To My Nine-Year-Old Self

(Note that analyses can vary widely, hence these annotations must only be used in conjunction with your own analyses).

Annotations of To My Nine-Year-Old Self by Helen Dunmore




My 9-y:o self

Summary of the poem:

Title: Nine y/o is kind of the pinnacle of childhood, just toeing the boundary between deeper understanding and naivety. Written like a farewell letter.

Tone: 1st POV with direct address, conversational, a monologue. Nostalgic, exophoric (a person looking at something else)

Summary: The speaker seems to be an observer of her younger self — yet the similarities between her and her younger self do not go beyond sharing a body. It can be interpreted that the poet is less than satisfied with her current life, and longs for her happy childhood back, where the scars and scabs seem so minor and temporary compared to the wounds she has now. Thus, the poem seems to suggest that time ultimately changes you, ageing turns you into a different person and cuts you off from your childhood version.

Structure: 5 lines, 6 lines, 7 lines, 6 lines, 5 lines, 3 lines — cyclic.

Themes: Coming-of-age, physical/mental deterioration, past/present,

Devices used: Sensory descriptions, rhetorical question, simile, pathetic fallacy (optimistic youth: fresh, morning sun. Pessimistic adult: cloud. Set in summer), foreshadowing (‘balancing your hands on the tightrope’), imperatives, juxtaposition, enjambment, dynamic verbs,

Links to other poems: Leisure Centre (also about a growing girl), The Furthest Distances I’ve Travelled (about looking back at childhood), An Easy Passage, History (sensory detail)


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