Kim Addonizio demonstrates the strong connection between two people in her poem “First Poem for You”. The title “First Poem for You” immediately establishes that there is some type of connection in the poem. Whether the connection in the poem was going to be a positive or a negative was unknown before reading; nonetheless, we knew that it was an interpersonal connection.
After reading the poem, I was left contemplating the knowledge the narrator had on their counterpart. It is unclear which gender the narrator is, but one thing that becomes apparent are the feelings that the narrator possesses. They knew the location and design of all the tattoos on the other; this demonstrated that the connection between the two was strong and real. This, in unison with the use of imagery, evoked the emotional response of compassion as the reader entered a romantic affair. Towards the end of the poem the interpretation can potentially be altered, through Addonizio’s use of formal structures, the response is shifted from a lighter tone to a darker one. The emotional response that is evoked in the end is different from in the beginning, and a lot of the emotional response is achieved by what the literal meaning of the poem is portraying.
The poem “First poem for you” by Kim Addonizio has a distinct, yet odd literal meaning. At first, it is about a person who has tattoos covering their body, and another person’s reaction to the tattoos. The narrator knows the location and design of the tattoos on their partner and is continuously using imagery to describe the appearance and location of the ink, demonstrating that there is a sense of love between the two characters. The poem undergoes a shift in what is being said, as it is no longer about the tattoos themselves, but rather about how the tattoos are permanent, and that no matter what happens they will never go away. Eeriness is given off by Addonizio when writing about the permanence of the tattoos, and these two different literal meanings help to establish thematic meanings within the poem.
Love and infatuation are two themes that stand out in the beginning of the poem. To say that there is infatuation with the tattoos is incredibly accurate, as she knows exactly where they are, even in total darkness. The infatuation theme shares similar traits with the theme of love, and after the narrator is done obsessing over the tattoos, love is really revealed when she’s talking about “pulling towards her / taking you until were spent and quiet on the sheets”.
The theme of permeance is also relevant to the poem, and it works in unison with the theme of infatuation. “they’ll last until you’re seared to ashes, / whatever persists or turns to pain between us, they will still be there.” The theme of permanence comes hand in hand with the theme of terror, as she seems to be so infatuated with the tattoos, that she is afraid of the significance of them being there forever. Love also works with the theme of permanence, as she says she is terrified of how permanent the tattoos are, but she touches them, nonetheless. Perhaps the tattoos are a symbol of the relationship between the two characters?
The formal structures of the poem heighten the effect of the poem in a very revealing manner. This spin-off of a traditional 14-line sonnet shares traditional sonnet-like themes, like love and compassion, but is different from sonnets of the past. This minor variation that she uses titled “sonnenizio” uses not as much figurative language; but rather things like sentence structure, imagery, discourse, and tone. In this poem, tone is an effective method of establishing the meanings and hidden themes. In the beginning the tone is light and compassionate, the writer feels fixated on the tattoos and who has them.
Romanticism is apparent and establishes an emotional response from the reader through the light and affectionate diction presented at the start of the poem: “like”, “touch”, “heart”, “love” are all carefully selected words that create a light and romantic ambiance which captivates the reader and effectively demonstrates the theme of love. The tone quickly changes to a more serious one, with diction like: “seared”, “pain”, “terrifying”, this establishes the themes of permanence, and its link with terror. The concept of the tattoos being a symbol of the relationship between the two characters makes considerable sense; The narrator loves the tattoos, but at the same time fears their permanence. Relating the tattoos with the relationship demonstrates how relationships can have ups and downs; and that through love, frustration, and terror, relationships remain.
This sonnet titled “First Poem for You” by Kim Addonizio is a variation of the traditional poem that contains 14 lines. Over the course of history, sonnets have continuously shared the theme of love, and Kim Addonizio’s alteration of the traditional sonnet wonderfully associates the light themes of love and infatuation with darker themes of permanence and the terror that can come with it. Through Kim Addonizio’s precise use of discourse, diction, and tone, the readers enter a romantic affair, and grasp that the permanence of a relationship can be both beautiful and terrifying.