What is the theme for Carolyn Kizer's poem, "Bitch"?

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noahvox2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Carolyn Kizer's poem "Bitch" has a copyright date of 1984. The poem seems to be about the poet's reaction when encountering a man from her past, a man who did her some mental trauma, perhaps an ex-husband (she seems to have been divorced from Charles Stimson Bullitt in 1954).

The poem deals with how the female protagonist tries to control her inner feelings, which she refers to as "the bitch," when she encounters this man. She says he is no longer "an enemy" or "a trespasser," but now merely "an old acquaintance tipping his hat."

The protagonist's inner "bitch" initially wants to bark at the man, but then the protagonist's inner "bitch" becomes mild and "wants to snuggle up to him."

As this short poem continues, the narrator paints a picture that suggests that the man basically treated her like a dog, a dog that he largely ignored.

In sum, the focal point for this poem is the blurring of the lines between human female and canine female. The human female tries to control the canine female that would like to curse this man into oblivion. Ultimately, much to the chagrin of the canine female, the human female controls her temper and ends up casting harmless words in the man's direction: "Goodbye! Goodbye! Nice to have seen you again." The poem touches on emotions that anyone with an ex-lover might be expected to have, but obviously might tend to have the most appeal to women and the males in their past.

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