Daughters, I Love You by Linda Hogan

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Daughters, I Love You Summary

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Daughters, I Love You is a small, tightly interwoven collection of nine poems addressing the issue of the nuclear age. The work might even be considered a single long poem in several parts all thematically centered on this issue. Linda Hogan’s dedication offers the book to Navajo women fighting environmental exploitation, to Sister Rosalie Bertell, a fellow participant at a protest encampment in South Dakota, to gentle women throughout the world, and to the author’s daughters. References to all of these women recur throughout the poems. In two of the poems the author ends with the title phrase, “Daughters, I love you.” The poems celebrate gentleness as the speaker sees gentleness as a paradoxical source of strength in opposing all forms of violence, and especially the mammoth violence of the nuclear age. Consistently the poems celebrate the peacemaking and nurturing qualities of women of all ages and throughout the world.

The poems in Daughters, I Love You frequently refer to specific events. For instance, many allude to the atomic bombing of Japan. One focuses on the site of an accident at an atomic reactor in Idaho, and at least one grew directly out of the experience of a peace encampment to protest the presence of nuclear missiles and bombs in the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota. The poet’s strategy in most of the poems is to weave related images around a central theme. For example, in “Black Hills Survival Gathering, 1980,” the image and feeling of sunrise are associated with historical memory of Hiroshima, the presence of a Buddhist monk protesting nuclear war, and the appearance of a bomber flying overhead.

While they might loosely be categorized as poems of protest, the works in Daughters, I Love You are strongly unified in the underlying spiritual dimension the author sees as the most significant response she can make to the evil of pure destructiveness represented by the nuclear world. Thus, in “A Prayer for Men and Women” the speaker counters the dreams of men for power and poison with women’s quiet work and prayers. Likewise, in “Idaho Falls, 1961” the speaker contrasts the violence of the nuclear explosion with the gentle approach of a woman going into a barn and caring for animals. This poem is also one that could be termed a poem of witness, for it records and brings to light a nuclear explosion that was downplayed in the media at a time when nuclear power was promoted as a miracle technology.