You are on page 1of 19

TallulahLefkowitz

OConnor
HonorsEnglish
4March2016
JacquelineWoodsonTPCASTT
becausewerewitnesses
TitleMostofJacquelineWoodsonspoemsareaboutherlifegrowingupasAfricanAmerican
inthe1960sand1970s.Thetitle,alongwiththeotherinformationIhave,leadsmetobelieve
thatthispoemwillbeaboutthejudicialinjusticessheandthepeoplearoundherfacedlivingin
America.Awitnessissomeonewhoseesanevent(usuallyacrime)takeplace.Iexpectby
wereshemeansallblackpeople,andiswritingaboutaninequalitythatallmembersofthe
blackcommunityhadtodealwith.

Paraphrase
IdontgettocelebrateonHalloween.
IdontgettocelebrateonChristmas.
Idontgettocelebratebirthdays.
Theotherchildrenlaughwhenweareforcedtoleavetheclassroom
whenthebirthdaycakearrives
theotherchildrenforcedtoleaveandIpretendwedonotseethechocolatefrostingonthecake
wepretendthatwedonotwanttoeatit.
Wearenotallowedtovote.

Wearenotallowedtofight.
Wearenotallowedtocurse.
Wearenotallowedtogotowar.
Wewillneverbeabletoeatabirthdaytreatintheclassroom.
Wewillnevergotowar.

ConnotationThewordsusedinthispoemarerelaxedandcalm,yetstillsolidandgrounded.She
makessimplestatementsbutdoestheminafluidandflowingway.Woodsonusesaclassroom
inequalitytorepresentthemuchgranderinjusticesshefacedasanAfricanAmerican.She
contraststhesewithherrefusaltogotowar,fightingforacountrythatneverfoughtforher.She
repeatsstanzastructurethroughoutthepoem,changingtheirmeaningbasedontheideasheis
tryingtoexpress.Atthestartofthepoem,shelistsalloftheexperiencesshewasnotallowedas
achild.Neartheend,shestatesinthesamewayeverythingshewasnotallowedasanadult.
Celebratinghalloweenandclassmatesbirthdaysmaynotseemlikemuch,buttoachilditisjust
asdignifyingasvoting.

AttitudeThespeakerexaminesthetopicwithstrengthandsolidarity.Itistoldbyanadult,
presentlyrelivingherexperiencesasachild.Atthetime,therewasnothingshecouldsayordo
tofightbacktheoppression.Nowthatsheisanadult,andhasbeencheatedofopportunitiestime
andtimeagain,shefeelsasifsheowesnothingtothecountryshelivesin.Americadoesnot
deserveherservice,norherlife.

ShiftsAtthebeginningofthepoem,shetalksofthesubjectsoftlyandhonestly,likeitwerea
sensitivesubject.Thelasteightlinesareharsher,moredeliberatestatements.Sheseemstoget
angrierasshewrites,usingsharper,clashingadjectives.Thefinalhalfofthepoembitterlystates
whatshewillnotdobecauseofwhatshehasnotbeenallowedtodo,whereaswhatcomesbefore
itismorefluidanddescriptive,illustratingasingleevent.

TitleAfterlookingatthetitlebecausewerewitnessesasecondtime,itsconnotationis
understood.Throughouthistory,blackpeoplehavebeenwitnessestoeverythingwhitepeople
havebeenservedonasilverplatter.Becausetheyrewitnesses,theywillseewarbutnever
partakeinit.

ThemeThispoemstheme,thoughthewordchoicedoesnotsuggestit,isquiteangry.Angry
andsad,abouteverythingblackpeoplehavetoenduregrowingupinAmerica,especiallyduring
the1960s.Itisabouthumandignityandtheimportanceofrespectabilitytoself.Asthispoem
states,atsomepointenoughisenough.Evenifitmeansstandinguptoauthorityandsocial
normalities.

harvesttime
TitleAtfirstglance,thisharvesttimeremindsmeofFallandtheharvestofcrops.Warm
autumn,justafterSummerandrightbeforeSpring.Thismaybeametaphorforthethemeofthe
poem.

Paraphrase
Whenmyfathersgardenisripe
itisfilledwithfunnywordsthatmakemelaughwhenIsaythem
polebeans,
and
tomatoes,okra
and
corn
sweetpeas
and
sugarsnaps,
lettuce
and
squash.

