Planting a Sequoia is a poem that was published in “The Gods of Winter” in 1990. It was written by American poet Dana Gioia.
At the beginning of the poem the narrator is obviously in a pessimistic mood. He uses miserable imagery and metaphors to convey his current outlook on life. The phrase “rain blackened the horizon” creates a gloomy and sinister atmosphere. Also, here could be a metaphor as that rain could relate to a tragic even that had happened to him and the horizon may be symbolic of the future h was looking forward to, which has now been “blackened”.The sky above us stayed” reiterates this as it shows that things have not changed and may also indicate that things have not changed. Furthermore, the language portrays a state of mourning, or an unwillingness to let go of something.
In the second stanza, he talk about the tradition in Sicily of planting an olive tree and we realise that the narrator is mourning the death of his son when he says “I would have done the same. ” The third verse reveals the reasons why the tree is being planted. He says that he is “defying” the Sicilian tradition.
Alternatively it could signify a defiance of the child’s death as he allows his son to live on through the tree that is planted in his memory. An interesting use of imagery in this verse is the phrase “wrapping in your roots a lock of hair. ” This is a way of allowing a physical part of the baby to become a part of the tree as well as his father’s memories of him. It could also be a metaphor describing how a father would wrap his baby in a blanket to protect him for the cold. It is a reflection if how he would have taken care of his baby. In the next verse the narrator says: “We will give you what we can- our labour and our soil.
This shows that he wishes to take care of tree as he cannot take care of the child he has lost. He also describes the tree as “a slender shoot against the sunset. ” This is symbolic of a part of the child surviving despite his early death.
Although the sunset of his life has come, he can still live on as he is in his father’s memories and a part of the Sequoia planted in remembrance of his life. The line contrasts with the imagery at the beginning of the poem and brings optimism to the author’s mood and shows a recurrence of the theme of defiance displayed earlier in the poem.The narrator’s grief has now become bearable as he has found a way to commemorate his son’s life that also allows him to celebrate it.
This is not the only evidence that the narrator’s mood changes throughout the poem and concludes with a positive ending. In the last stanza he says “I want you to stand among the strangers, all young and ephemeral to you. ” This is an uplifting phrase, as the father has replaced his son’s short and fragile life with something strong and long lasting. He knows that the tree will outlive him, which is what every father wants for his son.
This in turn allows him to mourn for his son in a more optimistic light.