Where I Come From, Elizabeth Brewster, Analysis, Summary, & Themes

"Where I Come From" by Elizabeth Brewster is a poem that explores the connection between people and the places they originate from. The poet suggests that individuals carry within them the essence and characteristics of their homeland, whether it be the exotic allure of jungles and mountains, the serene gaze of those who have gazed at the sea, or the distinct ambiance of bustling cities. The poem highlights the contrasting scents that cling to individuals, ranging from the pungent odor of smog to the delicate fragrance of spring tulips.

Where I Come From Poem

People are made of places. They carry with them
hints of jungles or mountains, a tropic grace
or the cool eyes of sea gazers. Atmosphere of cities
how different drops from them, like the smell of smog
or the almost-not-smell of tulips in the spring,
nature tidily plotted with a guidebook;
or the smell of work, glue factories maybe,
chromium-plated offices; smell of subways
crowded at rush hours.

Where I come from, people
carry woods in their minds, acres of pine woods;
blueberry patches in the burned-out bush;
wooden farmhouses, old, in need of paint,
with yards where hens and chickens circle about,
clucking aimlessly; battered schoolhouses
behind which violets grow. Spring and winter
are the mind's chief seasons: ice and the breaking of ice.

A door in the mind blows open, and there blows
a frosty wind from fields of snow.

Summary & Explanation

Persona expressing how people originate from nature and how the city differs from these people. Then persona expresses how she stayed true to where she 'came' from (nature lover)
  • Part 1: Stanza 1 lines 1-4 (people originate from nature)
    In these lines, the poet suggests that people are influenced by the places they come from. Each individual carries within them the essence of the natural environments they have experienced. The mention of "jungles or mountains" and "a tropic grace" implies that people retain traces of exotic and diverse landscapes. This indicates that human beings have a deep connection to nature and are shaped by the environments they inhabit.
  • Part 2: Stanza 1 lines 5-11 (describing the city)
    In this section, the poet contrasts the atmosphere of cities with the natural world. The poet describes the distinctiveness of cities by using the metaphor of smell. The "smell of smog" and the "almost-not-smell of tulips in the spring" represent the industrial and urban aspects of the city. The reference to a "guidebook" suggests that cities are planned and organized, devoid of the spontaneous beauty found in nature. The mention of "glue factories" and "chromium-plated offices" evokes a sense of artificiality and mechanization.
  • Part 3: Stanza 2 (describing where she comes from - nature)
    In this part, the poet describes her own origin and the natural environment she associates with. She states that the people from where she comes carry memories of specific natural landscapes. The mention of "woods" and "acres of pine woods" portrays a sense of vastness and tranquility. The "blueberry patches in the burned-out bush" evoke images of a rugged and resilient environment. The description of "wooden farmhouses" and "battered schoolhouses" with violets growing behind them illustrates a rustic and humble setting.
  • Part 4: Stanza 3 (expressing if you open your mind, you'll get a hint of nature)
    In the final stanza, the poet suggests that by opening one's mind, they can connect with nature even in seemingly urban or artificial surroundings. The "door in the mind blows open" symbolizes the potential for a shift in perception. As the door opens, a "frosty wind from fields of snow" is felt, indicating the refreshing and invigorating influence of nature. This implies that despite the dominance of urban environments, one can still access the essence of nature by embracing a broader perspective and being receptive to its presence.

    Themes in Where I Come From

    The major themes of the poem "Where I Come From" by Elizabeth Brewster include:
  • The Influence of Environment: The poem explores how people are shaped by the places they come from. It emphasizes that individuals carry within them the characteristics and essence of the natural landscapes and urban environments they have experienced. This theme highlights the deep connection between humans and their surroundings.
  • Nature versus Urbanization: The poem juxtaposes the natural world with urban environments. It contrasts the organic and untamed aspects of nature with the structured and artificial elements of cities. This theme raises questions about the impact of urbanization on individuals and the loss of the natural world in modern society.
  • Nostalgia and Memories: The poem evokes a sense of nostalgia and longing for the poet's origins. It explores the memories and impressions associated with the natural landscapes of her past. This theme emphasizes the power of memory and the enduring influence of one's roots.
  • Perception and Awareness: The poem suggests that by opening one's mind and being receptive, individuals can perceive and connect with nature even in urban settings. It emphasizes the importance of expanding one's perspective and being aware of the presence of nature in order to experience its beauty and significance.
  • Identity and Cultural Heritage: The poem touches upon the idea that one's identity is intertwined with their place of origin. It implies that the landscapes and environments where individuals come from contribute to their sense of self and cultural heritage. This theme explores the relationship between personal identity and geographical roots.

