“The Summer I Was Sixteen” by Geraldine Connolly Essay

August 17, 2021 by Essay Writer

“The Summer I Was Sixteen” by Geraldine Connolly (Poem 34)

  1. The turquoise pool rose up to meet us,
  2. its slide a silver afterthought down which
  3. we plunged, screaming, into a mirage of bubbles.
  4. We did not exist beyond the gaze of a boy.
  5. Shaking water off our limbs, we lifted
  6. up from ladder rungs across the fern-cool
  7. lip of rim. Afternoon. Oiled and sated,
  8. we sunbathed, rose and paraded the concrete,
  9. danced to the low beat of “Duke of Earl”.
  10. Past cherry colas, hot-dogs, Dreamsicles,
  11. we came to the counter where bees staggered
  12. into root beer cups and drowned. We gobbled
  13. cotton candy torches, sweet as furtive kisses,
  14. shared on benches beneath summer shadows.
  15. Cherry. Elm. Sycamore. We spread our chenille
  16. blankets across grass, pressed radios to our ears,
  17. mouthing the old words, then loosened
  18. thin bikini straps and rubbed baby oil with iodine
  19. across sunburned shoulders, tossing a glance
  20. through the chain link at an improbable world.

The main reason why I selected this poem is that it is full of expressive means and stylistic devices that tame it very poetic even despite the absence of rhyme or meter. Connolly’s poem illustrates the principles of poetry discussed in class readings. The word choices are precise and accurate, and the author uses imagery and metaphor a lot. Thus, “The Summer I Was Sixteen” is a perfect example of an “open form” poetry. The author exploits a variety of approaches that help the reader to visualize the actions taken place in the poem, as well as the people that perform these actions.

Probably the biggest impression on the audience is produced by the visual imagery instances carefully crafted by the poet. In the very beginning of the verse, the color “turquoise” (l. 1) is mentioned, which creates a picture of bright energetic summer that the poem is going to describe. Other examples of adjectives that help to create the imagery of the poem are “silver” (l. 2), “sweet,” “furtive” (l. 13), “chenille” (l. 15), and “improbable” (l. 20). These epithets help the reader to see, hear, feel, and smell the things depicted in the poem.

Another feature used by Connolly that makes this poem such a great representation of the contemporary “open form” verse is the use of metaphors and idiomatic expressions. The “mirage of bubbles” (l. 3) creates an image of a peaceful and careless pastime, where every person is relaxed and happy, and no one is in a hurry to do anything. As well as using adjectives for epithets, the poet employs verbs to describe the actions and feelings of the people.

The most pronounced of such instances are “we plunged <…> into a mirage of bubbles” (l. 3), “shaking water off our limbs” (l. 5). This choice of words allows the author to introduce the tone of the poem to the audience. It becomes obvious that the kind of summer recreation that the young people’s company is having is situated near the water, where they can hide from the heat and have some nice time together.

The representation of assimilation in the poem is abundant, with the author making rather interesting sound combinations that draw the reader’s attention: “slide a silver” (l. 2), “came to the counter” (l. 11), “cotton candy” (l. 13), “benches beneath” (l. 14). The repetition of the same consonant sound in several words in a row creates a pleasant rhythm and style in the poem along with adding a musical effect to it. A similar impression is made by the use of assonance: “limbs, we lifted” (l. 5), “lip of rim” (l. 7), “sated / we sunbathed, rose and paraded” (ll. 7-8), “gobbled / cotton” (ll. 12-13). These phonological devices compensate for the absence of rhyme and meter in the poem. With their help, Connolly manages to add the necessary tone to the verse and makes it sound rather interesting and energetic.

The same approach is employed to depict how the company is dancing, when Connolly mentions the pitch and the type of music: “[we] danced to the low beat of “Duke of Earl”” (l. 9). The verb “gobbled” (l. 12) demonstrates the way young people consumed cotton candy — greedily, quickly, and impatiently. The idiom “tossing a glance” (l. 19) gives the line mischievous air. Apart from metaphors and idioms, such a device as personification is used: “the <…> pool rose up to meet us” (l. 1), “bees staggered” (l. 11). Finally, Connolly also uses simile to add imagery to the poem: “cotton candy torches” are “sweet as furtive kisses” (l. 13). All of the approaches employed by the poet are successful in reaching the aim of producing a verse with excellent visualization techniques.

I find the poem “The Summer I Was Sixteen” a very nice example of contemporary poetry. Without the exploitation of traditional elements of poetry, Connolly managed to create a vivid and impressive story. A variety of stylistic devices helped to visualize the objects, actions, people, and feelings described by the author. Thus, even without the use of strict meter and rhyme, “The Summer I Was Sixteen” is highly poetic and pleasant to read.

Responses to Classmates

I enjoyed reading both the poem you had selected and your analysis of it. Indeed, Berman employs many of the aspects discussed in chapter 10. I agree with you that the diversity of the lines’ length does not spoil the overall rhythm of the piece but, rather, helps to make it more pronounced and unique. I quite like your analysis in which you enumerate the specific devices employed by Berman.

I quite like the poem you selected since it is truly a great example of contemporary verse. However, I think you could elaborate more on the devices. For instance, there is a nice example of personification in the line “the drums, declared his mastery.” Also, there is no alliteration in the line “the kind of knight of whom the ladies could be proud” since no consonant sound is repeated there at the beginning of at least two words. Overall, I like your analysis, but I would recommend that you be more cautious about identifying the devices.

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