Poetry Explication of the Victory by Anne Steveson

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The Victory

After reading several poems in my Backpack Literature textbook (Kennedy, X. J., and Dana Gioia, 2008.), I came across Anne Stevenson’s The Victory. Stevenson’s words hit me in the gut and made me feel her tension and conflict of becoming a new mother. Anne Stevenson portrays a mother’s feelings of pain during childbirth and mixed emotions of becoming a new mother. The poem contains a tone of conflict and anger. “I thought you were my victory/ though you cut me like a knife’ (Lines 1-2) describes the physical pain the mother endured but she is also aware of her feelings of bringing a new life into the world, which in facts feels like a “victory”. The speaker denies the feelings of her child being a victory by using words such as “antagonist” (Line 5), “bruise” (Line 6) and “scary” (Line 13). By using these words, Stevenson is trying to portray the negative side of childbirth. The speaker paints the image of her child being an insect rather than a baby: “…blind thing, / blank insect eyes?” (Lines 9-10) The newborn doesn’t have a personality; it knows nothing of the world. The baby is a stranger to her. The speaker continues to present the image of the baby as being an animal, “Snail!” (Line 13) and “Hungry snarl” (Line 14). She does this as a way to disconnect herself from the baby and stay emotionally unattached. The tension is thick with the speakers’ internal conflict. “Snail! Scary knot of desires! / Hungry snarl! Small son.” (Lines 13-14) describes the internal struggle the speaker is having with herself. She resents the child for being so helpless and demanding. She is scared of the responsibility; yet she is feeling the motherly bond and love. She battles with herself by referring to the child as an animal and then acknowledging it as a tiny baby. “… You sting / with bladed cries.” (Lines 11-12) shows that no matter how much she fights the emotional attachment she has with the baby, it is already there. His cries already tug at her heart...
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