Whocouldhaveguessed

thereissomuchcolorwecannolongerseetheground
andwenowwalkthroughflamboyantwords
thatwhenaffectedbymygrandmothershands
becomedeliciousmeals

ConnotationWoodsonusesaharvestreadygardentosymbolizehercolorfulimagination,and
thedaringaffectithadonhergrowingup.Themagicofthecolorfulfruitsandwordstookher
mindtoanunbelievableplace.Inusingwordslikemagic,thereaderseesthespeakerisin
gratefulaweofthewondersoftheworldaroundher.Shetalksabouthow,likesorcery,her
grandmotherisabletransformthesewordsandfruitintoadeliciousmealthatfillsherupwith
nutrientsandsatisfaction.

AttitudeThespeakerisayoungchildenjoyingtheperksofafreshimagination.Sheviewsher
fathersgarden,somethinganadultmightseeaseverydayandordinary,ascompletelyand
utterlyoutstanding.Shecreatesanimageofherthoughts,acrazyandcolorfuljungleofwords
andletters.
ShiftsThemoodofthepoemstaysconstantthroughout,butthewordchoicediffersasthepoem
progresses.Thesecondhalfofthepoemisfullofadjectivesdescribingwhatwentthroughher
mind,sonaturallythewordsaregoingtobeabitmorehectic,mimickingactualthoughtprocess.
Besidesthis,therearenotmanyothertransitionsthispoemgoesthrough.

TitleAfterexaminingthetitleasecondtimehavingreadthepoem,harvesttimeismerely
introducingthepoemssetting.Thepoemtakesplaceinautumnwhenthecropsarereadyand
ripetobepulledupandoutoftheground.

ThemeUnlikemanyofWoodsonsotherpoems,thissimpledepictionoftheexcitabilityofthe
youngimaginationislight,simple,andhappy.Welearnofthespeakersgrowingloveforwords,
asshownbythehumorouseffecttheyhadonher.

february12,1963
TitleThetitleofthispoemisfebruary12,1963.Thisisprobablythespeakersdateofbirthor
thedateofanextremelyimportanteventinthespeakerslife.

Paraphrase

IambornonTuesdayatUniversityHospitalinColumbus,Ohio
Iamborninacountrywithawaronrace
Iambornneartheplacewheremygreatgreatgrandparentsworkedasslaves,
dreamingoffreedom

Iambornwhenthesouthisingreatunrest,
becauseoftoomanypeopleandtoomanyyears
putintoslavery,thenemancipated
theywereemancipatedbutnotfreed
theylooklikeme
theykeepfighting,keepmarching,andkeepgettingkilled
onmybehalf,andthechildrenthatwillcomeaftermesbehalf

IamborninOhio,butIfeelmyancestorsstoriesinSouthCarolinaflowthroughme.

ConnotationThemostobvioussymbolinthispoemisthedate.Althoughitseemsinsignificant
itisthedayshewaswelcomedintotheworld.Itisthedatethatallleadinguptoherhavebeen
waitingfor(figuratively).Allofthesacrificesthathavebeenmadeareforherbenefit,sothatshe
couldhaveafulfilling,moreliberatinglife.

AttitudeThespeakerofthispoemisJacquelineWoodsonasababy.Sherelivesherbirthasan
adult,usingmetaphorstocommunicatehercloseconnectiontoherenslavedancestors.Shefeels

asifsheissheisborninthemiddleofaplantationinSouthCarolina,withher
greatgreatgrandparentssittingbesideher.

ShiftsAtthebeginningofthispoem,thedictionandwordchoiceissoftandgentle,talking
aboutherancestorsworkingdeepandrichsoil.Asthepoemprogresses,thedictionbecomes
harsher,asshecommunicatesthestrugglethathergrandparentsandgreatgrandparentshadto
enduretomaketheworldabetterplaceforherandthosecomingafterher.

TitleAfterreadingthepoem,thetitlegoesfarbeyonditsliteralmeaning.Yes,itisthedateof
Woodsonsbirth,butthatsingledatesymbolizessomuchmorethanjustabirthday.Itisafight,
acelebration,andtheongoingsearchforfreedom.

ThemeThispoemisaboutcommunity,family,andthestrengthitgivesanindividualfrom
birth.Itisaboutonesconnectiontohisorherancestors,aliveordead.Thisconnectionpushes
humanstofightforthesamethingsourgreatgrandparentsdid,fortheirsakeandthesakeofour
children.

journey29
TitleThetitleofthispoemsuggestsithassomethingtodowithajourneythatonehastaken,
whetheritbealiteralphysicaljourneyoramentaltransformation.

