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.
Elizabeth Brewster was born in 1922 in the small lumber town of Chipman, New Brunswick, Canada.
As a young poet in the 1940s, Elizabeth Brewster wrote in an almost desperate attempt to order the chaos of her own psyche.
Most of Brewster’s early poetry was based on rural and small-town rather than urban experience and that it was mainly traditional in form. The bulk of her poems centre around trees, oceans, cabins and childhood
recollections, lulling the reader into a state of rustic complacency.
The key idea of the poem seems to be that a person’s character is always formed at least in part by the place where he or she is born – “People are made of places”. Wherever you go in life you will carry with you memories and echoes of your birthplace, whether it is a city, as in the first stanza, or the quiet Canadian countryside where Elizabeth herself was born – “Where I come from, people carry woods in their minds” – and certainly the picture she draws in the second stanza does seem at first to be idyllic and wonderful, strongly contrasting with the city images in the first stanza. This idea shows us that who we are is shaped by where we were born and where we grew up, but this is not the end of the shaping process, as the first line suggests ‘People are made of places’, you are shaped as much by where you were born and grew up as the places that you go to after your childhood, the things that you experience in other places, the things that you see.
This stanza deals with the organized and fast paced life of the city. In the city everything is precise and controlled; everything runs like clockwork.
Line 1-3: The first two lines of the poem summarise the main theme of the poem perfectly. ‘People are made of places.’ As the theme suggests people will never be able to forget their past, or where they came from. People will always be able to tell where you come from ‘They carry with them hints of jungles or mountains, a tropic grace or the cool eyes of seagazers.’
Line 3-4: ‘Atmosphere of cities how different drops from them’ The author is trying to show that the atmosphere of the place you live in can affect the way that you live, throughout the year as nature progresses through its seasons, atmospherically city life changes greatly.
Line 4-5: ‘Like the smell of smog or the almost-not-smell of tulips in the spring’, smog telling us about a typical winters day with density of the air being greater and the water vapor blinding our site, ‘the almost-not-smell of tulips in the spring’ this tells us how the flowers of spring are starting to blossom, not fully produced and grown the smell of the tulips can not yet be appreciated fully and with the combined smells of the city one could think that they are smelling the tulips when actually the city life prevents the scent of the tulip to a high degree.
Line 6-7: The idea of the city...