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Kieran Kleinhenz

Mr. Kozak, AP English Language and Composition

Poetry Analysis Paper

17 October 2017

The Ladies Betterment League

The thick cover of brightly painted leaves crackled under her worn boots as she ambled

down the bustling street. Icy cold gusts of wind nipped at her face, but bounced off the thick

winter parka that made her impervious to the elements. The world around her teemed with the

sounds of a big city but she continued meandering the streets, lost in her thoughts, oblivious to

the world around her. The whoosh of the wind, honking of horns and chattering of the people

faded away as

The elegant Cadillac and the sophisticated Lincoln roared to life as they filled to capacity

with a-glow women in their prime. Ladies Betterment League was meticulously calligraphed

onto a banner, tastefully draped across the bow of the lead sleek automobile. The women tittered

and laughed, blissfully ignorant as the landscape changed around them, until it was too late to

turn back. They were on their way to help the needy, needy poor. Those poor unfortunate souls

who were forced to lived in the squalor of single bedroom homes and *shudder* apartments.

Suddenly, the cars gracefully slowed to a halt and the mighty engines settled down. Surely

were not here already? They thought to themselves. Weve just only gotten into the car! The

women fluidly dismounted from their steel chariots and grimaced at their surroundings. They

took in the street in all its glory, the run down houses, the beat up cars, the melanin rich people
and the civil rights posters?! These people still want civil rights?This was not what they had

expected at all. Do people really live like this? one of them remarked. Can we pick another

neighborhood? asked another. One bent down and picked up two posters from the ground.

Power and Equality she read from the flyer that prominently displayed a woman proudly

flanked by crimson flowers1. She tossed the flyer off to the side and began to read the second.

Whats that one about? one of the ladies asked. Something about a March on Washington or

something2. she replied disinterestedly. Why cant these people be interested in normal things

like the space program? yet another remarked. Ladies, let's stop dawdling and get on with it.

Remember, the sooner we finish the sooner we can leave. the leader of the coterie proclaimed.

The ladies then proceeded to quickly hand out dollar bills and cans of food to the few poor that

they came across. Twenty ticks of the clock later, all were safely back inside their metal and

glass armor, and on their way back to civilization.

Lady? Lady? Are you ok? the man in front of her asked worriedly, arm on her

shoulder. Oh oh hon Im fine dont you worry about me now! Gwendolyn responded. I

was just daydreaming thats all. She shook her head and resumed her jaunt to her apartment in

the Southside of Chicago, where she had lived all her life. She grabbed the mail from her

mailbox and sorted through it. Bill, bill, bill, advertisement, and Oh! A letter from one of her

childhood friends, all the way from Kansas! She tore open the letter and read it aloud.

1
Figure 1 below
2
Figure 2 below
Dear Gwendolyn,

How are you? Im doing much better this week. Im still recovering from the loss of my husband

Frank but Ive gotten through most of the last week without bursting into tears. I read the poem you

sent me, The Lovers of the Poor, and I must say I rather enjoyed it. I loved your use of repetition to

help get your point across, especially in the first lines. It really did get your point across that the idea

of the women, The Lovers of the Poor arrived in the neighborhood well before the actual

condescending women did. I also liked how you combined seemingly unrelated words like loathe-love and

barbarously fair to create a much deeper meaning than would have been possible with either of those

two words alone. But I especially liked how you conveyed the feeling that we all get when we see

these people who pretend like they want to help us and make our lives better but in reality want

nothing to do with us. I also thought it was interesting how you wrote in free verse when most poets of

our time stick to poems with strict formulas like sonnets. I think that your poem is very good at

presenting an issue that most people would never think about. I think it might just get people to think

about the consequences of their actions, and how what they do affects others. It took me a couple of

reads to really understand what you were trying to say, but thats a sign of good, complex work right?

Every single time I read your poem (and I read it quite a few times) I noticed something new and

interesting about how you phrased a certain line or used language to your advantage. Overall, the poem

is quite good and it might just be ready for publishing.

-Annalise Keating

Gwendolyn smiled and put the letter down. She could always count on her closest friend for

advice. She sighed and put her head down on the table, content. She began to doze off.
Gwendolyn woke up to the sound of sirens rattling the thin walls of her apartment. She

picked up the tattered piece of notebook paper in front of her. In the header were the words The

Lover of the Poor Oh! She thought. Its my poem. She began to read.

The Lover of the poor

arrives. The wannabe champion of the wall

Approaches the ravaged island, the azure winged beast descending

Across golden bars of light,

The calm after the storm

Here he comes, interrupting the peace

The orange, leathery tan

Golden hair, parted, ever so fair

The bright, lazy Sunday heat bearing down

On taped tie and plastered smiles alike

Seemingly unaware

He is in the presence of his people

At least, since JonesShafroth.3

Jumpshots of paper towels

For the needy, swarthy poor.

But oh!

3
Jones-Shafroth act of Puerto Rico making all Puerto Ricans american citizens
Its all so bad, and too much for anyone to handle

Except, they should be doing more to help themselves4

Of course they should

They should be growing new crops

And digging new wells

And not impacting our coffers just quite as much

But the difference is, this is an island

Sitting in the middle of an ocean

And its a big ocean

Its a very big ocean5

At least theyre not rocket men

Gwendolyn jumped as a loud noise jolted her awake from her nightmare. Who could the poem be

about? She thought to herself. Nobody, especially not anyone important would actually

conduct themselves like that. She reassured herself as she got into bed. She quickly fell asleep,

already dreaming up a new poem.

4
CNN article on Trumps lack of empathy towards Puerto Rico
5
Lines 22-25 is a direct quote from Donald J. Trump speaking at a live press conference on September
26th 2017 at 10:06 AM CT on the topic of Puerto Rico and hurricane recovery.
Figure 1 - Simpson Center for the Humanities - University of Washington
Figure 2 - Freedom Movement Posters
Works Cited.

