Part III: followed
This section of poetry shows the strength, resiliency and adaptability of children. I can strongly relate, as a military brat, to the feeling of moving from the familiar to the unfamiliar. It is a feeling I had to endure many times so the early poems in this section struck a deep, emotional chord with me. I felt the dismay of Woodson when New York didn’t live up to expectations. But I read the poem “new york city” knowing that she would eventually adapt and become accustomed to, if not love, her new city. It always occurs that way by my estimation. You may hate the new place for a while, but eventually it creeps in and becomes a part of your soul.
As the poems progressed, that’s exactly what happened. I almost thought the unfortunate tragedy of Aunt Kay would send her Mother back to the South, but I think the idea of what Southerners have about New York is a powerful one. So many from the South perceive that city as an almost promised land. A place where they can escape the vestiges of the South and remake themselves into something new. I think the reverse exodus of Northerners to the South shows how true that ultimately proved to be.
You can also see the beginners of the writer that Woodson would one day become. She’s fascinated by words and loves to make up stories. Woodson is building a world around her and in her early years she was merely an oral storyteller. I appreciate the fact that words and writing didn’t always come easy to her at first. I had some of the same struggles myself early on and there is such an honesty in Woodson describing that struggle. I think too often the perception is that writers just blew into their calling by some divine right.
Again, Woodson tackles the subject of religion with an honesty that is so breathtaking and affirming. This was no better shown than in the poem “flag”. Young Woodson wants very much to be a part of the world her religion denies her. She’s not entirely solid in her faith and I laughed out loud as I imagined her classmate watching her with that judgmental eye. Anyone who’s gone to church on any frequent basis has seen it. The one person in the congregation who looks at you like they know every single sin you’ve committed. I love how these poems describe specific events but hit on so many common experiences.