April Fool Birthday Poem for Grandpa Analysis

Diane Di Prima

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.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“April Fool Birthday Poem for Grandpa” breaks from tradition because the poem assumes an open form, with no rhyme scheme, no fixed metrical pattern, and no stanzaic arrangement. In fact, the separation between units of thought is slightly obscured by enjambment: Line breaks occur in the middle of sentences, with thoughts running over from one line to the next. No white space is exploited to denote a division or succession of main points.

The poem begins with an apostrophe—di Prima addresses her grandfather, even though he cannot literally hear her words or respond to what she says. This poetic address is carried out in the tradition of the occasional poem—the poem written for a particular day or event—in this case di Prima’s grandfather’s birthday. This arrangement incorporates drama in the poem because the reader, like a member of an audience in a theater, is not directly addressed but is positioned to overhear the words that pass from di Prima to her grandfather.

“April Fool Birthday Poem for Grandpa” follows the convention of the elegy to honor the dead as the poem lists the characteristics of the grandfather that are worthy of admiration. Furthermore, the elegiac convention of providing comfort for the bereaved is observed because the poem asserts that the grandfather’s ideals live on because di Prima and her friends keep the spirit of revolution alive.

A shift in tense from past to present is pivotal as di Prima establishes a link between the revolutionary activity with her grandfather and the similar activities in the present. In the past, di Prima “stood/ a ways off, looking up...

(The entire section is 672 words.)