• Elizabeth Brewster was born in 1922 in the small lumber town of Chipman,
New Brunswick, Canada.
• As a young poet in the 1940s, Elizabeth Brewster wrote in an almost
desperate attempt to order the chaos of her own psyche.
• Most of Brewster’s early poetry was based on rural and small-town rather
than urban experience and that it was mainly traditional in form. The bulk of
her poems centre around trees, oceans, cabins and childhood
recollections, lulling th
The key idea of the poem seems to be that a person’s character is always
formed at least in part by the place where he or she is born – “People are
made of places”. Wherever you go in life you will carry with you memories
and echoes of your birthplace, whether it is a city, as in the first stanza, or
the quiet Canadian countryside where Elizabeth herself was born –
“Where I come from, people carry woods in their minds” – and certainly
the picture she draws in the second stanza does seem at first to be idyllic
and wonderful, strongly contrasting with the city images in the first stanza.
This idea shows us that who we are is shaped by where we were born
and where we grew up, but this is not the end of the shaping process, as
the first line suggests ‘People are made of places’, you are shaped as
much by where you were born and grew up as the places that you go to
after your childhood, the things that you experience in other places, the
things that you see. Stanza 1
• This stanza deals with the organized and fast paced life of the city. In the
city everything is precise and controlled; everything runs like clockwork.
• Line 1-3: The first two lines of the poem summarise the main theme of the
poem perfectly. ‘People are made of places.’ As the theme suggests
people will never be able to forget their past, or where they came from.
People will always be able to tell where you come from ‘They carry with
them hints of jungles or mountains, a tropic grace or the cool eyes of seagazers.’
• Line 3-4: ‘Atmosphere of cities how different drops from them’ The author is
trying to show that the atmosphere of the place you live in can affect the
way that you live, throughout the year as nature progresses through its
seasons, atmospherically city life changes greatly. Stanza 1
• Line 4-5: ‘Like the smell of smog or the almost-not-smell of tulips in the
spring’, smog telling us about a typical winters day with density of the air
being greater and the water vapor blinding our site, ‘the almost-not-smell of
tulips in the spring’ this tells us how the flowers of spring are starting to
blossom, not fully produced and grown the smell of the tulips can not yet be
appreciated fully and with the combined smells of the city one could think
that they are smelling the tulips when actually the city life prevents the
scent of the tulip to a high degree.
• Line 6-7: The idea of the city being organized and tidily planned out is
introduced in these lines, ‘nature tidily plotted in little squares with a
fountain in the center’, telling us that within the city life, nature still exists in
public parks, which have been plotted around the city in small areas to
provide the reassurance of sanity within the community, that nature still
exists within the city environment but is scarce and nature cannot go about
its business how intended to because of the interruptions of city life and
pollution. Stanza 1
• Line 7-8: ‘museum smell, art also tidily plotted with a guidebook’. This
compares the tidily plotted countryside to tidily plotted art in an art museum,
with a guidebook. The guide book can be a metaphor for life, we try to
control everything, to guide ourselves through life instead of taking one
step at a time.
• Line 9-10: ‘the smell of work, glue factories maybe, chromium-plated
offices’, the city is full of skyscraping office buildings built of steel and other
sharp precise materials to give a uniform look and feel to the atmosphere,
also with great complexes comes great amounts of pollution, which
Elizabeth is relating to with ‘the smell of work, glue factories maybe’.
• Line 10-11: In the end of the stanza ‘smell of subways crowded at rush
hours’, this shows the congestion that is caused by overpopulation of the
city. It also shows how rushed life in the city is. Also it shows that at the end
of the day, no matter where you come from, if you work in chromium plated
offices or glue factories, everyone has the same goal and that is to get
home. Stanza 2
• The second stanza introduces an idea change in the poem. The focus of
the poem now shifts more to country and rural life; similar to that in which
Brewster herself grew up in.
• Line 12-13: These lines provide us with key details in which we can relate
to Brewster’s childhood, ‘Where I come from, people carry woods in their
minds, acres of pine woods’. Coming from New Brunswick, Canada, is 80%
forested and so the forest or ‘woods’ will always be in the peoples minds as
it is the centre of the little community.
