Themes and Meanings

It is interesting that while Marina is older and more experienced than the young Kenneth of the poem, he now realizes that through her he was able to gain access to childish wonder, which transferred itself to poetry. The poem ends with the poet calling his time with Marina his “Renaissance,” “when I had you to write to, when I could see you/ And it could change.” The suggestion of these lines is one familiar to readers of William Wordsworth and other Romantic poets, that poetry is a function of “childlike” perceptions—that as people grow into adults and become familiar with the world, they lose the magic of youthful sight. “The things which I have seen I now can see no more,” wrote Wordsworth in “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.” Koch himself devoted two books (Wishes, Lies, and Dreams, 1970, and Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? 1973) and much of his teaching career to teaching poetry to children. “Renaissance” means, literally, “rebirth.” Now, the poet laments, the ability to perceive afresh in verse is no longer second nature to him. That the time is gone when an undefined “it” “could change” indicates that life for the poet has become less surprising, more domesticated and routine, and that consequently to write poetry—the type of poetry Koch once wrote, which called routine its enemy—is now a struggle.

Perhaps this situation helps explain the variety of...

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