Although it’s probably less sophisticated than the kinds of texts we usually talk about in this class, I’ve been thinking about doing a blog post on children’s poetry for a while, so when I got Eloise Greenfield’s 1978 book of children’s poems Honey, I Love and other love poems in the mail from my mom it seemed like a sign. Honey, I Love was one of the first books of poetry we read in my first grade class, so I wanted to see if I could approach it from a new perspective beyond simple enjoyment, thirteen years later. The book is a collection of sixteen poems having to do mostly with the love the speaker, a young black girl growing up in the 70s, has for her family and friends, and some of her meditations on travel and poetry. Most of the poems span a page or two and are spoken in a declarative tone, the way little kids talk, so as I went through Honey, I Love
I took note of “Aunt Roberta,” one of the shortest poems in the collection and the only one phrased entirely as a question.
What do people think about
When they sit and dream
All wrapped up in quiet
and old sweaters
And don’t even hear me ’til I
Slam the door?
Although audience is something we’ve all been told to keep in mind, I’m not sure how consciously I make an effort to appeal to a certain audience when I write. “Aunt Roberta” seems to me to have been developed with an audience very much in mind — the language and line breaks would be easily understandable to a child reader. At the same time, though, the poem doesn’t seem childish, and there does appear to be method in how the line breaks are utilized: “Slam the door” being on its own line, for instance, emphasizes the silence broken and recalls the sounds itself. The poem as a whole being phrased as question I find interesting, not only contextually with its being the only such piece in the collection, but for how well it creates a realistic narrative voice in replicating the sort of question that a child might ask. The narrator draws no conclusions, leaving the interpretation of meaning entirely up to the reader, and doesn’t even use specific names (Aunt Roberta only being named in the title), which invites the reader to project their own experience into the question asked of them.