Many poets use poetry to express their feelings on their relationships with their parents or children. ‘Poem at Thirty-Nine’ by Alice Walker is about a girl who has grown into an adult and is thinking back to when she was younger. In the poem she talks about how much she misses her father because he has passed away. ‘Piano’ by D.H. Lawrence is about a man that is reminded of his mother who always played the piano for him because of a woman that he hears singing. ‘A Mother in a Refugee Camp’ by Chinua Achebe is about a woman that is in a refugee camp with her young child who is so sick that he is sure to die soon.
‘Poem at Thirty-Nine’ presents childhood as a lonely, emotional experience. The woman in this poem has many fond memories of her father but she also has a lot of regret. She misses him very much and she is sad because she wishes she could have spent more time with him when she was a young girl. In the poem she says, “How I miss my father. I wish he had not been so tired when I was born.” She wishes that her father wasn’t too exhausted to spend time with her when she was a young girl. The reader probably feels sorry for the little girl and some people may feel like they can relate to the girl when it comes to spending time with parents. This also relates to ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ because the man in this poem also misses his father except he isn’t dead yet. He doesn’t want him to die. ‘Piano’ presents childhood as safe, secure and serene. As like in ‘Poem at Thirty-Nine’ the man has fond memories of time spent with his mother who he misses so much that it brings him to tears to think back to his childhood.
The poem says, “Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past”. As he remembers his childhood, he begins to cry because he misses the times with his mother. It is unusual for a man to cry and he was embarrassed because men did not cry in the early 1900’s. This makes the reader think back to childhood memories that they miss and they can relate to the poem just like readers can relate to ‘Poem at Thirty-Nine’ because they both stress realistic topics that apply to many people. ‘Half Past Two’ is also similar to ‘Piano’ because it talks about missing childhood and it presents childhood as a carefree time. ‘A Mother in a Refugee Camp’ presents childhood as a time of pain and suffering. The boy in this poem does not have fond memories of childhood because of his difficult lifestyle and he is very ill.
The poem says, “Now she did it like putting flowers on a tiny grave”. The boy’s mother is being delicate and combing her son’s hair as if she was putting flowers on a tiny grave because he is dying. This makes the reader very sympathetic towards the mother because she loves her son with all her heart but yet she has to watch him die which is very hard for her. ‘A Mother in a Refugee Camp’ can relate to ‘My Parents Kept me from Children who were Rough’ because the parents in these poems are trying to do the best for their son.
In ‘Poem at Thirty-Nine’, Alice Walker uses imagery to portray herself as a woman who has inherited qualities and characteristics that her father possessed. This is shown when she uses the simile “He cooked like a person dancing in a yoga meditation” which suggests that her father is trance-like when he cooks and this shows that although he was often very strict with her, her father had a calm, laid back side. She has grown up to be like him and she believes that her father would be proud to see the woman that she has grown up to be. The metaphor “seasoning one of my life the same way twice” shows that Alice Walker is spontaneous and her life has no routine and this may be something that she has inherited from her father. ‘Piano’ uses a nostalgic image to emphasize how much D.H. Lawrence misses his childhood.
The poem refers to “old Sunday evenings at home” and “hymns in the cosy parlour”. This creates a warm, homely image leading the reader to think that the boy comes from a loving home. ‘Piano’ also uses the simile “I weep like a child for the past” to emphasize how much the poet misses his childhood. He is crying openly because he wants to be a child again. The metaphor “a flood of remembrance” describes his memories rushing back all at once and this creates an overwhelming feeling for him. When ‘A Mother in a Refugee Camp’ says, “The air was heavy with odors of diarrhea, of unwashed children with washed-out ribs and dried up bottoms waddling in labored steps” it appeals to the sense of the reader and it gives them an unpleasant image. This gives the reader the idea that the conditions are absolutely terrible and may even make some people sick to the stomach. It gives them a picture of the poverty and illness that is presents in war torn countries around the world.
In ‘Poem at Thirty-Nine’ I found it interesting when Alice Walker said, “He taught me how” because this is saying that her father was a role model for her and she learned a lot from him. This makes the reader think that the father set a good example for her. ‘Poem at Thirty-Nine’ also uses a euphemism for death when it says, “Though many truths must have grieved him before the end”. She doesn’t actually want to say that he died because it probably makes her sad. In ‘Piano’ I find it interesting when D.H. Lawrence said, “In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song”. He is trying to fight against the memory of his childhood because it makes him sad. “Insidious mastery of song” is a powerful tool which is saying that the mastery of the song that he is hearing betrays him back to his childhood. ‘A Mother in a Refugee Camp’ makes good use of ellipsis.
It says, “Her tenderness for a song she would soon have to forget….” This foreshadows the child’s death. This makes the reader feel sorry for the mother and it also makes them sad. The poem also uses interesting vocabulary when it says, “Before his breakfast and school; now she did it.” The word ‘now’ stresses the mother and her son’s previous normal existence. This probably makes the reader have a lot of sympathy for the mother and feel sorry for her because she is losing her child. This also gives the reader an idea of the life that the mother provided for her son and how the war has completely changed their lives.
Alice Walker writes ‘Poem at Thirty-Nine’ in first person. The poem is conveyed as very sad because she misses her father and the main feeling conveyed in this poem is love. The poem opens by saying, “How I miss my father”. Later in the poem she repeats the phrase “How I miss my father” to emphasize how much she misses him. At first the mood is regretful but as the poem goes on the mood changed and she thinks that her father would admire the woman she has become. D.H. Lawrence also writes ‘Piano’ in first person and also third person to reminisce and describe himself as a child listening to his mother playing piano. An example of first person in this poem is, “Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see” and an example of third person in this poem is, “A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings.”
In this quote he refers to himself as “a child” because he is trying to distance himself from his childhood. This poem is conveyed as depressing because it can cause readers to reminisce about their childhood and make them realize how much they actually miss it. The person speaking in ‘A Mother in a Refugee Camp’ is the author, Chinua Achebe, and the poem is written in third person. An example of third person in this poem is, “She held a ghost-smile between her teeth”. Although she was not happy, she put on a fake smile. The main feelings conveyed in this poem are sadness and love. The attitude towards the mother is admiration and how she is taking care of her son is touching.
‘Poem at Thirty-Nine” does not use any rhyming. It is also a free verse poem. This compliments her nature and it allows her to use the poem as an outpouring of feelings about her father. She uses the poem to express how she feels about her father and how she wishes he was around to see how she has grown up. ‘A Mother in a Refugee Camp’ is also a free verse poem. It does not have a rhyme scheme. It makes it seem like the mother’s life is hectic and not very organized because of how much she has to deal with everyday trying to take care of her dying son. Her life is filled with agony and suffering. However ‘Piano’ isn’t written in free verse. Each stanza has the same amount of lines and the poem uses rhyming couplets. The structure of the poem represents the security of D.H. Lawrence’s childhood and how safe he felt when he was sitting under the piano listening to his mother.
In my opinion, these poems all discuss the same main topics which are love and sadness. I think that these poems will help many readers to think back to childhood memories that they are fond of and open up readers’ eyes to make them realize how much they actually miss being a child. My favorite poem is ‘A Mother in a Refugee Camp’ because I know a woman that is a close family friend who had to watch her young son slowly die from a deadly disease and that helps me to understand how hard it must have been for the mother in this poem to see her son die.
Courtney from Study Moose
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