(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Daughters, I Love You begins with the word “daybreak” and ends with an image of night, taking the reader through the cycle of a day and suggesting a movement from light to darkness. The cyclical arrangement of the poems is further emphasized by the fact that both the first and last poem in the collection end with the words of the title, creating a refrain that frames the book. Yet the movement from light to darkness is not a simple movement from good to evil or from hope to despair, because these symbols are highly complex and ambiguous. Light, in these poems, is both the life-giving light of the sun and the blinding flash of a nuclear explosion; darkness is both a symbol of whatever is life-threatening and a symbol of the life-sheltering peace that “we have created/ light as a weapon against.”

Within the cycle of ambiguous light and darkness, other ambiguities abound. Hogan describes the “cobalt light” of her daughter’s eyes and remembers that it seems like only yesterday that her legs were as thin as a colt’s walking “in a field/ of energy./ Matter is transformed.” Cobalt, of course, suggests atomic radiation as well as blue eyes, and the matter that has been transformed is both the daughter’s physical body, which is transformed by the natural processes of growth, and matter itself, which is transformed to energy in an atomic blast. In the process of association of ideas, the ambiguity of the transformation of matter suggests Hiroshima and makes Hogan think how quickly the city and its inhabitants were annihilated and how quickly we too could vanish in the blinding light of a nuclear explosion.

The process of association of ideas generates the images and determines the order of the poems in the collection. Thus the second poem, “Disappearances,” is suggested by the thought, with which the first poem concludes, of how quickly we could vanish. As in the first poem, where the natural cycle of transformations associated with the...

(The entire section is 811 words.)