My father stands in the warm evening
On the porch of my first house.
I am four years old and growing tired
I see his head among the stars,
The glow of his cigarette. Redder
Than the summer moon riding
Low over the old neighborhood.We
Are alone and he ask me if I am happy
“Are you happy?” I cannot answer.
I do not really understand the word
And the voice, my father’s voice, is not
His voice, but somehow thick and choked,
A voice I have not heard before, but
Heard often since. He bends and passes
A thumb beneath each of my eyes
The cigarette is gone, but I can smell
The tiredness that hangs on his breath
He has found nothing, and he smiles
And holds my head with both his hands
Then he lifts me to his shoulder,
And now I too am among the stars,
As tall as he. Are you happy? I say.
He nods in answer, Yes! oh yes! oh yes!
And in that new voice he says nothing
Holding my head tight against his head
His eyes closed up against the starlight,
As though those tiny blinking eyes
Of light might find a tall, gaunt child
Holding his child against the promises
Of autumn, until the boy slept
Never to waken up in that world again
Philip Levine (b. January 10, 1928, Detroit Michigan) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American Poet. He taught for many years at California State University Fresno. Until recently he was the Distinguished Poet in Residence for the Creative Writing Program at New York University. The speaker of the poem I will termed as a “he” because the poet is a male. The progression of the poem is very climatic. In other words, It signifies a turning point like most works. For example, line #21, which illustrates where “father and son” meet eye to eye (thus, allowing the son to bask in the glow of the starlight with his head up in the air).
Due to their complex nature, human relationships present many challenges thus making them integral in the shaping of an individual’s experiences. These complexities are often caused by the power dynamic, where one parties assumes dominance over the other. Peter Weir’s 1989 film, Dead Poets Society explores the overpowering relationship between Neil and his father where Neil’s true self is stifled ...
In addition he proceeded to ask his father the question that his father asked him early in the poem “Are you happy?” The speaker’s point of view points to the reflection of himself as been an image of his father, growing up to be like his father, and the father like son syndrome which in a subtle way, is illustrated by the following lines: I am four years old and growing tired (line 3)- in comparison to- but I can smell the tiredness that hangs on his breath. The “THEME” of this poem is one of comparison (both emotionally and physically) between speaker and his father. Framed by its content for instance, lines 8 and 22 in these lines, the same question was asked by both parties (which give a subliminal reference to their emotional state) Plus, lines 3 and 17 (‘tiredness’) give a subliminal reference to their physical well-being. In interpretation, these instances represent the speaker (a boy) “growing into his father.”
This literary work is very rich in Imagery which captures my imagination. Keywords such as: “ the glow of his cigarette, redder than the summer moon riding” – lines #5 – 6 places me in the active scenery of the poem as seeing it as a movie reel. I must say that his poem is visual (line # 25) gustatory (line # 16 – 17) and synesthetic (line #16 – 17)
Of course, the point of view- introduces the implied attitude of the speaker towards his view of the poem, thus setting the tone of the poem which is very somber and gray ( which is in direct irony with its title, “Starlight”) with the use of keywords, such as, “ growing tired; cigarette; moon riding low over the old neighborhood; alone, thick and choked; the tiredness that hangs on his breath; autumn, and boy slept to waken in that world again. In regard to the poem’s style of writing/ choice of words, specifically its diction- the diction used in this poem is very concrete. Excluding, of course, the poem’s last six lines and the quote, “Are you happy?” These quotes are abstract and are basically the engine that drives the poem.
Different Viewpoints on Human Nature Throughout history there have been arguments about anything and everything that is disagreeable. People innately have there own and often different opinions. A prominent discussion topic throughout history has been the nature of mankind. Many have written works about human nature but few are discussed in greater detail than Candide, The Prince, and Essay on ...
The structure of the poem is very interesting, well it seems to be written in a closed form upon viewing it, initially. Howbeit, when it’s viewed closer it can be noted that the initial letters of the lines are not capitalized; only where a new sentence begins. Therefore I summarized that its structure is presented in an open form. Furthermore, there are neither visible breaks nor stanzas in the poem, I ponder, does the form represents “a tall, gaunt child (line 28) or a somber gray tower of Babel (in its aborted attempt) to proclaim itself to be among the stars (line 21)?”
In conclusion, this poem was superbly written. The 1st person skillfully places me in the poem, thus making me an interesting reading. I’ve been exposed to new insights from the speaker’s point of view.
– (Mar 07, 2008)
“STARLIGHT” http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~richie/poetry/html/aupoem170.html (2001)
Philip Levine (poet).
(2011, May 9).
In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:17, June 28, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Philip_Levine_ (poet) & oldid=428241598