Where I Come From, Elizabeth Brewster
The main idea in the poem is 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 Brewster herself was born in 1922. We are, however, also influenced by the places we have visited. Imagery. Many of the images in this poem are sensory in that they refer to things that we can touch or smell as well as what we can see. The poet begins with images of nature that suggest some of the places that ‘people’ may have visited; ‘hints of jungles or mountains’, ‘sea-gazers’, ‘tropic grace’. The places she describes here are also strongly associated with smells. She quickly introduces images that are associated with cities; ‘smell of smog’, ‘chromium plated offices’, ‘subways crowded at rush hours.’ These images are interspersed with images of nature that is controlled or influenced by man; ‘the almost not smell of tulips’ is drowned by the aforementioned ‘smog’. Nature in the city is ‘tidily plotted’ It is restrained and does not have the freedom to grow wildly behind old buildings like the violets in the second stanza. ‘Guidebooks’ may be a metaphor for the way that we live our lives indicating the amount of instruction and guidance that we require. By contrast, life in a natural environment is simple, instinctive and dependant only on the seasons ‘ice and the breaking of ice.’ Even art; man’s expression of beauty and truth, is; ‘also tidily plotted.’ Through her use of imagery, the poet suggests that nature can remain a part of our identity: ‘Where I come from, people carry woods in their minds.’ The second stanza gives us images of nature in its wild and natural state; ‘acres of pine woods’, ‘chickens…clucking...
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