    Critical Analysis

    "Where I Come From" by Elizabeth Brewster is a thought-provoking poem that delves into the complex relationship between individuals and their environments. Through its exploration of nature, urbanization, memory, and perception, the poem offers a critical analysis of the human experience.

    One of the central themes in the poem is the influence of environment on people. Brewster asserts that individuals carry within them the essence of the places they come from. This idea challenges the notion of a disconnected and autonomous self, emphasizing the deep connection between humans and their surroundings. By highlighting the hints of nature or urban atmosphere that people carry, the poem raises questions about how our environment shapes our identity, values, and perspectives.

    The stark contrast between nature and urbanization serves as a key element in the poem. Brewster vividly describes the distinct characteristics of both. Nature is portrayed as untamed, expansive, and imbued with a sense of timelessness. The mention of "acres of pine woods" and "blueberry patches in the burned-out bush" evokes a rugged and raw beauty. In contrast, the urban environment is depicted as structured, artificial, and lacking in spontaneity. The "smell of smog" and the mention of "glue factories" and "chromium-plated offices" evoke a sense of mechanical and industrialized society. This stark contrast highlights the tension between the natural world and the encroaching urbanization that defines modern life.

    The poem also explores the role of memory and nostalgia. Brewster reflects on her own origins and the memories associated with her natural environment. The mention of "wooden farmhouses" and "battered schoolhouses" with violets growing behind them creates a vivid image of a rustic and humble setting. This nostalgia for the past underscores the longing for a simpler and more authentic connection to nature, contrasting with the impersonal and planned nature of urban spaces.

    Furthermore, the poem emphasizes the importance of perception and awareness. Brewster suggests that by opening one's mind and being receptive, individuals can still find glimpses of nature even in urban surroundings. The image of the "door in the mind" blowing open signifies the possibility of a shift in perspective, leading to the experience of a "frosty wind from fields of snow." This highlights the power of the mind to transcend physical limitations and find moments of connection with nature. It prompts readers to reconsider their own perceptions and actively seek out the presence of nature in their lives.

    In conclusion, "Where I Come From" offers a critical analysis of the human experience in relation to the environment. Through its exploration of nature, urbanization, memory, and perception, the poem challenges conventional notions of identity and prompts readers to reflect on their own origins and the impact of their surroundings. Brewster's skillful use of imagery, contrast, and introspection invites readers to consider the complex interplay between humans and the world they inhabit.

    Stylistic Analysis

    "Where I Come From" by Elizabeth Brewster employs vivid imagery and sensory details to convey its message. The poem juxtaposes contrasting elements, such as nature and urbanization, using rich metaphors and descriptions. The use of smell, like the "smell of smog" and the "almost-not-smell of tulips in the spring," creates a tangible sensory experience for the reader. The poem's structure consists of three distinct stanzas, each focusing on different aspects of the theme, providing a sense of progression and depth. The poet's language is concise yet evocative, capturing the essence of both natural and urban environments. Through its exploration of memory, place, and perception, the poem invites readers to reflect on their own origins and the impact of environment on identity. Overall, Brewster's stylistic choices effectively engage the senses and emotions, painting a vivid picture of the interplay between humans and their surroundings.

    Language:

  • Mostly literal, however some figurative
  • Semantic field of confinement: 'tidily plotted', 'guidebook', 'crowded at rush hours'
  • Semantic field of freedom: 'acres of pine woods', 'circle about', 'clucking aimlessly', 'violets grow'
  • Repetition: 'tidily plotted', 'woods'

    Structure:

  • Dramatic pause: 'People are made of places.', 'Where I come from,'.
  • No rhyme scheme - symbolise freedom
  • Constant enjambment
  • Enigmatic ending

    Sound devices:

  • Sibilance: 'smell of smog',
  • Alliteration: 'different drops', 'burned-out-bush',

    Attitudes/feelings:

  • Places influence people: 'People are made of places'
  • They carry their 'home' with them wherever: 'They carry with them hints of jungles or mountains'
  • Against the city (artificial/confined): 'smell of smog', 'nature tidily plotted', 'crowded'
  • For Nature (freedom): 'acres of pine wood', 'circle about', 'violets grow', 'ice and the breaking of ice'

    Linking poems:

  • Pied Beauty, Summer Farm, Pike: Natural world
  • The City Planners and The Planners: Natural vs Manmade
  • The City Planners: Response to place
  • Post Image Art

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