A SONG IN THE FRONT YARD
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.
The 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 stocking of night-black lace
And strut down the streets with paint on my face.
1. What feelings surfaced as you read this poem?
2. What words, phrases, and details triggered your strongest responses?
3. What association about your own childhood do you bring to the poem?
4. Can the situation described here apply to other times of your life other than childhood. Why or why not?
5. What words, phrases, lines, and details may have confused or baffled you? why?
6. What observations can you make about the poemâ??s details?
7. What words and phrases recur? How? Where? Why?
8. What connections can you establish among the details of action and language?
9. What inferences can you draw from these connections?
10. How, for now at least, do you understand â??A Song in the Front Yardâ??
11. What values are associated with the speaker? With the speakerâ??s mother? With â??charity childrenâ?? With Johnnie Mae and George?
12. What is the relationship among the values associated with these figures?
13. What is the speakerâ??s attitude toward her mother and Johnnie Mae? To what extent do you think the speakerâ??s attitudes are those of the author? On what do you base your view?
14. How do your own ideas and standards influence your experience, interpretation, and evaluation of the poem? Describe how the poem affects you as a reader. Do you like it? Comment on the poemâ??s aesthetic accomplishments.
15. Discuss your initial evaluation and your later evaluation, how they may have changed, and why.
Things to Consider for this Poem:
* The author of this poem is Gwendolyn Brooks, an African American woman who has experienced segregation and racism her whole life. Think about this in terms of "front" and "back," then consider the irony in what she wants as compared to what her mother wants.
* For the emotive/personal questions (1-4), think of a situation where you were pushed one way by an adult or authority figure, but you wanted to do something else. Also consider how the speaker responds to the mother's warnings about how the other kids will "end up like."
* Perhaps the symbolism confused you. Think of the flowers mentioned. She wants to be with the weeds (the bad, "black," unwanted kids who do not have firm times to be home or to be in bed), ...
Analysis of Gwendolyn Brooks' poem "A SONG IN THE FRONT YARD"