First Poem for You, Poetry Explication
Just as poetry is a permanent mark of feelings that last forever on paper, tattoos are permanent symbols that last forever on the skin. Tattoos and poetry can easily be combined such as in Kim Addonizio’s sonnet, “First Poem for You,” the speaker admires her partner’s nature-themed tattoos in a darkened room. This may seem to be a simple poem, but by utilizing tattoos as symbols, including tactile and visual imagery in her poem, and using the sonnet as her structure, Addonizio laments about the true meaning of relationships and their longevity.
Symbols are used throughout Addonizio’s sonnet. “I like to touch your tattoos in complete/darkness, when I can’t see them (1-2). ” The darkness not only represents the lack of light in the room, but it also represents the speaker’s perspective on the relationship. The speaker is concerned about her relationship with her partner, “whatever persists or turns to pain between us, they will still / be there (11-12). ” The tattoos, unlike the lover, are permanent. The speaker seems to be much more afraid of her partner than the tattoos.
Her lover can change his feelings for her anytime; the tattoos, however, will never change. In this poem, the tattoos of the partner represent permanence and a happy long relationship. Addonizio also imports excellent examples of tactile as well as visual imagery to demonstrate to the reader her aspect on relationships. Visual imagery is represented when Addonizio describes each individual tattoo. “The blue / swirls of water on your shoulder where a serpent / twists, facing a dragon (5-7). The dragon and the serpent represent the warrior in the speaker’s partner. They also signify that the partner has no fear against his enemies. Inclusion of the specific details of each tattoo shows the reader exactly how much that the speaker is honed in on her partner’s tattoos. This allows the reader to see the speaker softly tracing her fingers across her lover’s marked shoulder. Through this, Addonizio depicts the well-worn intimacy of the speaker lying with her beloved.
The author also enlightens the tactile sense by showing the reader the “lines of lightening pulsing / just above your nipple(4-5). ” It is inferred that the lightening is just over the lover’s heart. But by employing the word “pulsing (4),” the reader can really feel the lover’s heart beating on the speaker’s hand. This addresses the fact that love has a pulse and it can halt just as well as a heart can. Through visual and tactile imagery, Addonizio shows how close intimately the lovers are with one another.
Structure is important in “First Poem for You” as well. Addonizio chose to write a sonnet to have the last lines truly conclude the poem in a way that meditates on the permanence of the tattoos. The author destroys the immediate, powerful, and concrete image of the lovers with “such permanence is terrifying. / So I touch them in the dark; but touch them, trying (13-14). ” These lines represent the vague understanding of the future between the two partners.
It is unknown if the two will remain together or not and the last line leaves the reader hanging. This creates a deep reality with the poem that can easily be connected with, for the fate of a relationship is truly unknown. “First Poem for You,” by Kim Addonizio, illustrates a night between two lovers lying next to each other. From this sonnet, it is discovered that through symbolism, imagery, and structure, the speaker’s views on relationships are embellished. Addonizio, Kim. “First Poem for You. ” Poetry Outloud. 2011. Web.
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