A Brief Encounter
The poem “Summer Love” by Marilyn Chin written in 1994 uses descriptive emotional imagery through various tones to illustrate short lived relationships during the summer of a woman’s life. The situations and settings of the poem add to the theme of the poem as well as her use of figurative speech to describe the emotions she experiences during and from these relationships. The author Marilyn Chin has expressed several emotions within the poem through the use of descriptive imagery and by altering the tones of the piece, subsequently stimulating the readers’ imagination. The author’s creative writing conveys her underling message of change of emotions that are experienced in any relationship, whether it lasts minutes or a lifetime. Her use of figurative speech captivates the reader, and allows them to experience her emotional journey through language.
Mei Ling Chin was born in Hong Kong in 1955 and migrated to the United States with her family where they resided in Portland Oregon. Upon the insistence of her father her name was changed to Marilyn as he thought it was necessary for school and he also had an obsession with Marilyn Monroe. Having family in Hong Kong, Hawaii and all over the West Coast reinforced assimilation as an important issue to her.1 Being afraid of losing her roots she used poetry to recapture this aspect, however she acknowledges that the truth is we cannot recapture the past. Marilyn Chin is an Asian contemporary writer who has three collections of work and her other pieces can be found in various anthologies. She was influenced by activist poets and has won numerous awards throughout her career.
This piece is reflective of a short lived relationship between a young woman possibly the author, and her encounter with a desirable partner with whom she has had a brief sexual encounter. This is concluded in the first stanza, which has her explaining that her companion has spent the night and that she does not mind him staying for breakfast, but she does not want him to remain afterward. Her statement that there is nothing worse than last night’s love implies there was a sexual occurrence of some sort. She also reflects on former companions during the third stanza, speculating if her present beau plans to follow similar actions taken by her previous partners. She describes her previous lovers as being scorned, possibly due to her actions during their brief encounters. Throughout the poem the young woman’s sentiments toward her lover change via each stanza. There is a profound sexual undertone expressed throughout the piece which could also be associated with the title of the poem. The phrase summer love commonly implies a brief love affair during the summer months between two people who know that it will come to an end.
The author has appropriately altered the tones of the piece to enhance the reader’s understanding of each stanza. The first emotion expressed is one of indifference towards her lover. The third line in the first stanza is the initial affirmation to the young girl’s apathy. “If this doesn’t please you, too bad, its all I have.”, (Chin 3) referring to her cooking breakfast consisting of dried lotus, bay oysters with scrambled eggs. Her unemotional statement has let her companion know that she is not concerned about their feelings. She has cooked breakfast and it does not matter if they stay to eat, yet if the meal is not of his preference, it is not of importance to her. The next line shows a more callous attitude towards her lover. “Do not linger; nothing worse in the morning than last night’s love.” (Chin 4-5) She is ready for him to depart, creating an intimidating atmosphere. The author has conveyed the impassive view she takes on the encounter through the woman’s statements in the last three lines. The woman’s apparent communications of these distant feelings demonstrate her indifferent attitude toward this person during the...
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