On May 5th, W.Ink looked at Li Young Lee’s free verse tribute to his mother. Today, we offer two more poems for mothers, appropriate for Mother’s Day. As Shakespeare told us, lines of poems endure long beyond a life span.
Lee’s poem was appropriately nostalgic.
George Barker offers a more affectionate view, love salted with reality, while Judith Viorst provides a mother’s advice to her son.
Click the link to read the poem then return here for our analysis, all to help you write your own occasional poem.
“Sonnet”, Barker announces as his title, and most of us wouldn’t have noticed that he chose one of the most tightly controlled poetic structure if he had not announced it.
“Most near, most dear, most loved, and most far” begins the poem, four hyperboles with the contrasting near and far bracketing the line, letting us readers know that these two words mean more than distance.
The first line sounds like the traditional Mother’s Day greeting card. Surprise comes in the third line. No woman wants to be described “as huge as Asia”. “Seismic with laughter”, yes. Barker gives us the reality of his mother. He doesn’t gild the lily, for it is not the pretty image that makes up the mother he loves: a woman who helps the weak and hurt, brash but alluring, fascinating and courageous.
These are powerful images that he creates for us, laded with emotion, two of the four requirements of song.
She has her weaknesses, but he bolsters her with “all my love” and a reminder of “all her faith” as she copes with a devastating death, punned into the last line.
By now we are studying the poem, re-reading the strongly written portions.
- the juxtaposition of the first line
- the similes and metaphors that complete the first stanza
- the continued comparison of the second (sestet)
- followed by the anaphoric “all my faith and all my love”
As we conclude, we nod to ourselves, for this is a woman we know, a person we want to emulate.
And although he has written a sonnet, his rhyming is as atypical as the woman herself.
Surprising poems like Barkers draw us back and back—and isn’t that what we want with our poetry? Readers returning over and again.
Off to Poem Hunter again, to read this deceptively simple poem.
Mothers are known for their advice. Teenagers think it’s nagging, but young adults have a comprehension of the wisdom that flows from the mother, advice oft-repeated because we do not understand the simplicity of the truth.
Viorst gives the most important advice for the first years of a happy marriage. She begins by imagining argument-causing statements that she wants her son to avoid. Such comments can HURT, and they awaken common feelings that everyone has had, has, and will have whenever they are in a relationship. Such comments will damage a relationship. And a couple of them will destroy it.
Here is the emotional connection and strong lines of the 4 Requirements of Song. The connection and strength occur because we have all heard these or heard instances of these.
Her son obviously wants to avoid the arguments, and Viorst knows his wife will eventually ask “Do you love me?”
That question always comes at a trying moment, when no one wants to answer any question at all.
The answer to do you love me isn’t, I married you, didn’t I?
Or, Can’t we discuss this after the ballgame is through?
It isn’t, Well that all depends on what you mean by ‘love’.
Or even, Come to bed and I’ll prove that I do.
She continues by describing the typical scene when that “Do you love me?” question will come: burned bacon, messy house, screaming children, and more. These tight little lines create powerful imagery, a third requirement of song.
For Viorst, the answer is simple.
The answer is yes.
The answer is yes.
The answer is yes.
Simple repetition of the truth.