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Poetry, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Poetry can be used to reflect a poet’s individual point of view and can be used to demonstrate how the poet has been shaped by his or her experiences and environment.  In “Remember” by Joy Harjo and in “Let Evening Come” by Jane Kenyon, a first person perspective is utilized to convey a common tone of advice through an individual’s relationship with Nature.

Joy Harjo is an American poet of Native American and Canadian ancestry that is heavily influenced by her Muskogee Creek heritage.  “Her Creek heritage, history, and mythology are very important elements in Harjo’s creative process and her poetry (“Joy Harjo” 127). Harjo has written The Last Song (1975), What Moon Drove Me to This? (1980), She Had Some Horses (1983), Secrets from the Center of the World (1989), In Mad Love and War (1990), The Woman Who Fell from the Sky The Woman Who Fell from the Sky (1994), A Map to the Next World: Poetry and Tales (2000), and How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems (2002) (“Joy Harjo” 128).

“Remember” is written from a first person perspective and aims to lecture or inform the reader the importance of the past.  Throughout the poem, Harjo urges the reader to remember where they came from and also aims to inform the reader that he or she is not only connected to the people they descended from, but also that the reader is connected to nature.  Harjo begins, “Remember the sky that you were born under,/know each of the star’s stories./Remember the moon, know who she is.  I met her/in a bar once in Iowa City” (line 1-4).  Through the use of polarity through the juxtaposition of the sun and the moon at the beginning of the poem, Harjo implies a cyclical tendency in nature and in life.  This is further supported by the allusion to birth and death in the following lines; “Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the strongest point in time. Remember sundown/and the giving away to night” (Harjo line 5-7).  The parallel between the sun and the moon and mother and father is conveyed through the lines, “Remember your birth, how your mother struggled/to give you form and breath.  You are evidence of/her life, and her mother’s, and hers./Remember your father.  He is your life also” (line 8-11).

By placing emphasis on the role of mothers over fathers, Harjo subversively injects the poem with a feminist connotation.  Given this, it can be argued Harjo attempts to create a correlation between woman and the creative force of nature through the parallels she creates between the two concepts.  Harjo insinuates that just like the reader is evidence of his or her mother’s life, the reader is also evidence of nature. Harjo writes, “Remember the earth whose skin you are:/red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth/brown earth, we are earth” (line 12-14).  While her Native American background heavily influences Harjo, she also believes that all people are connected through nature regardless of their background.  Harjo also believes that things found in nature share a common bond with people.  She writes, “Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their/tribes their families, their histories, too. Talk to them, listen to them” (line 15-17).  The anaphoric use of the word remember is intended to urge the reader to not forget their past and their relation to each other and Nature as this knowledge helps to shape and determine the person they become.

Jane Kenyon was an American poet who was often compared to English Romantic poet John Keats (“Jane Kenyon” 341).  “Her poetry explores the connection between inner and outer worlds, spirit and nature, self and soul through concrete details that exist fully in the visible world yet connect us to the invisibile” (“Jane Kenyon” 341).  Kenyon wrote From Room to Room (1978), The Little Boat (1986), Let Evening Come (1990), Constance (1993), Otherwise: New and Selected Poems (1996), and A Hundred White Daffodils: Essays, the Akhmatova Translations, Newspaper Columns, Notes, Interviews, and One Poem (1999) (“Jane Kenyon” 342).

Like Harjo, Kenyon’s “Let Evening Come” is told from a first person perspective and aims at lecturing the reader about what he or she can learn from Nature and his or her environment.  “Let Evening Come” has a pervading tone of accepting the cyclical disposition of Nature and the circle of life.  Kenyon begins, “Let the light of late afternoon/shine through chinks in the barn,/moving up the bales as the sun moves down.//Let the cricket take up chafing/as a woman takes up her needles/and her yarn. Let evening come” (line 1-6).  In these first two stanzas, Kenyon establishes a series of cyclical and common events—the sun will move down day after day, the cricket with chirp day in and day out, and the woman will knit night after night until her knitting project is complete.  By accepting these events as a natural part of everyday life and stating, “Let evening come,” Kenyon asserts that these are things she cannot change because they are both a natural part of life and a natural part of society.  Kenyon continues with this theme in the following stanzas through descriptions of what happens at the end of the day: “Let the dew collect on the hoe abandoned/in long grass. Let stars appear and the moon disclose her silver horn.//Let the fox go back to its sandy den./Let the wind die down. Let the shed go black inside. Let evening come” (line 7-12). While the closing of day—or death—can be interpreted by some to be a fearful event, Kenyon asserts that if one has faith in a higher power, they will never be alone, even when they have to leave everything they knew and proceed alone into the next phase of his or her life.  Kenyon writes, “Let it come, as it will, and don’t/be afraid.  God does not leave us/comfortless, so let evening come” (line 16-18).

Through a first person narrative, Harjo and Kenyon are able to relate how Nature’s cyclical structure is representative of one’s life.  Harjo and Kenyon demonstrate Nature is reflective of one’s life and one needs to understand where they came from in order to accept where their life will take them.  Furthermore, Harjo demonstrates that through Nature, all people are connected to each other, which although Kenyon does not create the same type of connection between all people, she does assert that those who believe in God are connected through their faith.

Works Cited

Harjo, Joy. “Remember.” She Had Some Horses. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008. 35. Print.

Kenyon, Jane. “Let Evening Come.” Faith and Doubt: An Anthology of Poems. Ed. Patrice Vecchione. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2007. pp. 95. Print.

“Jane Kenyon.” Notable American Women: Volume 5. Eds. Susan Ware and Stacy Braukman. Cambridge, Massachusetts: President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2004.

“Joy Harjo.” Native American Women: A Biographical Dictionary. Second Edition. Eds.

Gretchen M. Bataille and Laurie Lisa. New York: Routledge, 2001.

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