Sense of loss in Elizabeth Jennings' poetry

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Many of Elizabeth Jennings 's poems deal with loss. In "A Bird in the House," a young child loses a canary when a cat kills it: "the quick cat /caught him, tore him through the bars." The poem's narrator mourns the loss of the bird but perhaps more so the...

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Many of Elizabeth Jennings's poems deal with loss. In "A Bird in the House," a young child loses a canary when a cat kills it: "the quick cat /caught him, tore him through the bars." The poem's narrator mourns the loss of the bird but perhaps more so the loss of her younger self, "not knowing death would be hard/later" and yet does so in an understated way.

In "Rembrandt's Late Self-Portraits" Jennings deals with the losses brought on by aging. This is an ekphrastic poem, which means it is a poem about a painting or paintings. Jennings describes how Rembrandt depicts the loss of his youthful self: "Each year ... the skin is uglier ... Your face is bruised and hurt." Nevertheless, Jennings also finds that Rembrandt, in his unflinching representation of aging, brings solace, showing that "old age can divest us ... of the fear of death."

In the poem "Absence," the narrator addresses someone she cared for who is now gone from her life. She returns to the place where they last met. Nothing about the scene has changed, but just for the reason, the absence of the loved one strikes her as "a savage force."

Jennings wrote in an understated, quiet style, often melancholic. She is not emotional in her poems—she, for instance, doesn't usually use exclamation points or "Ohs"—instead, she describes a scene simply or tells a story, as can be seen in the poems discussed above.

By not expressing too much emotion, Jennings leaves readers open to experience it themselves. Her poems about loss often have a tone of melancholy, leaving a sad but somehow comforting sensation that life goes on, and death is not the final end.

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