‘Yellow’, by Jackie Kay, is a poem where Kay remembers her deprived childhood, linking many of her memories to the colour yellow. ‘Brendon Gallacher’, another poem by Jackie Kay, is a poem where Kay recalls the death of her imaginary friend. Both poems explore aspects of Kay’s childhood in very similar yet illustrative fashion. In ‘Yellow’, Kay utilises a negative and depressing tone to convey the desperate situation that her family was in and, also, she opts not to use a rhyme scheme in order to portray the lack of liveliness in her childhood.
The poem’s acoustics display more sadness especially when Kay’s mother ‘weeps’ creating the impression of a tearful experience, thus further emphasising the sadness in Kay’s own childhood. Meanwhile, in ‘Brendon Gallacher’, Kay uses a contrasting tone to convey the change in her feelings. The first three stanzas have a bright and cheerful tone which shifts to a depressed one in the final two stanzas, resembling her sadness at the death of Brendon. The poem’s acoustics appear like pleading with Kay’s constant repetition of ‘my Brendon Gallacher’. As in ‘Yellow’, Kay does not utilise a rhyme scheme again. In both poems, it is obvious from the poignant acoustics and lack of rhyme that there is dullness engulfing her childhood.
The reader first catches sight of Kay’s poor relations with family members in ‘Yellow’. Kay’s expert use of direct speech is vital to portray the members of her family: ‘Now look here Comrade!’; ‘Not listening…’; and ‘Don’t be fussy!’ The direct speech is essential to accurately capture the personalities of her seemingly rude and distant family. She doesn’t get on well with her father, aunt and brother; only with her mother. Further implications of her tarnished childhood emerge in ‘Brendon Gallacher’.
Kay’s constant repetition of ‘my Brendon Gallacher’ suggests that she is infatuated with him. However, the very need to invent such a figure, as well as her childlike state, could be a result of loneliness. Again, this links with ‘Yellow’ where the reader is given first hand coverage of the tensions in her family. It is obvious from both poems that Kay was deprived of the stereotypical family life that a child deserves during childhood.
Both poems illustrate the lack of a father for Kay. In ‘Brendon Gallacher’, Kay depicts Brendon with details that resemble her, claiming that ‘his father was in prison’. By displaying this aspect of Brendon’s life, the reader is elucidated to the symbol that it is her father who is confined elsewhere, not in a literal sense, but from her. In ‘Yellow’, Kay’s father appears briefly and he ‘barks at cowardly comrades’.
The alliteration puts emphasis on the word ‘comrade’ implying some sort of Communist association. Kay verifies this in ‘Yellow’ – describing her dad as a ‘communist party full time worker’. Without her father, yet again the reader can sense solitude with only her mother repeatedly there for comfort. In both ‘Yellow’ and ‘Brendon Gallacher’, Kay presents childhood very similarly: it is grim and lonely but, more worryingly, her mind appears disturbed, summarised by the sombre simile: ‘Two white sweet pickled onions stare like blind eyes.’ The simile mirrors Kay herself – a blind child whose sensation of childhood has vanished.