nicpoetry101

Something to describe my love for the beauty of the english language

“Advice to My Son” Commentary

Peter Meinke’s poem “Advice to My Son” uses a vast range of imagery to portray its ideas of living life to the fullest potential. The father, possibly bereaved, is giving advice to his son. He only wants the best for his own creation. In the first two lines, the reader learns the theme of the poem, to live life to the fullest “as if each one may be [the] last.” No one, who seeks happiness, wants to die knowing there is something greater they could have achieved in life, yet they have failed to achieve it. However, there is a thin distinction between living life to its highest potential, and being gluttonous. Simultaneously, one must balance between living a good life, and “[planning] long range.” One must be smart in decision making. The speaker of the poem is telling his son to be aware there are consequences to every choice; the challenge is choosing the option with the best outcome. There are going to be obstacles in life. If the son survives “the shattered windshield and the bursting shell” he will be prepared for whatever heaven or hell bestows upon him. The poet is not literally referring to a windshield or a bomb. This is an extended metaphor used to enhance the imagery, and give the reader ‘a picture to the words’ of the obstacles and heartaches one may face in their lifetime. In the second stanza, there is reiteration on the importance of making good decisions, and obtaining the most out of what one already has. Meinke says to “be specific, between the peony and the rose.” This imagery evoking the senses of sight and smell, visual and olfactory, is also an example of the complete opposite to juxtaposition. Two similar objects are being compared, so the differences can be revealed. Peonies are similar to roses. However, peonies need more care and nourishment than roses. Peonies are also more expensive than roses. They are not as common. Ultimately, the objective of this line is for the son to be specific with his choices, and to never pass on a ‘greater’ opportunity if he is given a ‘great’ one. The son is told to “plant squash and spinach, turnips and tomatoes.” Apart from using alliteration to engage the reader, there is also a deeper importance to this line. The vegetables symbolize the actions of a person. Each of these vegetables are the bounty of their harvest at different times during the year. They taste the best when harvested at the right time. This can also be applied to our actions. We must wait for the time when we feel is right to ‘plant’ our actions, and watch them flourish. Meinke says “beauty is nectar // and nectar, in a desert, saves.” Beauty is sweet. It has the capabilities of saving one from their lowest point. Beauty is a ‘pick up,’ a confidence boost, and it is longed for by many. In this line, the father is trying to teach his son that, yes, beauty does satisfy the eyes and sustain temporary hunger, “but the stomach craves a stronger sustenance // than the honied vine.” The son must look beneath the allure of a woman, for a man wants a woman who will quench his needs and satisfy his hunger. In line seventeen, the son is told to “marry a pretty girl // after seeing her mother.” A girl’s mother is thought to be a reflection of the same soul through years of age. If a man finds a girl’s mother beautiful, then he will find the girl just as beautiful as time passes. The son is also told to “show your soul to one man.” The father is telling his son to ‘open up’ to one person. This person is a best-friend, he is God. The father is stressing the importance of a good relationship with God. The best piece of advice is saved for the last line. The poet says, to “always serve bread with your wine” and to “always serve wine.” This is an extended metaphor, meaning one must always give the most of what he can; similar to the idea of “always [serving] bread.” Wine is considered a beverage consumed by the élite of the society. If one can always serve wine, they are always putting forward the best of their ability. Peter Meinke’s poem is a very clever way of incorporating advice to his son, into such beautiful, well-written stanzas, laced with imagery to enhance the poem and entice the reader.

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