Review of the Poem "Winter Stars"
Dementia: the Unlikely Hero Through imagery, diction, and pathetic appeals, Larry Levis’s poem “Winter Stars” paints dementia as a disease that has positive effects for those that have it and the people that interact with them. The poem’s imagery of a quaint town at rest strengthens the text’s portrayal of dementia as a gift. In the fourth stanza, the father’s mind is compared to a vacation spot, “a place continually / Visited, a whole city placed behind / The eyes, & shining” (31-33).
This portrays the father’s mind as somewhere people would want to go, for people long to go on vacation. Making the connection from his mind to a desired destination improves the message that the narrator still sees his dad’s mind as the wondrous place it once was. When the poem fixes in on the hotel, the text fixates on details like the light, airiness of the place to create a soothing atmosphere. This connects dementia with peacefulness (35 – 41). The imagery of the elevator scene in the poem is the most dramatic way “Winter Stars” shows the pleasurable effects of dementia (40 – 41). The elevator is meant to be a metaphor for rising above.
Comparing going up the elevator to transcending shows the father’s mind shutting down as a way of being uplifted. This enhances the poem’s message that the father’s dementia is a blessing because being above it all is a desired state of mind. That transcending experience is usually only awarded to those that have a unique gift which in this case would be dementia. The diction of the poem expresses the usually morbid details of a man’s slowly deteriorating mind as a pleasant experience that brings people together. “Winter Stars” creates these genial feelings by using words and symbols with positive connotations, giving dementia a positive feel. A specific example of this is when the narrator refers to the father’s diseased mind as winter (14).
Using winter to describe the situation makes it sound less hopeless and depressing. Winter has this effect since it is seen as a symbol for hope. The way even after the worst of winters spring always returns giving those stuck in a storm of bad luck the ability to look forward to the spring. The use of winter allows dementia to comes across as something that gets better over time. When describing the father in the first stanza the narrator utilizes words like “slash” and “sharpened” filling the lines with harsh sounds helping contrast the before and after feel of the father and son’s relationship (4, 5).
The poem uses these words to show how the father changes as the disease sets in. Words with a dark and unpleasant association of before when their relationship was strained and rigid juxtaposed with the calm and soothing words of afterwards creates a greater understanding of how the relationship changed over time, from cold to pleasing. The pathos within “Winter Stars” illustrates the idea that dementia favorably impacts those who have it and those around them. Throughout the poem, it is implied that the father and son had stressed relations. The narrator mentions feeling like their relationship was “for years … empty” (44 – 45).
This makes the relationship seem almost non-existent. The narrator providing personal details about their interactions more clearly shows the two’s journey from cold to close. At the beginning, the father is described as a rough and frightening, breaking hands in the first stanza to going to a softened, helpless father trying so hard to have a conversation with his son and “solve everything” (1 – 13, 29). The emotion seeping through the lines of the poem further intensifies the transformation of the father son relationship as “Winter Stars” shows how much dementia has changed their interactions from nothing to loving. With the literary devices imagery, diction, and pathos, “Winter Stars” makes the reader understand how dementia can be a positive thing for the people who have it and those who love them. By using words that have a pleasant connotation, an emotional, positive image is placed into the readers mind.
Through the text the reader sees how the dementia facilitates pleasant interactions between the father and son allowing their relationship to grow as the father is withdrawing.