Feb 23, 2010

"The Bean Eaters" by Gwendolyn Brooks








The Bean Eaters by Gwendolyn Brooks : Poetry Magazine [poem/magazine] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.


I like the simplicity of Gwendolyn Brooks’ “The Bean Eaters,” but notice also the subtle rhyming and the long last line’s break in structure and expectation, all of which adds complexity and surprise. Why the details Brooks’ selects in that final line? Why this ordering of them? Why end the poem on “fringes”?

Her characters are nothing like me and everything like me—as well as scores of other people I’ve known. We might compare it to Ciardi’s “For Instance” (Banjo52, Feb. 17). Both poems outline kinds of people and patterns of lives, but both works also manage to see their characters as individuals. Don't they?

I don’t think I could care this much about a mere category of human. For some reason—is it the poets’ affection for their characters?—neither poem shrinks its people to types or formulas; they are humans with histories, and they matter, even though they also represent thousands with roughly similar histories.

The Bean Eaters by Gwendolyn Brooks : Poetry Magazine [poem/magazine] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.


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18 comments:

altadenahiker said...

Yes, I feel the affection, and like the poem quite a bit until the last line. But I'll read it a few more times to see if that changes.

Brenda's Arizona said...

I have read it a few more times, and the last line just fails me. The poem is very descriptive up till then...
I felt I knew this couple until that line.

In fact, except for the beans, this could have been my parents. "They keep putting on their clothes" even though they have 'lived their life'. My dad's golden rule: always be showered, dressed and shaved by 9 AM. Even when he was retired, he followed that rule. Luckily for mom, he didn't eat beans.

Ken Mac said...

point well taken back at my joint!

BANJO52 said...

AH and Brenda, about the last line, there you go, tag-teaming again (you don't mind if I call you lady wrestlers?).

I'm not sure I disagree, but is that line also the only one that tries to see the couple as individuals rather than a type? If it fails, does it fail because of that?

Brenda, your dad and mine . . . all the men from that little college? More likely, all the men of a certain era?

As for the beans . . . I have a little bit of sense about where not to go . . .

BANJO52 said...

Ken, I would hardly call your place a joint--great NY photos there.

By the way, about your diner closing down . . . we have a diner in suburban Detroit that's a NY/NJ wannabe--silver exterior, the railroad car look. Some like it because it was the first of its kind in the area; some hate it for being a wannabe. It does a crackling business.

"Coney Islands" are BIG in metro Detroit.

Brenda's Arizona said...

I don't think AH & I are wrestling material at all. Now as a poet, certainly you can come up with a better analogy/simile/facsimile (haha)?

Paula said...

You have to read this one out loud, otherwise it doesn't flow. Out loud - well, it's amazing. Just read silently - meh. I think it's a long oral history in three short, succinct stanzas. That's a gift.

altadenahiker said...

You're right Brenda. If he says that again I'm gonna kick his ass.

BANJO52 said...

WRESTLER, WRESTLER, WRESTLER . . .

Paula said...

Hiker, I'll be first in line to buy a ticket. But remember, he has a banjo.

Paula said...

PS Every time I see you avatar I think I'm looking at a long necked goose with a big orange bill.

BANJO52 said...

Now I'm reduced to an "avatar"--by Donaldina Duck, no less.

Some free-floating hostility here, it's clear to me. Maybe a 3-woman tag team? But I'll be watching on a monitor, from a safe distance. Scary stuff.

altadenahiker said...

Methinks Banjo is failing to live up to his sardonic yet sensitive pose. Apparently if we disagree with the professor, we turn into wimmins.

I did try Paula's technique of reading it aloud, and that did help. But I still say the last line doesn't live up to the rest of the poem.

Brenda's Arizona said...

No one is safe from non-wrestling women. Especially ANNOYED non-wresting women.

Brenda's Arizona said...

So you changed your avatar to Banjo and Guitar just because Paula commented on the old one? Paula, you rock! AH, I guess you and I are still just wimmins...

BANJO52 said...

Ladies, wimmins, and others, I changed my picture (er, avatar, er, icon) about 3 months ago. Apparently you weren't paying much attention.

If you don't take good notes, you might get only a B+ on the exam (demonstrating that grade inflation is real).

altadenahiker said...

Brenda, guess we should call each other Sister Woman from now on.

(Thinks if he puts up a new post he'll distract us. Doesn't know the Sister Wimmins.)

BANJO52 said...

Sister Wimmins. What a marvel that there's not already such an organization. GREAT name!!

So glad I could serve as catalyst for all these barbed tongues. A man needs a mission in life.

Lovers' Lane