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Planting a Sequoia, Poetry Commentary

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Planting a Sequoia In the poem ?Planting a Sequoia? Dana Gioia writes about her and her brothers planting a tree. This tree is of significance to her as it is planted in memory of her dead son, in a way, as a continuation of his short life. The author uses the weather as a metaphor for the sadness of the day, a physical manifestation of her emotional state creating contrast between the idyllic land of her fathers and the harshness of reality. In the poem she comforts herself with reflection on the fact that he is simply returning to the natural cycle which they will all one day join and that will out last the ephemeral human lives they will live. The author conveys the sadness of the day using the weather as a metaphor for her own mood. She writes how ?The sky above us stayed the dull grey?. The word grey has connotations of blankness and of unfeeling and this impression is cemented with the description as ?dull? suggesting something that may have once been very sharp and poignant but has been worn away. ...read more.


This is first suggested with the care she takes to look after this tree ??laying you into is, carefully packing the soil.? She uses words that have a connotation of tenderness; laying, carefully, as well as the use of multiple commas on the same line making it sound slower and softer. She refers to the tree using the inclusive pronoun ?our? (?when our family is no more??) and yet she refers to her son as ?a first-born son? suggesting that she has transferred the familiarity of her son and attached it to the tree now he is gone. She talks of how ?We will give you what we can- our labour, our soil? and we can imagine her taking care of this tree as she would a child, caring and nourishing, giving it as much as she can. The imagery of the tree, ?a slender shot?? suggest fragility and youth further encouraging that idea of a child. A major theme in the poem is that of the cyclic and transient nature of life. The author sees the trees life as a replacement, a reincarnation almost, of her sons. ...read more.


At the same time as he has moved on from this life to become part of one that will outlast the people that remain part of fleeting human life for a bit longer and even future generations will seem ?young and ephemeral?? un-lasting and fleeting to him. She is comforting herself with the fact that he has become part of something much more stable and steady than her human life and that he has just become part of what is natural. Although the author is filled with sadness at the death of her son she uses the poem as a device to come to terms with this and to comfort herself by presenting to the reader the idea that he is just a part of the same cycle that they are all part of and he is still present if in a different form. The very human emotion of sadness is one we can all understand and is presented to the reader in a subtle yet affecting way with the use of description of physical manifestations of emotions and ideas; the weather mirroring her emotions and the young tree growing from the atoms of the dead son as a symbol of the cyclic nature of life. caitlin bevan ...read more.

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