Paraphrase

YoucanstayintheSouth,
myfathersays.
Theytreatusawfully
Ihadtogetyourmotheroutrightaway

Itoldhershewillneverhavetositinthebackofthebus
Shewouldneverhavetotreatwhitepeoplewithsuperfluousrespect
Sheshouldneverhavetolookdown

AlloftheWoodsonkidsaregood,respectable,strong

Yessiree,
myfathersays
YoucanliveinyourSouthCarolina,Iwillnotsupportit

ConnotationThispoemisarenditionofsomethingWoodsonsfatheroncetoldheraboutSouth
Carolina,anditscorrupt,lackofprogressioninBlackliberation.TheWoodsonsareafamily
thathasbeenlivingfreeinOhiosincetheearly1800s.HerfatherwouldletnoWoodsonbe
disrespectedandbroughtdowntobelowerinsocialrankthanthewhiteman.Hewasastrong,
forwardthinker,raisinghischildrentobenothinglessthanwhattheycouldbe,nomatterwhoor
whatwastellingthemtheycouldnt.

AttitudeThoughthespeakerofthispoemistheauthorasachild,thedictionisprimarilyher
fathersvoice.HerfatherseestheSouthascorrupt,greedy,andoldfashioned.Thewhitepeople

cankeepitastheylike,buthewillnotstandforit.Heisangryaboutwhathispeoplehavebeen
putthrough,andstandshisground.

ShiftsThispoemisveryshort,numberingatonlyfourshortstanzas.Itdoesnotgothroughany
shiftsindiction,wordchoice,ormood.ThefirsthalfofthepoemaddressesSouthCarolina,its
principles,andhowherfathergothermotherout.Thesecondhalftalksmoregenerallyaboutthe
SouthandAmerica,andhownoneofthechildrenshouldsuccumbtothedisrespectthatwill
inevitablybeservedtothem.

TitleAfterreadingthepoem,thetitlecouldbeinterpretedinaliteralsense,afigurativesense,
orboth.Literally,thetitlecouldmeanthejourneyherfathertooktofindhermotherandgether
outofsuchanunjustsystem.Figuratively,thetitlecouldmeantheJourneythattheWoodson
familyhadtotaketoOhio,tofreedom,andtorespect.

ThemeThispoemisprimarilyabouthumanrespect.Itisaboutdignifyingonesfellowman,
andnotallowingoneselftobeshutdownbyacorruptsystem.

asachildismelledtheair95
TitleThetitleofthispoem,asachildismelledtheair,remindsmeofsomethingvery
innocent.Shemayusethistocontrastsomethingshelostasanadultbuthadasachild.

Paraphrase

Mymotherdrinkshercoffeeslowonthefrontporch

NewYorkDoesntsmelllikehome
shesays.

Ifollowmymotherasshetakesawalk
Wearealonetogether

Shesweetenshercoffeewithcondensedmilk,
herhairisbraided
sheholdshermug
IfIaskforasipshewillallowmetotrysome

Itisearlymorningandthebirdsarechirpingandawake
Themapletreeswillnothaveleaveswhenwintercomes
Mamasays.
Butthepineswillkeeptheirleaves.

IwillrememberthisairwhenImovetoNewYork.

ConnotationThewordchoiceinthispoemissoft,descriptive,andlucious.Shedescribesthe
peacefulserenityofherchildhoodhome,andhowwhatshewillremembermostisthescentof
thefreshmorningair.Theimageryisvivid,engagingallofthereader'ssensesandtakinghimor
heronthewalkWoodsonandhermothertakethroughtheforest.Thisiswhathomeistoher
walkingwithhermother,thebirdschirping,thetreeslosingtheirleavesinthewinter.


AttitudeThespeakeris,onceagain,Woodsonasachild.Sheviewsthetopicfondly,
rememberingthecomfortofOhioandherfirsthome.Sheseemstolookuptohermother,seeing
herasafriend,andasacomfort,butalsoasarolemodel.

ShiftsThispoemdoesntgothroughanyshiftsinwordchoiceormood.Bytheenditbecomes
moreconclusive,statingthereasonfortheimageryprovided.

TitleThetitle,asachildismelledtheairisreferringtothewayshesawherhomeasachild.
Shesawitnotasapieceofrealestate,butsmells,textures,andmemories.

ThemeThispoemisaboutthecomfortofhome,leavingit,andtheeffectithasonayoung
wanderingmind.Thespeakerseeseverythinginthesimplestandrawestofways,forminga
vividimageinthereadersmindofthesetting.

rivers38
TitleThetitleofthispoem,rivers,couldbeaboutariversheusedtospendhersummersasa
childplayingin.

Paraphrase
TheHockingRivermovesperpendiculartotheOhioRiver
itflowsthroughtownslikeitistryingtofinditsownfreedom

similarlytohowtheOhioriverrunsawayfromthedangeroftheSouth

Everytowntheseriversflowthroughhasastory
Whentheriverremembersitshome,itmakesauturnandreconnectswiththeother
Asifsaying,
Iamsorry.Iamherenow.

