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Where I Come From, revision

IGCSE Literature English revision
by

Max Langenkamp

on 12 October 2014

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Transcript of Where I Come From, revision

Where I Come From
The Poem
People are made of places. They carry with them
hints of jungles or mountains, a tropic grace
or the cool eyes of sea-gazers. Atmosphere of cities
how different drops from them, like the smell of smog
or the almost-not-smell of tulips in the spring,
nature tidily plotted in little squares
with a fountain in the centre; museum smell,
art also tidily plotted with a guidebook;
or the smell of work, glue factories maybe,
chromium-plated offices; smell of subways
crowded at rush hours.
Where I come from, people
carry woods in their minds, acres of pine woods;
blueberry patches in the burned-out bush;
wooden farmhouses, old, in need of paint,
with yards where hens and chickens circle about,
clucking aimlessly; battered schoolhouses
behind which violets grow. Spring and winter
are the mind’s chief seasons: ice and the breaking of ice.
A door in the mind blows open, and there blows
a frosty wind from fields of snow.
Smell serves as a critical and visceral link between the different locations; a previously untapped primal feeling within us that provides a unique perspective of the poet's ideas.
Rejuvenation of the old is an idea significant especially in the second stanza of the poem
The second (rejuvenating) stanza
"blueberry patches in the burned out bush"
and "battered schoolhouses behind which violets grow" are two quotes very suggestive of the possibility of rebirth- contrast this with the city, where nature is 'tidily plotted', and we get the sense that this urban setting does not allow the organic process of regeneration that leads to development.
The final words
“A door in the mind blows open, and there blows a frosty wind from fields of snow”
Elizabeth Webster
Brewster's Places
Brewster was born and grew up in a small lumber town- Chipman, New Brunswick, Canada. The constant presence of nature asserted itself in her earlier poems(Death by Drowning, Passage of Summer[1966]).
Being a female writer in the 1940s, Brewster also faced the problems of a modernist woman- struggling to find a unique voice in an overwhelmingly male-dominated culture.
Themes & Motifs
The 'almost-not smell' of the tulips effectively juxtaposes the smell of 'smog'
smell of 'work' or 'glue factories' are associated with the city
Here, we get an ominous feeling of foreboding. While Brewster did live in the icy cold reaches of North America, the sensation of a figurative chill is unmistakable. She is purposefully ambiguous- I see the 'door in the mind' that is invaded by 'frosty snow' as a nostalgia for childhood memories that has been interrupted by startling truth; without the fond sugar-coat that nostalgia paints.
Comparison
Where I Come From is a meditation on the impacts of our origin on our identity and contains subtle criticisms of the urban sprawl that has become so prevalent and thus can be compared with The City Planners by Atwood.
both are somewhat critical of the idle comfort of the city life.
both provide a sense of foreboding at the end
"planted sanitary trees" is similar to "nature tidily plotted"
Contrast
Where I Come From doesn't immediately have clearly contrasting poems in the collection that we have studied- perhaps owing to the distant theme that the poem relates to.
Summer Farm can be compared to Where I Come From by examining a series of critical differences:
Summer Farm centers on the importance of self and the transience of the surroundings- the "flickering"- while Where I Come From suggests the opposite.
Summer Farm gratifies our reason; appealing to the philosophical sense within us while Where I Come From reaches out towards a more primal facility- the (imagined) sense of smell.
Useful Websites
http://hbhs12e1english.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/where-i-come-from-elizabeth-brewster1.pdf
http://matthewspoetryanalysis.blogspot.fr/2013/05/where-i-come-from-elizabeth-brewster.html
https://www.google.co.nz/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=where+i+come+from+brewster
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