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Poem at Thirty-Nine by Alice Walker and Piano by D.H Lawrence

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Poem at thirty-nine by Alice Walker and Piano by D.H Lawrence in my opinion are both poems which share the same theme of memories and nostalgic remembrance. The two poems contain many similarities but at the same time also have many differences between them. The essay will concentrate on nostalgia, for an idealized past, remembrance of a loved one or the missing of the unconditional love between a parent and child. It will also evaluate to what extent they are similar regarding the tones, the language in which the poets use and the structure and form. The themes of the two poems are definitely similar, since they are all about remembering a person who is not there anymore. The second line of Piano says, “Taking me back down the vista of years” This quote shows how he is being brought back to the past, remembering his childhood days. Here Lawrence gives great attention to his diction. He does not choose to remember, but is made to remember against his own will. This quote is written in the first part of the poem, to highlight the main topic.

However there are minor differences to the themes of the poems. Lawrence’s gives off a great importance to the tone of sadness and Walker’s to the theme of teaching. In Poem at thirty-nine and Piano, both poets are nostalgic about losing a parent, One his mother, the other her father. “How I miss my father” is the opening line of Walker’s poem. This, being the theme of the poem reflects her nostalgia and focuses on missing her father. Since the sentence is short and simple it can be explained with only five words. Even though she lost her father, she has to accept it and move on. Although poem at thirty nine and piano are both about remembering a loved one, Poem at thirty-nine is slightly happier than Piano. The speaker in Piano is completely devastated that he has lost his mother and remembering her is more of a curse than a memory.

He chooses not to remember be the memory of her brings him pain. The words he uses helps the reader develop an image of the grief that the writer is feeling, “The heart of me weeps” this piece of personification helps to create a sense of sadness in the poem. This describes his pain as so great; that the pain he feels is almost as if his heart itself is weeping. All the emotions that he has hid throughout the years are finally exposed, and he has this catharsis in which he gives out all the pain he had hidden before. Poem at thirty-nine is more positive because even though the speaker is sad about her loss, she states that her father taught her a lot which helped her in becoming a better woman. The repetition of, “he taught me” emphasizes the fact that it was her father that raised her and taught her the things that she knows now.

In piano, Lawrence makes the tone of his poem depressing and sad. He achieves this by using a number of different techniques, for example similes. “I weep like a child” is a simile used by Lawrence to create imagery. The word “weep” emphasizes his pain instead of using a more common and ordinary word such as ‘cry’. It also creates an image of him actually crying like a child, losing his self-control, letting out all his repressed emotions, which happens rarely in an adult. The poem is written in a way as if he is a child again and the image of him crying so desperately shows his misery. At Lawrence’s time, it was not considered normal for a man to show emotions. Especially ones of deep origin. The fact that he is weeping actually implies that he cannot hold his sadness inside of him and has the need to let it out in spite of what others may think of him. In Poem at thirty-nine there are also similes, “I look and cook just like him” is used to signify that Walker has learned from him, and made her a better woman creating a sense of brightness in the poem which contrasts the sorrow.

Walker also uses metaphors as well as similes, “seasoning none of my life”, once again used to create a sense of happiness in grief, by showing that her father made her a better person. Finally the structures of the poems are quite different. Piano has three quatrains of rhyming couplets. It is written in this form as the first stanza works as an introduction, where Lawrence explains how a mother plays the piano with her young son. The second stanza works as a main body where he explains how he is being brought back and made to remember, and finally the last stanza works as a conclusion where he describes the grief and sorrow he feels. Dactyls and spondees are also used to create rhythm because after all, it is a poem about music. Poem at thirty-nine is in free verse, with six stanzas and no rhymes. In each stanza Walker explains one value her father taught her, making the poem like a list, “He taught me that telling the truth did not always mean a beating” is a quote from the third stanza. In this stanza it tells us how her father taught her the value of honesty. “Writing deposit slips and checks I think of him. He taught me how.” This quote is from the second stanza which tells us that he taught her how to be responsible with money.

Overall I like Poem at thirty-nine the most. It manages to create a clear image in my mind and is also a poem in which I can relate to because I too am close to my father. I have learned what is right and what is wrong. Most things I had to learn by myself but at the end of the day the person that matters most is the person that taught you the most important things you need to know. Poem at thirty-nine I feel is the most original poem that feels relatable. Although Piano has a deep meaning and Lawrence expresses the element of sorrow just right, I feel as though I can greatly relate to poem at thirty-nine.

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