After reading the poem "The Gift" by Li-Young Lee, please write a journal entry that addresses the following: the poem's subject, one theme found in the poem, one metaphor or simile, the tone of the poem, and what this poem makes you think or feel.

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The subject of this poem depends on reader interpretation to some extent. Some may see this as a poem about childhood. Others may see it as a poem about pain, allowing the splinter to serve as a metaphor for other types of pain as well. Still other readers may see this as a poem about a father's legacy. One of the incredible things about poetry is that each reader brings a unique perspective to the work and each will take away something slightly different. As you read the poem again, consider which points seem most important to you.

The theme that you choose should be closely related to the subject you identify. For example, if you identify the subject as childhood, you may identify the father/son relationship as a central theme of the poem. To support this theme, you might examine the tender way the father distracted his son from the pain of a splinter by his "low" and reassuring voice. The speaker was so comforted by his father's presence that the splinter was removed before the story was even finished.

There are some beautiful metaphors in this poem. Remember that a metaphor is a comparison of two unlike objects. One example occurs in the second stanza:

I can't remember the tale,

but hear his voice still, a well

of dark water, a prayer.

In these lines, the father's voice is first compared to a well of dark water and then to a prayer. These are two different metaphors. The comparison to a well of dark water connotes both a sense of mystery and a connection to the life-giving attributes of water. His father's voice is thus both compelling and sustaining. He also compares his father's voice to a prayer, signifying the reverence of his father's tone as he works to free his son from the pain of a splinter.

You might describe the tone as nostalgic. As the speaker, who now works to remove a splinter from his wife's hand, recalls a similar moment with his father, he has affectionate memories of this scene from his childhood. The pain of the splinter is overshadowed by the wise and affectionate efforts of his father. The speaker attempts to capture his father's spirit of tenderness as he performs a similar procedure on his own wife as an adult.

This poem is likely to make readers consider touching moments with their own fathers or other caregivers in early childhood. Other readers might think forward, imagining how they want to be similar to or different from their own parents. And still others might focus on the pain of childhood in both literal and symbolic ways.

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