A Birthday Poem Analysis by Ted Kooser

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In this poem, Ted Kooser compares a life to a single day. The poet here narrates the poem from the point of view of a cow. In the opening parts of the poem, we see the poem depicting an image of the sunrise and also comparing one of the most picturesque times of day to the creation of a new life and the celebration of each new year of its existence.

A Birthday Poem Analysis

“Just past dawn, the sun stands

with its heavy redhead

in a black stanchion of trees,

waiting for someone to come…”

In the morning, the sun is born every day, red and orange with the potential energy to shine bright yellow throughout the day. The poet then proceeds to compare his symbolic sun to a cow. As though the sun is its head, and it is grazing in a pasture waiting for someone to collect daylight instead of milk.

“…with his bucket

for the foamy white light,

and then a long day in the pasture.”

The poet with this analogy suddenly makes a comparison to life being made into an animal. Kooser says in the poem that the cow “feasts” on every green moment, which signifies the grass and when the day ends, it goes back to the shed, waiting for another great birthday.

“I too spend my days grazing,

feasting on every green moment

till darkness calls,

and with the others

I walk away into the night,”

Kooser in this part describes how people spend their days and lives grazing and enjoying the moments and memories of life. The way he ends this poem is beautiful. Kooser says that when the sun sets, this is when our very life ends. According to Kooser what remains afterlife is the only thing that remains which is our name, and how we are remembered. This too is presented to the readers through the perspective of the cow.


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“…swinging the little tin bell

of my name.”

A Birthday Poem Tone

The tone is portraying a sense of peace and quietness on the speakers Birthday. It shows this in the lines, “I too spend my days grazing, feasting on every green moment till darkness calls”. The use of sound imagery in the poem helps the poem to flow and appeals to the sense of your hearing.

There is personification in the poem. When the poet says, “till darkness calls,” it creates an image we can relate to because the darkness does not actually call. This very calling appears to us as something different, something beyond mortal.

The free verse in the poem allows the poem to flow freely and without rhythm to create a sense of freedom. In the poem, the full rhyme helps with sound imagery and appeals to the sense of hearing. It also helps people to enjoy the poem. The sight imagery in the poem, where it says, “the black stanchion of trees,” helps people to view the poem with even more interest.

This poem underneath a simple picture consists of and describes lots of imagery, and it very much appeals to the senses. This becomes important as it helps the readers understand the value of their birthday. Many people as they grow older do not value birthdays as much as they should. It is still meaningful today because, for lots of young people, birthdays serves to be one of the most important days in their life.

Another important aspect of this poem is the point of view. Kooser, in order to express his thoughts, used the point of view of a cow. The cow every morning sees the rising of the sun and with the sunset, it heads back to the shed. Kooser beautifully merges this with the life of every human being and describes the importance of our birthday.

Ted Kooser is a poet and essayist. He worked as the presidential professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Ted was born on April 25, 1939. He attended Ames Public Schools, Iowa State University, and the University of Nebraska.  The greatness of the poem lies in the presentation of the whole theme. Kooser here depicts the main theme of the poem at the very end. He ends the poem with a picturesque description of a universal truth, the inevitable setting of the sun, comparing it with death.

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