ConnotationWoodsonusestheriverstosymbolizeherselfandherpersonaljourneys.Theword
choiceisquitesimpleanddirect,butrichwithsymbolism.Theriversarepersonifiedtobe
metaphorsforherfreespirit,disconnectionwiththeSouth,andeverlastingbondwithherhome
stateofOhio.Inthebeginning,thetworiversmoveawayfromeachother,likeherunsatisfied
needforfreedom.ShestayssafelyawayfromtheSouth.Afterlongtravels,sherediscoversher
roots,andthetworiversjoinagain.

AttitudeThispoemistoldinthethirdperson,describingthelivesoftworiversastheypartand
reconnect.Thespeakerpersonifiesthetworivers,andmakesthemouttoseemlikefriendswho
partwaystofindthemselves,andeventuallyrealizethattheywerealwaysmeanttobetogether.
Friendscouldbeanyrelationshippersontoperson,persontohouse,persontoplace.

ShiftsAtthebeginningofthepoem,thetworiversflowconfidentlyawayfromeachother,not
lookingback.Eachriverlearnsthestoriesofthetownstheypassthrough,acquiringwisdomand
experience.Asifeachriverrememberswhereitbelongs,itturnsaroundandcomesrushingback
totheother.

TitleAfterreexaminingthetitlerivers,itcanbesaidthatthatsherelatesherselftoariver.
Fastflowing,fartraveling,streamsaretheembodimentofhersoul.

ThemeThethemeofthispoemisfreedom,wisdom,andhome.Thoughinthebeginning,sheis
chasingfreedom,yearningfornothingbutexperience,intheendshefiguresoutthatwhereshe
belongsiswhereshestartedherjourney.

howtolisten#3102
TitleThetitlesuggeststhatthispoemwillbeonthenatureoflisteningratherthanspeaking.
Peoplearesooftenonlyconcernedwithwhattheyhavetosay,sotheyforgettolistentoothers.
Withouthearing,thereisnolearning,nounderstanding.

Paraphrase
Itisthemiddleofthenight.
Mygrandfatherisupcoughingloudly
Iwakeupstartled

ConnotationThispoemisahaiku,soitisshortandsimple,yetstillfilledwithmeaning.Usually
whensomeoneiscoughing,itindicatesnothingbutacold.Ashumansage,andtheirhealth
becomesmoreprecarious,aninsignificantcoldorillnesscouldturnlifethreatening.Sheis
awakenedbyhergrandfatherscough,startledandconcernedbyit.Lifeissofragile,andwhen
youcareaboutsomeone,anysmallpaintheyareenduringisconcerning.


AttitudeThespeakerisachild,whoisconcernedwiththestateofhergrandfather.

ShiftsBecausethisisahaiku,andonlythreelineslong,itdoesntgothroughanymajor
changesinwordchoice.Thefirstlineintroducesthesetting,themiddleofthenight,andthe
secondlinestatesthatthespeakersgrandfatheriscoughing.Thebigshiftinsoundcomesatthe
thirdlinewhenshewakesup,startledbythesoundofhergrandfather.Thislastlineisabrupt,
andhelpstocommunicatethethemetothereader.

TitleThetitlehowtolisten#3isaboutreallylistening.Beingconcernedwitheverysignof
hurt.Yes,hergrandfatherscoughwasprobablynothing,butwhatifitwasnt.Itisbettertotake
nochances.

ThemeThispoemisaboutthefragilityoflife,andwhatitmeanstolisten.Thespeakerisa
child,butshehassomuchcompassiontowardshergrandfather.

howtolisten#7
TitleWoodsonwroteasetofhaikusaboutlistening,titledhowtolisten.Thishaikugoes
alongwiththeothers.

Paraphrase
Thesilence

hassomethingitneedstosay.
Youmustsilentlylisten.

ConnotationWecannotlearnifwedonotlisten.Eventhesilencehasastorytotellissaying
thateveryoneyoucomeacrosswillhavesomethingtosay,whetheritseemslikeitornot.Thisis
anexampleofirony.Silencesaysnothingandeverything,anditmustbelistenedtotogain
wisdom.

AttitudeThespeakerisachilddevelopinganintenseloveforwritingandstorytelling.Heropen
mindandopenearsarehergreatesttools,allowinghertospeakandchoosehermomentswisely.

