Planting a Sequoia is a poem written by Dana Gioia. The poem is about a father whose son had just died. He and his brothers bury the child in the orchard and decide to plant a tree on the grave to follow the Sicilian tradition. The narrator of the poem is the father. The poem is written in the 1st person. The Father plants a Sequoia tree in the place to celebrate the death. This is against the tradition because Sequoia trees are not seen as useful trees. The tree symbolizes the son and you see this because the narrator treats the tree as if it was his son.
The first stanza is about just after his son has died and he and his brothers are burying the son. This stanza contains very dull imagery. An example of this is in line 3 when the narrator says “rain blackened the horizon, but cold winds kept it over the Pacific”. This quote sets the overall atmosphere of the poem. It indicates that winter is coming and depicts a very miserable and negative image. The weather and the seasons represent how the narrator is feeling at that point in time.
In the Second Stanza the mood stays negative with more dull imagery. The stanza starts “In Sicily a father plants a tree to celebrate his first son’s birth- An olive tree or a fig tree-a sign that the earth has one more life to bear.” The fact that the father has chosen a sequoia compared to a more useful, prosperous tree like the fig tree or an olive tree shows a lack of prosperity. Sequoia trees live for a long time but the trees aren’t useful. Also in this stanza we see that the poet compares the tree to the son. An example of this is “wrapping in your roots a lock of hair, a piece of an infant’s birth cord”. This quote compares the roots of the plant to an umbilical cord. It also explains the horrors of the stillborn child. The writer personifies the plant. In the poem it says “A few stray atoms brought back to the elements”. This shows that the atoms that make up everything in this case the son have been passed on to the sequoia (the atoms are the only thing left of the son on the Earth).
In the third stanza the narrator speaks to the tree when he says “we will give you our labour and soil.” The line sounds rather like something a father would say to their son. He will put in the work to make sure the tree is okay. The line “A slender shoot against the sunset” is significant because it shows that the sun has set on the life of the child but at the same time it represents the beginning for the tree. This line sounds very smooth on the lips of the reader because of the repetition of the letter “s”.
The final stanza is about the family of trees the narrator plans to grow, to give the sequoia brothers and sisters just like he wanted for his son. A quote to show this is “And when our family is no more, all of his unborn brothers dead.” This shows that the father wants another family. When he says “all of his unborn brothers dead” he uses an oxymoron to describe what it was like when he lost his son. The last line of the poem- “silently keeping the secret of your birth” is very optimistic. The narrator is looking towards the future in order to overcome the grief he had suffered.
In conclusion, the poem shows one mans story of losing his son at a very young age and tries to replace his son with a tree and to treat the tree as his son.