‘Little Clown, My Heart’ appears in Sandra Cisneros’ famous poetry collection Loose Woman. In this poem, Cisneros depicts her heart as a clown who performs various acts. She describes the nature of the human heart by using several metaphors. Besides, the language of the poem fuses terms of both Spanish and English in a dexterous manner. Through this piece, Cisneros shows how her heart differs from that of others.
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‘Little Clown, My Heart’ by Sandra Cisneros is a humorous piece sketching the nature of the poet’s heart by using a number of metaphors.
This piece begins with a comparison between the poet’s heart and a clown. It seems as if the clown is only meant for entertaining the speaker. It performs various circus tricks, especially dance moves like a ballet dancer. According to the speaker, it is the source of pleasures, sorrows, and addictions. In the last stanza, she depicts how her heart differs from others. In general, others’ hearts grow weaker over time. Whereas the poet’s heart is in flames, symbolizing her indomitable courage.
You can read the full poem here.
Little clown, my heart,
A carpenter’s hinged ruler,
The very first line of the poem is used as the title. So, it is important with respect to the overall idea of Cisneros. In this line, the poet personifies her heart. She compares it to a tiny clown. It seems the poet is comparing herself to a clown rather than her heart.
In the second line, the poet uses the word “again” to hint at some past incidents. Her heart might have been sad or broken due to some reasons. But, it is spangling again with tiny, shiny objects. Besides, her heart is not symmetrical. It is a reference to different emotions that come out of it. The word “lopsided” can also be interpreted as a reference to its shape that is changed by circumstances.
In the following lines, the poet describes how her clown-like-heart performs various tricks in order to entertain herself. It handstands and spins on its leg like a ballet dancer. Cisneros uses a simile in order to compare its backflips to a “carpenter’s hinged ruler”. In this way, the speaker conveys how her heart performs various moves to express happiness.
Little gimp-footed hurray,
Sweet potato plant of my addictions,
In the second stanza, the poet makes a comparison between her heart and the “gimp-footed” person. This image hints at the speaker’s past sufferings due to which her heart has become lame. No matter what, it has not forgotten the art of being happy.
In the next three lines, Cisneros presents a number of metaphors. Firstly, she compares it to a parasol or umbrella made of paper that children play with. Like it makes children happy, so does her heart.
The next metaphor contains an important idea. Cisneros says that it is her “Fleshy undertongue”. The human tongue is able to voice one’s emotions. While the “undertongue” cannot. It just bears the pain and sorrow.
In the last line, the poet uses an image of a “Sweet potato plant” to bring freshness into the piece. Her heart is as fresh and as sweet as the plant. Hence, the love for her heart has become an addiction. This line reveals the narcissistic aspect of the speaker.
Acapulco cliff-diver corazón,
Into the flames!
The last stanza of ‘Little Clown, My Heart’ begins with a reference to the Acapulco cliff. According to Cisneros, the clown (or heart) is like a diver who jumps offshore. The term “corazón” is Spanish for “heart”.
In the next line, readers can find another use of simile. Here, Cisneros compares her heart to a dagger made out of obsidian (a type of igneous rock). The “dagger” is a symbol of the speaker’s mind. She is as fine as the dagger and its blade is honed by past experience.
Then, the poet depicts how the clown jumps into the froth or sea. The “froth” symbolizes the speaker’s past. So, her heart occasionally jumps into the froth of the past. But, the speaker clarifies that she has changed. Her life is in flames now. It means nothing can subdue her spirit.
This poem is written in free verse. It means there is no specific rhyme or meter in the text. Cisneros writes this poem from a subjective point of view, in first-person. The whole poem is written using several clauses that are fused into a single sentence. There are a total of 14 lines that are grouped into three stanzas. Cisneros uses imperfect rhyming in the second stanza. In the overall text, she makes use of internal rhyming by repeating similar sounds in succession. Besides, the poem is composed of the iambic-trochaic meter.
Cisneros uses the following literary devices in her poem ‘Little Clown, My Heart’.
- Enjambment: It occurs throughout the poem. The poet internally connects all the lines by using this device.
- Personification: In this piece, Cisneros personifies her heart as a “Little clown”.
- Metaphor: Readers can find metaphors in “Little gimp-footed hurray”, “Fleshy undertongue of sorrows”, and “Sweet potato plant of my addictions”.
- Alliteration: It occurs in “Peking pirouettes”, “Paper parasol of pleasures”, “potato plant”, etc.
- Rhetorical Exclamation: It occurs in the last line of the poem: “Into the flames!”
The poem ‘Little Clown, My Heart’ was first published in Sandra Cisneros’s best-known book of poetry Loose Woman: Poems. It was published in 1994. This anthology of her erotic poems won the Mountain & Plains Booksellers’ Award. Cisneros is a modern American poet and one of the key figures of Chicano literature or Mexican-American literature. In this poem, she uses the bilingualism that she employs in her other poems. She incorporates Spanish terms into her English poem. Besides, this piece also strongly posits her feminine identity. She explores how her heart grew stronger for past experiences.
Sandra Cisneros’ poem ‘Little Clown, My Heart’ is all about a speaker’s heart. It is like a clown that performs various acts in order to satisfy others. Somehow, the speaker is addicted to it as it has helped her to survive the tough ordeals of her life.
The poem was first published in 1994 in Sandra Cisneros’ poetry collection Loose Woman: Poems.
The poet compares her heart to a clown in order to portray how it hides her true emotions and performs various acts in order to please others. Hence, her heart is like a clown who lives for the happiness of others, denying her own feelings.
This poem taps on the themes of identity, suffering, experience, emotions, and most importantly heart.
The following poems are similar to the themes present in Sandra Cisneros’ poem ‘Little Clown, My Heart’.
- ‘The Broken Heart’ by John Donne — It’s one of the best-known poems of John Donne. This poem is an address to the power of love that destroys one’s emotions completely. Explore more John Donne poems.
- ‘My Heart and I’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning — It’s one of the well-known poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This piece depicts the distress of a newly widowed woman. Read more E.B. Browning poems.
- ‘Tears Fall in My Heart’ by Paul Verlaine — This poem describes the emotional condition of a speaker who cannot understand the reason behind his unhappiness. Explore more Paul Verlaine poems.
- ‘The Heart of a Woman’ by Georgia Douglas Johnson — This piece is about the freedom for which women yearn and the shelters where they are imprisoned. Read more Georgia Douglas Johnson poems.
You can also read about these incredible poems about the heart.