Poem at Thirty-Nine and Once Upon a Time: Understanding Relationships

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In the poems ‘Poem at Thirty-Nine’ and ‘Once Upon a Time’, the idea of the relationship between father and child is explored, but in different ways. In ‘Poem at Thirty-Nine’, the relationship between the poet and her father is portrayed as a warm and positive one. The poet writes of her father as a teacher to her. The lines ‘Writing deposit slips and checks, I think of him. He taught me how’ tells us of his guiding her in the practice of necessary activities of life. We can see that the poet is appreciative of her father, as she used her father’s lessons to escape the ‘life he knew’ which was most probably a very hard one, as the poet says that she wishes her father ‘had not been so tired’. The poet looks up to her father, which is evident in that she grows up to be like him, as shown in the lines ‘Now I look and cook just like him’. Being like her father has had a positive impact on her life as she says that her ‘brain’ is ‘light’ and she is ‘happy to feed’ others, reflecting her father’s hospitality and generosity which is shown in the lines which say that he ‘craved the voluptuous sharing of good food’. The repetition of ‘How I miss my father’ adds a feeling of longing in the poem, and displays how close the poet was to her father and how she wishes for the father to be with her now. The phrase ‘He would have grown to admire the woman I’ve become’ reveals the poet’s confidence in that her father would approve of who she has grown up to be, highlighting the intimacy in her relationship with her father, as she knows how her father would feel. However, the relationship between the poet and her father might not be entirely positive. There is a hint of resentment towards her father in the poet’s tone, as she says ‘I wish he had not been so tired when I was born’, as though blaming her father for not being there for her. In ‘Once Upon a Time’ however, the relationship between father and child is portrayed differently. In ‘Once Upon a Time’, the father is...
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