The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“April Fool Birthday Poem for Grandpa” is occasioned by the day of poet Diane di Prima’s grandfather’s birth, and though the reference to April Fool’s Day in the title might seem to suggest a prank or joke, the poem is a serious tribute. The author apologizes for her previous unsuccessful efforts to write this tribute, but “the gathering madness” of the moment at hand makes her recognize the urgency of paying homage to her grandfather, and she sets to the task.

The second section of the poem is devoted to expressions of thanks to the grandfather, who was a model of honesty, integrity, and compassion for di Prima. The grandfather told di Prima “what to expect,” and “back there in that scrubbed Bronx parlor” he always was straightforward, “pulling/ no punches.” He was a lover of Italian operas, and he listened to them regularly, not weeping in an obligatory way, but “honestly weeping in time to/ innumerable heartbreaking/ italian operas,” revealing his sensitivity and sincerity. The grandfather’s delicate outlook and his capability to teach effectively are shown by his lesson about children who pull leaves from trees. The grandfather pulled the hair of di Prima herself so that she could know the pain the tree must feel when its leaves are pulled.

The poem progresses into di Prima’s own declaration that she, like her grandfather, is a revolutionary. Her struggle in the present drives her mind into recollection of...

(The entire section is 401 words.)