A Brief Encounter
The poem “Summer Love” by Marilyn Chin written in 1994 uses descriptive emotional imagery through various tones to illustrate short lived relationships during the summer of a woman’s life. The situations and settings of the poem add to the theme of the poem as well as her use of figurative speech to describe the emotions she experiences during and from these relationships. The author Marilyn Chin has expressed several emotions within the poem through the use of descriptive imagery and by altering the tones of the piece, subsequently stimulating the readers’ imagination.
The author’s creative writing conveys her underling message of change of emotions that are experienced in any relationship, whether it lasts minutes or a lifetime. Her use of figurative speech captivates the reader, and allows them to experience her emotional journey through language. Mei Ling Chin was born in Hong Kong in 1955 and migrated to the United States with her family where they resided in Portland Oregon. Upon the insistence of her father her name was changed to Marilyn as he thought it was necessary for school and he also had an obsession with Marilyn Monroe.
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Having family in Hong Kong, Hawaii and all over the West Coast reinforced assimilation as an important issue to her. 1 Being afraid of losing her roots she used poetry to recapture this aspect, however she acknowledges that the truth is we cannot recapture the past. Marilyn Chin is an Asian contemporary writer who has three collections of work and her other pieces can be found in various anthologies. She was influenced by activist poets and has won numerous awards throughout her career.
This piece is reflective of a short lived relationship between a young woman possibly the author, and her encounter with a desirable partner with whom she has had a brief sexual encounter. This is concluded in the first stanza, which has her explaining that her companion has spent the night and that she does not mind him staying for breakfast, but she does not want him to remain afterward. Her statement that there is nothing worse than last night’s love implies there was a sexual occurrence of some sort. She also reflects on former companions during the third stanza, speculating if her resent beau plans to follow similar actions taken by her previous partners. She describes her previous lovers as being scorned, possibly due to her actions during their brief encounters. Throughout the poem the young woman’s sentiments toward her lover change via each stanza. There is a profound sexual undertone expressed throughout the piece which could also be associated with the title of the poem. The phrase summer love commonly implies a brief love affair during the summer months between two people who know that it will come to an end.
The author has appropriately altered the tones of the piece to enhance the reader’s understanding of each stanza. The first emotion expressed is one of indifference towards her lover. The third line in the first stanza is the initial affirmation to the young girl’s apathy. “If this doesn’t please you, too bad, its all I have. ”, (Chin 3) referring to her cooking breakfast consisting of dried lotus, bay oysters with scrambled eggs. Her unemotional statement has let her companion know that she is not concerned about their feelings.
She has cooked breakfast and it does not matter if they stay to eat, yet if the meal is not of his preference, it is not of importance to her. The next line shows a more callous attitude towards her lover. “Do not linger; nothing worse in the morning than last night’s love. ” (Chin 4-5) She is ready for him to depart, creating an intimidating atmosphere. The author has conveyed the impassive view she takes on the encounter through the woman’s statements in the last three lines.
The woman’s apparent communications of these distant feelings demonstrate her indifferent attitude toward this person during the commencement of the poem. The second stanza denotes a lustful, yearning of her partner. She describes her partner’s physical attributes starting with his stomach, which she describes as flat, and uses a metaphor of their skin as milk in the moonlight. The second line’s hyperbole allows the reader to understand that even though they were amidst many people, she noticed his glimmer. As they dance, her judgment becomes clouded and her inhibitions appear to fade.
The last two lines illustrate the physical connection that has occurred. “I let you touch me where I am most vulnerable, heart of the vulva, vulva of the heart. ” (Chin 9-10) This metaphor is twice as significant. The first half represents that they have pleasured her physically in the most personal part of her body, while the second half symbolizes the emotional contact that her partner has made with her heart. 2 The author alters the mood of the piece again, when the woman expresses the compassion she begins to show.
The first lines declare her trepidation that she might not find someone else like her partner. She does not want this association to be comparable to her past relationships, in which her previous lovers left scorned. The sentiment of the first three lines of this stanza illustrates her empathy. “Perhaps, I fear, there will not be another like you, / or you might walk away in the same face of others- / -blue with scorn and a troubled life. ” (Chin 11-13) The feeling of dispassion once expressed has now been replaced, possibly due to her knowledge of the impending closure of the relationship.
The author then gives the realization of the situation saying, “But, for now, let the summers be savored and the centuries be forgiven. ” (Chin 14) The woman would like to preserve the good times and put any other concerns out of her mind for now. She ends the poem with the lines, “Two lovers in a field of floss and iris- / where nothing else matters but the dew and the light. ” (Chin 15-16) The author poignantly ends her poem, where the woman is holding on to her memories, unconcerned of the future only thinking of the present.
The situations and settings of the poem vary as much as the tones do. Our speaker stays the same yet her location seems to change throughout the stanzas. In the beginning our speaker appears to be at home. This is inferred by her comment to her partner regarding him not lingering around. Then it seems that either she has gone to a place where she is reminiscing about meeting, or seeing her partner, at what would be perceived as a function due to her reference of “a thousand tired eyes”. Chin 7) The last stanza doesn’t give the impression of the woman being at a specific setting but more of her reflecting on her past circumstances. The last two lines seem to be more of a daydream that has her envisioning herself and her partner in a field of floss and iris. The author uses figures of speech to captivate and retain the readers’ interest. The hyperbole used in the seventh line strengthens the author’s emphasis of her desire for her lover, being able to notice her lover amongst many people.
The metaphor used in the last two lines symbolizes the physical and emotional feelings experienced by the speaker. In conclusion, the author has used creative writing to express the emotions felt during diverging relationships to explicate the same emotions experienced in this particular relationship. In my opinion, the altered tones and situations create a balance to the poem that keeps the reader intrigued. The author has expressed the emotions that most people experience during their own relationships, whether or not the relationship was the similar to the one described in the poem.