Elizabeth Brewster-Where I Come From-Notes

Elizabeth Brewster – ‘Where I Come From’

Writing about an anthology of Canadian poetry published in 2000, one critic said this of the first few poems in the collection: “the bulk of the poems center round trees, oceans, cabins and childhood recollections, lulling the reader into a state of rustic complacency. ‘Where I Come From’ by Elizabeth Brewster summarizes this idea perfectly . . . . This sensation of being inundated with the natural is initially pleasant, like a fond recollection of a warm summer beach, then slowly becomes cloying. . . ” (http://danforthreview.com/reviews/poetry/coastlines.htm)

A 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 Brewster herself was born in 1922 – “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.

Some points for classroom discussion

This sensation of being inundated with the natural is initially pleasant, like a fond recollection of a warm summer beach, then slowly becomes cloying. . . ”
How far – if at all – would you agree that this comment can apply to this poem?

Suggested comparisons

William Wordsworth – ‘Upon Westminster Bridge’ Norman MacCaig – ‘Summer Farm’

There is some very brief biographical information on the following websites:

http://www.writersunion.ca/b/brewster.htm http://www.poets.ca/linktext/direct/brewster/htm

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