Poets have the unique distinction of being among the few individuals that can write one thing and mean another. Frost, Whitman and Blake are all masters at creating these types literary illusions. Sandra Cisneros is as well. A contemporary Chicana writer, Cisneros is best known for her novel House on Mango Street. However, before Cisneros became famous for this work, she published a book of poetry that carefully details her growth and search for identity in a white culture. What is perhaps most interesting about Cisneros’ poetry is that it encompasses a wide-range of the author’s personality and it clearly reflects the author’s growth as an individual as it progresses.
The first poem in the book is entitled “Little Clown, My Heart.” While the poem is filled of the imagery that one would typically associate with watching a clown perform—“handstands and Peking pirouettes, Backflips snapping open like A carpenter’s hinged ruler”—it is clear from the title that Cisneros is describing much more than a clown at play. Upon first reading the poem, one must assume that the author is describing the motions that her heart goes through when she falls in love. While this optimistic viewpoint is possible, it considering both the author’s background and some of the subtler wording in the poem, Cisneros is not speaking about love; she is speaking about how her heart responds to the world in general.
To understand the meaning of the poem, one must consider Cisneros’ background. A Chicana woman attempting to make her way through college and graduate school, Cisneros is surrounded by few role models for developing her own identity. As a result, Cisneros is, in some respects, disillusioned about her world and finding it difficult to find her own voice. Likening her heart to a clown, the author is expressing her disdain for the way she is treated. If one could transpose the image of a clown onto Cisneros’ heart it could be effectively argued that the author’s heart and emotions have become a puppet to be trampled on by society.