• Line 14: People here care about things that people in the city would laugh
at, like ‘blueberry patches in the burned-out bush’. To the people in the
community this is relatively significant as it is the growing of something new
where before there was nothing. Stanza 2
• Life 15: ‘wooden farmhouses, old, in need of paint’. This is in direct contrast
to the first stanza where everything is new and attractive. The old
farmhouses are there solely to serve a purpose and until they stop serving
that purpose they will be kept, regardless of looks.
• Line 16-17: Brewster portrays a farming life with the ideas of chickens and
hens kept in yards, generally used to provide a source of food in the form of
eggs, or literally speaking the chickens themselves. Also the chickens and
hens being kept in yards, shows us that in the country there is the room to
spare to be able to keep these chickens and hens, whereas in conjunction
with the first stanza, the chickens would not be kept as there is no room nor
is there any need to keeping the chickens and hens.
• Line 17-18: ‘The battered schoolhouse’ again places emphasis on it being
an old building remaining only for practical purposes and not being
replaced by a more attractive building. ‘behind which violets grow’ just
backs up the earlier line of ‘blueberry’s growing in the burnt out bush’, it
shows how nature can create a picture of beauty anywhere, out of anything. Stanza 2
• Line 18-19: ‘Spring and winter are the mind’s chief seasons: ice and the
breaking of ice.’ Spring and winter are two opposing seasons and winter
could therefore represent the cold city life and spring the colorful country
life. ‘Ice and breaking of ice’ refers to something in the mind that is broken
when one makes the transition from the city to the country.
• Line 20-21: ‘A door in the mind blows open, and there blows a frosty wind
from fields of snow.’ The last two lines are puzzling. The door blowing open
is just another gateway opening in the mind to the memories that she holds
of her childhood. The second half these lines ‘and there blows a frosty wind
from fields of snow.’ is there to give a feel to the picture that she has been
describing and it gives the reader a cold feeling. The frosty wind from the
fields of snow is relevant because in Canada the winter is very frosty with a
lot of snow and wind. The “door” could be the memory opening in a blast of nostalgia, but the
association of winter and the “frosty wind” suggest something less pleasant,
like a realisation that the past, her place, is not so good after all. This is
supported by the content of the second stanza, where things may seem
superficially attractive in a rustic way, but are “burned out”, “old, in need of
paint”, where the chickins cluck “aimlessly” and buildings are “battered”. So
the suggestion is that it is easy to remember formative places all to positively,
but their legacy can be negative; a “frosty wind” in the mind? Structure
• The Poem is set out into three stanzas, the last being a rhyming couplet,
with the words ‘blow’ and ‘snows’.
• If you look at the poem at the end of the first stanza, the last line finishes as
a half line. The first line of the second stanza then starts halfway down the
line. The reason Elizabeth has done this is because she would like to start
the second stanza at the same place that she finished the first stanza; so
she has the same line of thought, but it is like she has jumped locations.
She finishes the first stanza with ‘subways crowded at rush hours’ and
starts the second stanza with ‘Where I come from’. This is to show a
distinct change between the two stanza with the first being city life and the
second being country life. Structure
• If you look at the lines in the poem every single line with the exception of 5
out of the 21 lines has some sort of a comma, full stop, colon or semi-colon
splitting the lines into two sections. This technique used is a great way to
show the reader that the poem is meant to be read slow and appreciatively,
taking in what is being said and thinking about it more, and not meant to be
quickly read and feeling bewildered afterwards when you are confused
about the poem to which you have just rushed.
• Apart from the previously mentioned no other apparent structure can be
found, so it is more contemporary and free versed poetry, done to provide
uniqueness with the poem and also this allows Elizabeth to get her ideas
and points across as there is next to no boundaries which allows her to use
any form of poetry language that she wants to, getting the reader thinking
more about the poem and its content rather than what words rhyme with
what and so on.e reader into a state of rustic complacency.