ShiftsTherearenomajorshiftsinwordchoice,sound,orstanzalength.Theonethingthatdoes
changeinthispoemisthepunctuation.Therearenoperiodsinthefirstline,oneperiodinthe
secondline,andtwoperiodsinthethirdline.

TitleBecausethesehaikusaredoneinaset,thetitlemeansthesamethingtomenowasitdid
before.Mostpeoplesimpedimentisnotspeaking,butlistening.

ThemeThethemeofthishaikuistheimportanceofdiligentlisteningtohumangrowth.
Everyoneandeverythinghasastory,andoneneverknowswhatthatknowledgecoulddofor
oneself.

ghosts92
TitleIamguessingthistitleisnotaboutghostsintheliteralsense,meaningthelivingdead,but
inafigurativesense.Theghostofsomethingthatoncewas,butnolongeris,whetheritbegood
orbad.

Paraphrase
IndowntownGreenville,
theypaintedovertheWHITEONLYsignsoncetheywerenotinuse
whentheypaintedoverthebathroomdoors,theydidnotusemuchpaint
andthelayerissothinthatyoucanstillseethewords
thewordsarelikeaghostthatstillkeepyouour

ConnotationThispoemisrichwithsymbolism.Thelanguagesheusesisfairlysimple.Sheis
talkingaboutsuchanintensetopic,thatbearssomuchweight,fancylanguagewouldtakeaway
fromtheideasheistryingtocommunicatewiththereader.ThewordsWHITEONLY
showingthroughthepaintisareminderofthepast,andasymbolforthelivingreminence.There
hasneverbeenasafe,fair,orjusttimeforAfricanAmericansinallofAmericanhistory.Itisthe
ghostofthepastthatkeepsusfrommakingprogress.

AttitudeThespeakerisheldbackbyhistory.Everythingthathashappenedflashesbeforeher
eyeswhensheseesWHITEONLYpeekingoutfromundertheloosepaintonthebathroom
door.Itkeepsherout.Alloftheoppressionisstillthere,evenifitsnotalwaysvisible.


ShiftsThepoemstartsonamorepositivenote,statingthattheypaintedoverthewhiteonly
signsindowntownGreenville.Themoodofthepoemthenchanges,becomingmuchmoregrim.
Youcanstillseethewords,showingthateventhoughtheycoveredthemup,theydidntcare
enoughtomakesuretheydisappeared.Maybetheydidntwantthemtodisappear.

TitleInowknowthetitlesymbolizestheghostofinequality.Eventhoughitissaidtohave
died,itstilllives,insidethepeople,inthestreets,onthewalls.

ThemeThispoemsaysalotaboutAmerica.Wesaywehaveequalrights,yetwearestillnot
treatedequally.Itistheghostofwhatusedtobethatpreventstotalliberation.Toomanystill
cannotletgoofthepast.

reading226
TitleThetitlemakesmebelievethatthepoemmaybeaboutreading,andwhatithasdonefor
herasaperson.

Paraphrase
MysisterandIarenotthesameperson
Wordsbendindifferentdirectionsanddontmakesense
untilIreadthemmultipletimes
TheteachertellsmeIreadtoslowandtoobabyish

ButIdontwanttoreadfasterormoremature
Iwanttoreadlikemyself
Sothestorycanbecomeapartofme
AndIwillrememberitforever

ConnotationHerteacherstellhertoreadfasterandolder.Herteachertellhertoreadlike
everyoneelse.Shewanttoreadjustasshedoes,notlikeanyoneelse.Thisisasymbolfor
findingonesvoice.Therewillbemanypeoplealongtheroadtosuccessthatwilltellyouto
conform,todoasthegroupdoes,todohowyouhavebeentoldto.Intheend,thosewhoare
different,whostandout,whohaveaunique,fresh,anddifferentvoicearetheoneswhochange
theworld.

AttitudeThespeakerfeelsasifhervoicehasbeenoppressed.Shefindspeaceinwriting,andin
stories,butatschoolsheistoldsheisdoingthingswrong.Herbrainworksdifferentlythanthe
otherstudents,soitsnotaseasytoreadfasterorolder.

ShiftsThelinelengthsvarygreatlythroughoutthispoem.Theshortestisoneword,two
syllables,andthelongestiseightwords,twelvesyllables.Thisvarianceisusedtoexpresslarge
ideas,andresponsestothoseideas.

TitleThetitlereadingsymbolizestheimpactreadinghadonherlife.Ithelpedherfindher
voice,andlearntospeakdifferently.

ThemeThethemeofthispoemisuniqueness.Itisnotalwaysbesttodowhatotherstellyou,
andsometimesthemostimportantthingyoucandoforyourselfisbeauthentic.

Related Interests