Both Dove’s and Wilbur’s poems are written from the perspective of an older writer looking back at youth. Although in “5th Grade Autobiography” the author writes of her own youth from a first person perspective whereas the in “The Writer” the author writes about his daughter’s youth from an outside perspective, both wonderfully impart the blissful feeling of childhood through vivid descriptions of the soft and pleasant nuances that make childhood so blissful.
Rita Dove shows us her world through the lens of a fifth grader.
She envies her older brother despite the fact that he is depicted as young and inexperienced, shown by his poor choice to squat in poison ivy. Her grandparents have a very strong presence and are given just as lively a role as her young brother. Pictures of luminous felines come to mind when she describes her grandmother, a youthful and vibrant staple in her world. Grandfather smells of lemons, a bright, zesty, lively smell, and is imprinted in her life memories of Christmases.
Richard Wilber manages to conjure a similarly blissful/childish world encompassed by the sounds of a typewriter, beautiful linden windows, and the majestic and dreamlike positioning of his daughters room. He pulls us further into this blissful illusion by using words and descriptions alluding to a ship, drifting into the deep open water away from the rest of the world. After bringing us into the peaceful settings of a child’s world, both authors send us plummeting into deep thought.
Dove does so by abruptly letting us knowthat this grandfather is no longer alive but his memory or “hands” still exist in our minds as it did when it was written in this 5th grader’s autobiography. What does this say about her grandfather’s existence and death? Perhaps that recording it through a photo or even the writing of a 5th grader, it has become eternal. This pushes us to think about the sheer power of writing our thoughts and experiences down on paper.
Richard also makes us consider the strength and power that writing has even for youth. The setting of his daughter’s writing turns into the prison trapping the delicate starling. The heart-wrenching struggle of the songbird to free itself from the confines of the room, smashing its delicate body against the window until it finally slips free, it equated to the daughters struggle to get her words on the page.
The young writer continuously pauses her finger-smashing to collect herself and continue on in her writing, similar to the bird repetitively picking up and trying again to find freedom. The humped and bloody bird is seen as his daughter, fighting with all its life force to free itself from the constraints we humans feel as writers until we finally break free, the same struggle his daughter faced in that very room.