Brooks, Gwendolyn. The Lovers of the Poor by Gwendolyn Brooks. Poetry Foundation,

Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43317/the-lovers-of-the-poor.

Freedom Movement Posters. Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement,

www.crmvet.org/images/posters.htm.

Gwendolyn Brooks. Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation,

www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/gwendolyn-brooks.

Jones Act. Jones Act - The World of 1898, Library of Congress, 22 June 2011,

www.loc.gov/rr/hispanic/1898/jonesact.html.

Kent, George E. Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. University Press of Kentucky, 1990.

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Oct.

2017,

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_on_Washington_for_Jobs_and_Freedom.

Reyes, Raul A. Trump's lack of empathy about Puerto Rico is staggering. CNN, Cable News

Network, 26 Sept. 2017,

www.cnn.com/2017/09/26/opinions/trumps-lack-of-empathy-about-puerto-rico-reyes/ind

ex.html.

The 1960s. Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Oct. 2017,

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1960s#Civil_Rights_Movement.

Turner, Jack. African American Political Thought: Past and Present. Simpson Center for the

Humanities, University of Washington, 3 May 2013,


simpsoncenter.org/projects/colloquia-and-conferences/aapt.

The Lovers of the Poor

BY GWENDOLYN BROOKS

arrive. The Ladies from the Ladies Betterment League

Arrive in the afternoon, the late light slanting

In diluted gold bars across the boulevard brag

Of proud, seamed faces with mercy and murder hinting

Here, there, interrupting, all deep and debonair,

The pink paint on the innocence of fear;

Walk in a gingerly manner up the hall.

Cutting with knives served by their softest care,

Served by their love, so barbarously fair.

Whose mothers taught: Youd better not be cruel!

You had better not throw stones upon the wrens!

Herein they kiss and coddle and assault

Anew and dearly in the innocence

With which they baffle nature. Who are full,

Sleek, tender-clad, fit, fiftyish, a-glow, all

Sweetly abortive, hinting at fat fruit,

Judge it high time that fiftyish fingers felt

Beneath the lovelier planes of enterprise.


To resurrect. To moisten with milky chill.

To be a random hitching-post or plush.

To be, for wet eyes, random and handy hem.

Their guild is giving money to the poor.

The worthy poor. The very very worthy

And beautiful poor. Perhaps just not too swarthy?

perhaps just not too dirty nor too dim

Norpassionate. In truth, what they could wish

Issomething less than derelict or dull.

Not staunch enough to stab, though, gaze for gaze!

God shield them sharply from the beggar-bold!

The noxious needy ones whose battles bald

Nonetheless for being voiceless, hits one down.

But its all so bad! and entirely too much for them.

The stench; the urine, cabbage, and dead beans,

Dead porridges of assorted dusty grains,

The old smoke, heavy diapers, and, theyre told,

Something called chitterlings. The darkness. Drawn

Darkness, or dirty light. The soil that stirs.

The soil that looks the soil of centuries.

And for that matter the general oldness. Old


Wood. Old marble. Old tile. Old old old.

Not homekind Oldness! Not Lake Forest, Glencoe.

Nothing is sturdy, nothing is majestic,

There is no quiet drama, no rubbed glaze, no

Unkillable infirmity of such

A tasteful turn as lately they have left,

Glencoe, Lake Forest, and to which their cars

Must presently restore them. When theyre done

With dullards and distortions of this fistic

Patience of the poor and put-upon.

Theyve never seen such a make-do-ness as

Newspaper rugs before! In this, this flat,

Their hostess is gathering up the oozed, the rich

Rugs of the morning (tattered! the bespattered. . . .)

Readies to spread clean rugs for afternoon.

Here is a scene for you. The Ladies look,

In horror, behind a substantial citizeness

Whose trains clank out across her swollen heart.

Who, arms akimbo, almost fills a door.

All tumbling children, quilts dragged to the floor

And tortured thereover, potato peelings, soft-


Eyed kitten, hunched-up, haggard, to-be-hurt.

Their League is allotting largesse to the Lost.

But to put their clean, their pretty money, to put

Their money collected from delicate rose-fingers

Tipped with their hundred flawless rose-nails seems . . .

They own Spode, Lowestoft, candelabra,

Mantels, and hostess gowns, and sunburst clocks,

Turtle soup, Chippendale, red satin hangings,

Aubussons and Hattie Carnegie. They Winter

In Palm Beach; cross the Water in June; attend,

When suitable, the nice Art Institute;

Buy the right books in the best bindings; saunter

On Michigan, Easter mornings, in sun or wind.

Oh Squalor! This sick four-story hulk, this fibre

With fissures everywhere! Why, what are bringings

Of loathe-love largesse? What shall peril hungers

So old old, what shall flatter the desolate?

Tin can, blocked fire escape and chitterling

And swaggering seeking youth and the puzzled wreckage

Of the middle passage, and urine and stale shames

And, again, the porridges of the underslung


And children children children. Heavens! That

Was a rat, surely, off there, in the shadows? Long

And long-tailed? Gray? The Ladies from the Ladies

Betterment League agree it will be better

To achieve the outer air that rights and steadies,

To hie to a house that does not holler, to ring

Bells elsetime, better presently to cater

To no more Possibilities, to get

Away. Perhaps the money can be posted.

Perhaps they two may choose another Slum!

Some serious sooty half-unhappy home!

Where loathe-love likelier may be invested.

Keeping their scented bodies in the center

Of the hall as they walk down the hysterical hall,

They allow their lovely skirts to graze no wall,

Are off at what they manage of a canter,

And, resuming all the clues of what they were,

Try to avoid inhaling the laden air.