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Poem at Thirty-Nine Lesson 02.02.2015

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Darshan K. Leslie

on 2 February 2015

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Transcript of Poem at Thirty-Nine Lesson 02.02.2015

Poem at Thirty-Nine
The title of the poem refers to Walker's age when she first wrote it. Thirty-nine is a significant age for her because she felt the loss of her father. The poem is about Walker's feelings to her dead father and how she expresses the realization.
Stanza 1
From the first line, "how I miss my father", it is already obvious that Walker misses her father. When she was born, her father was tired. This could possibly mean she was born into a poor family, where money is a serious issue. Walker wishes her father had not been so tired when she was born. This indicates that she cares about him and feels guilty.
Stanza 2
Stanza 2 focuses on their biggest fear, money. Walker thinks of her father when "writing deposit slips and checks." Her father taught her how to manage her money and she had a savings account even during high school. This highlights that money is very important to them, so her father taught her when she was young.

Use of enjambment suggests Walker is searching for the words to trigger memories of her father.
Stanza 4
Stanza 5
Stanza 6
Stanza 3 - Link with "The Color Purple"
In the next verse, her father taught her to be honest, but sometimes punished her if she didn't tell the truth, although some of the truths she said "must have grieved him before the end." This shows that both of them are truthful, but sometimes Walker is so selfish to tell the painful truth.

This links with
The Color Purple
and the patriarchal society it was set in.

It would have been uncomfortable for an authoritative black father to be told what his activist daughter really thinks.

The first line of stanza 4 repeats the opening line, but with an exclamation mark. This means she misses her father greatly, with the exclamation reinforcing the intensity of her feelings for him. Walker describes her father's way of cooking as "dancing in a yoga meditation." This use of oxymoron shows that he is busily moving but his mind is at peace. He craved for the wholesome eating and sharing of good food. This gives us a sense of his generosity
Her father's way of cooking has influenced her. This is a metaphor of life, as the poem states, "happy to feed whoever strays my way." Her dad always lived life with excitement and shared his kindness with others. Now, Walker does the same, and feels joy from sharing with others. Unlike before, she is satisfied with her life.

Assonance of "look and cook" draws attention to the similarities with her father. "generous to feed" suggests she has a joyous outlook on life.
The last stanza is about how Walker thinks her dad would have felt about her if he was still alive. Walker says "he would have grown to admire the woman I've become."
She wishes that he would be still alive to see the changed woman she become. She now does many things. "cooking, writing, chopping wood, staring into the fire." This shows that she had changed a lot and realized how much her father had inspired her. Her life is rich and full of things to do.
Poet and Context
Alice Walker was born in the United States, on February 9th 1944.
She was a novelist, short story writer, poet and political activist.
Her famous critically acclaimed novel was "The Color Purple" for which she achieved the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Award.
This was written in 1982, the year before
thirty nine
Task -8 Minutes
Read the poem.

What are your
first impressions
overall message

Don't forget to take notes as other give their answers!
Starter - 3 mins
What do you most like or love about your parents?
Tone and mood
The aim of "Poem at Thirty Nine" is to express Walker's feelings of her dead father.
The theme of loss is explored through the poem, "many of my truths must have grieved him before the end." This quote reveals that some of the truth Walker had said, grieved her father and she felt guilty for his death.
The theme of love is shown throughout the poem, "I wish he had not been so tired when I was born." Walker wishes that her father had not been so tired when she was born. This quote indicates that Walker cares for her father.
The theme of nostalgia is explored throughout the poem, ” How I miss my father.” In this line Alice Walker expresses her feelings, she states that she misses her father and she wants to go back in time to be with him.
Poem At Thirty Nine is a free verse poem with no rhyme scheme or regular rhythm.
This emphasizes on how her life had been destroyed when her beloved father passed away - “How I miss my father!”
This also emphasizes on how much she misses her father as he taught her how to live and was with her through her life.
She wants poem to sound like a train of thought.
The tone of the poem is nostalgic and sorrowful, this is shown in this quote,” How I miss my father.” The quote tells us that Walker wants to go back to the past when her father was alive as she is sorrowful that he is not with her today. It is also reverent as she describes how ‘he cooked like a person dancing in a yoga meditation and craved the voluptuous sharing of good food’ and at the same time intimate as she goes on to describe how ‘he would have grown/ to admire/ the woman I’ve become’. This reverent and intimate tone makes the reader empathize and perhaps makes the reader reverent too.

The mood is a mixture of lament, nostalgia and passionate affirmation of both – the love the person feels, and the debt she owes her father, even though he has passed on.

everent: feeling/showing deep respect
Learning Objective:
To learn about a brand new poem from the Edexcel anthology.
Poetic Devices
Where a sentence continues beyond the end of a line/verse.

- Where two words/phrases normally not associated are brought together: 'cold heat' 'bitter sweet'.

Assonance -
Same vowel sound is repeated.

To Summarise...
At age 39, Alice Walker is able to:
Reflect on life
Feel satisfied that she is living a good life
Acknowledge that the way her father brought her up has to be thanked for.
There is also an element of sorrow that she isn't able to share this gratitude with her Father because he would have "grown to admire the woman I'd become".

This is a very personal poem.
She is trying to convey the complicated feelings that we all have for our parents
She tells us twice that she "misses him"
She has a strong sense of regret.
The father is living through his daughter and her writing.
How does walker use structure, poetic devices and language to show how much she loved her Father?
Tuesday, 3 February 2015
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