Monday, February 9, 2009

Audre Lorde...

Audre Lorde
  • Born on February 18, 1934 in New York City.
  • Her parents were immigrants from Grenada and she is the youngest of three sisters.
  • Lorde received her B.A. from Hunter College and an M.L.S. from Columbia University.
  • Married Edward Rollins in 1962 and had two children, Elizabeth and Jonathon, before divorcing in 1970.
  • Her book From a Land Where Other People Live (1972) was nominated for a National Book Award.

Interesting Fact

While she was still in high school, her first poem appeared in Seventeen magazine.

Hanging Fire Blog Presentation

Hanging Fire

I am fourteen
and my skin has betrayed me
the boy I cannot live without
still sucks his thumb
in secret
how come my nees are
always so ashy
what if I die
before the morning comes
and momma's in the bedroom
with the door closed.

I have to learn how to dance
in time for the next party
my room is too small for me
suppose I die before graduation
they will sing sad melodies
but finally
tell the truth about me
there is nothing I want to do
and too much
that has to be done
and momma's in the bedroom with the door closed.

Nobody even stops to think
about my side of it
I should have been on Math Team
my marks were better than his
why do I have to be
the one
wearing braces
I have nothing to wear tomorrow
will I live long enough
to grow up
and momma's in the bedroom
with the door closed.


The poem's voice is very strong here. Audre Lorde captures the essence of puberty and the process of becoming a young adult. That is why I believe this poem is titled Hanging Fire. This title suggests that the speaker is waiting for something to happen, and that something is finally being able to grow up. Being a kid is clearly torturous for her and Lorde uses this character's voice to portray that. We get inside a typical teenager's head, one that worries about what kind of clothes she is going to wear the next day or why her knees are so ashy. Most teens are self-conscious and this one is no different. This character also seems to be awkward and overdramatic as well which is a very authentic teenage voice. She worries about learning to dance which is scary for most teenagers, but she also blows things out of proportion as well. She is so over-dramatic she talks about dying before her graduation and how she is worried what people will say about her. It is so typical teenager, I believe Lorde captures it perfectly.

The tone of this poem is also important and the diction helps set the tone. This teenager is just flat out worrying about everything which is what a lot of teenagers do. You get the sense of worry throughout this poem. She is stressed and the tone really portrays that. The diction sets this tone because the speaker makes generalizations such as, "nobody even stops to think about my side of it," and how her skin has "betrayed," her. She is very overdramatic which is characteristic of a teenager.

The imagery of the mother plays a big part in this poem as well. This line is repeated all throughout the poem, "and momma's in the bedroom with the door closed." I find this interesting because it is very ambiguous. I think it is representative of the fact that this speaker has to grow up alone which is a very hard thing to do. Puberty is a time of self-discovery yes, and I believe the speaker is commenting on the fact that one can't rely on another person to find one's self which is why the mother was locked up in the bedroom. Puberty is a journey that one must go through by themselves. Another way to look at the imagery of the locked up mother is that her mother just wasn't there in the first place. Her mother could have been an absent figure in her life and that is a scary thing (to grow up without the guidance of a motherly figure). I think this really impacted her so she reminds herself and the reader of it at the end of every stanza. She was probably hurt by the fact that her mother was absent and so she reflects on it everytime she needs help.

Gwendolyn Brooks...

Gwendolyn Brooks
  • born in Topeka, Kansas, in 1917 and raised in Chicago.
  • In 1938, Gwendolyn Brooks married Henry Blakely and gave birth to two children: Henry Jr. and Nora
  • She is the author of more than twenty books of poetry.
  • She received the Pulitzer Prize for her book Annie Allen
  • In 1968 she was named Poet Laureate for the state of Illinois
  • She received an American Academy of Arts and Letters award as well.
  • After a short battle with cancer, Gwendolyn Brooks died on Sunday December 3, 2000 at the age of 83.

Interesting Fact: Brooks attended Hyde Park High School, the leading white high school in teh city, but transferred to the all-black Wendell Phillips, then to the integrated Englewood High School. These schools gaver her a perspective on racial dynamics in the city that influences most of her work.

"We Real Cool" Blog Presentation

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

The rhythm of this poem is extremely important for two reasons. The first one being that because the poem flows so easily together, it makes it easily accessible to the audience that Gwendolyn Brooks was trying to target. That target audience is the "troubled youth of the 1960s." She wanted her poem to be easily readable because she knew that most of them weren't as literate as she hoped because they clearly didn't find school worth their time. So, Gwendolyn Brooks comments on that by saying that this lifestyle of hitting the streets instead of the books will lead to death by ending her poem with the line, "we die soon." She is almost warning these specific boys and the general youth to pay attention to their studies because if you don't, you'll end up in a lot of trouble, mainly: Death. She wanted her message to be a strong one by associating all these strong feelings of "ecstasy" and then abruptly stopping them by alluding the fact that all the characters in the poem will die soon.

The use of the pronoun "We" is also important because it is like a rallying word. It unifies the audience by making them act as one unit instead of seperating them and singling them out. She wants to make sure that her message reaches al the youth of the 1960s.

Gwendolyn Brooks' tone in this poem is very important and can be interpreted differently depending on how the reader views it. One could say that the poem's tone is almost that of a maternal one in which she actually cares about the boys' well-being. She actually took the time to write the poem and express her concern for how the illiterate youth will die because of their reckless behavior. Another person could argue that her poem expresses ambivalence towards the boys' behavior. This is because she only plays as an observer allowing them to, "die soon," because she knows that the boys' lifestyles will lead to a probable death.

The other reason that rhythm is so important is because by using such a rhythm, Gwendolyn Brooks captures the feeling of freedom in her poem. There is a care-free tone to this because of how effortlessly the poem is strung together by the diction. The reader is introduced to this feeling of being on top of the world so to speak. The short sentence structure almost jabs at the reader and this demonstrates the "no holds barred" lifestyle choice of these boys. This diction symbolizes how the boys feel when they are skipping school, they obviously feel empowered and strong. They feel like nothing can touch them and the sharpness of these lines really captures that feeling. The rhyming of the poem gives it a feel of a jazz piece, and that parallels the feeling of "cool" that the boys have when they are out skipping school. The rhymes help bring the whole piece together by giving it that "cool-as-ice" feel.