to partake in such activity.

The rhyme scheme only seems to appear in the last two lines of each stanza, except the fourth stanza where each line has a rhyme — “grows” and “rose”, “play” and “today”, “late” and “gate” (for the first, second, and third stanzas), then “do” and “too”, “lace” and “face” for the fourth stanza.

"A Song in the Front Yard" is a relative poem. Its tentacles have a far-reaching effect, because of its apparent and relatable message. Brooks examines the relationship between the rich and poorA Song in the Front Yard Analysis, privileged and less privileged. She also points out the treatment and stereotypes the poor pass through.

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