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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

AS I GROW UP AGAIN, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography


The poem "As I Grow Up Again" by Audre Lorde is a contemplative piece that probes the complexities of motherhood, childhood, and the legacy of one's mistakes. Written in 1970, the poem encapsulates the transitional era in which traditional family dynamics were being questioned, allowing for more nuanced understandings of generational patterns and individual agency.

The opening lines introduce the persona's son as someone who "wears my mistakes like a favorite pair of shorts." This powerful metaphor suggests that the child inherits not only the parent's physical traits but also their emotional and psychological baggage. The child is "outgrown at six," indicating a certain precociousness that has perhaps been nurtured by the burden of the parent's past errors.

Interestingly, the speaker recalls their "favorite excuse was morning," implying a time of new beginnings or a period where responsibilities could be postponed. But, for the child, the morning brings with it the labor of navigating the parent's complexities: "learning which doors do not open easily and which clocks will not work." Doors and clocks serve as poignant symbols here-doors representing opportunities and choices, and clocks signifying the passing of time or moments that can't be relived.

The son "toys with anger like a young cat," experimenting with emotions and reactions that he has likely observed in his parent. This phrase captures the essence of how children often mimic or inherit their parents' emotional tendencies, deliberately or otherwise. He is "slashing through the discarded box where I laid my childish dreams to rest," suggesting that the child has direct access to, and perhaps is even influenced by, the parent's abandoned aspirations or unfulfilled potential.

The final lines of the poem, "He learns there through my error, winning with secrets I do not need to know," encapsulate the ambivalence that colors much of the parent-child relationship. The child learns from the parent's mistakes, yet also holds a world of his own that is increasingly independent and private. This can be a painful realization for any parent-that despite the intimacy of the parent-child bond, there are "secrets" and life lessons that each must learn on their own.

Audre Lorde manages to capture the beautiful yet painful realities of parenting, marked by a constant tug-of-war between letting go and holding on. The child, an ever-changing mirror of the parent's self, reflects both their failings and hopes, constantly adapting to forge his unique path in the world.

The temporal setting of the poem, 1970, also suggests an era marked by social upheaval and change, which adds another layer to the poem. During this time, society was beginning to question traditional norms, which is reflected in the poem's nuanced approach to parenting and individual growth.

In conclusion, "As I Grow Up Again" is a poignant and thought-provoking examination of the intertwined lives of parent and child. It serves as a reminder that while we may pass on our vulnerabilities and flaws to the next generation, there also exists the possibility for growth, learning, and ultimately, redemption.


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