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Seeing You Themes

(Poetry for Students)

Repeated Patterns

"Seeing You" is about repeated patterns in relationships. In particular, Valentine wants to suggest that what is learned from one's first teachers, one's parents, is something one will learn again with a lover. Often in her poetry, Valentine seems to evaluate her romantic loves according to the standard of maternal love. Correspondingly, she finds similarities between the way she feels about a lover and the way she feels about her mother. Will one find subsequent gardens to be the same as the "original garden," or will there be different landscaping? Will other gardens be as akin to Eden as was the garden of her mother? Will the feeling of coming out of her mother's mudbank be the same as emerging from the lake of her lover? Valentine's narrator is seeking reassurance that her man's love will be as caring as her mother's love at the same time that she is reveling in the added dimensions of the new experience. There are also questions about dependency and independence. A child is dependent on its mother but must eventually strike out on his or her own. In a romantic relationship, there is an emotional dependence that must be balanced with staying true to oneself.

To symbolize these relationship patterns, Valentine creates patterns in the words and structure of the poem. There is, of course, significance in the words that are chosen for repetition: fear, love, brilliance, and gardens. Perhaps they are the four stars. They definitely form the skeleton upon which the poem is fleshed out. Repetition also occurs in the whole structure of the poem. Each verse is only two lines. Stanza 3 of the first part is repeated as stanza 1 of the second part. The two subjects, the mother and the lover, are each described with water imagery, with the mother as a river and the lover as a lake. With each person, there is a garden and a moment of revelation when the narrator feels that she is finally really "seeing" the other person in the sense of understanding the other.

Fear and Love

Fear and love are not separate themes in "Seeing You." The theme is the relationship of fear and love. Valentine first homes in on the fears that the mother has, the kind of fears that every mother has about the challenges of child rearing. Across her works, one of Valentine's themes is departure, but usually in the negative sense of divorce or death. In "Seeing You," the departure of the child from the mother's womb is a natural occurrence, although it is a fearful experience for the mother, who suffers great pain in childbirth, and a fearful experience for the child, who must leave the protective, cozy atmosphere of the womb for the cold, cruel world. Mother and child fear separation, psychological as well as physical, throughout their lifetimes but also fear the loss of individual identity. The child must develop an identity of his or her own, and the mother must maintain her own identity as a person other than just "Mom." For the mother, this identity struggle is one of the fears that comes from the enormous responsibility of parenting. However, uppermost are...

(The entire section is 818 words.)