Discover more from For Dear Life with Maggie Smith
Behind-the-Scenes Look: “Bride”
An Annotation & Author’s Note
I’m 46 today! (Gen X Aquarius here.) If you’d like to send a little birthday love and care, I hope you’ll consider preordering my next book, You Could Make This Place Beautiful, which will be out April 11. If you preorder now, you might just snag a signed, limited-edition print of “Bride.” I love the idea of offering perks to folks who are kind enough to buy the book ahead of time.
Self-promotion is hard, but I believe in this book and invested so much of myself in it, so yes, I want you to read it, give it as a gift, suggest it for your book club, teach it in your writing classes, request it from your local library. One of the big ideas in the memoir is betting on yourself. I am.
“Bride” plays a special part in the memoir, and you’ll see what I mean when you read it. (And if you’ve read an advance copy, you know how and where it makes an appearance. Shhhh.) The poem also appears in my collection Goldenrod, and it first appeared in The New Yorker on January 27, 2020. Thank you to Kevin Young and Hannah Aizenman for giving it such a wonderful home there, in that iconic font.
I think the inspiration behind this poem is clear. I wrote “Bride” during one of the most painful times in my life, when I knew my marriage was over but we were still living under the same roof. IYKYK. It just hit me one day during that time: The person I’ve been in the longest, most committed relationship with is…me.
So “Bride” is a poem about self-love. A valentine for the self. All of us—whether we’re single or partnered, happily or less-than-happily married, divorced or widowed—could stand to be more loving to the person we see in the mirror. In this way, the poem feels right for this week.
In the annotation I’ve noted some of the craft choices I made as I drafted the poem. The first I’ll note is line length and line breaks. The first part of the poem that came to me was this question: “How long have I been wed to myself?” I saw quickly that I wanted to end the first line after wed, to allow for some suspense and ambiguity there, before the reader continues to the next line. The question “How long have I been wed?” has its own meaning, but shifts to something very different—and unexpected—when we reach the phrase “to myself.”
As you read the poem aloud, you’ll also hear the assonance—the repetition of similar vowel sounds—in words like dressing and pleasure, choosing and perfume, kind and wife. The line “silvering with the mirror” contains assonance, with those thin, short I sounds, and consonance, with those hard R sounds. The line references aging by drawing a comparison between the silver of the mirror and the graying of the speaker’s hair.
I also use repetition for emphasis in the poem, both with myself doubled in line two and the doubling of alone at the beginnings of lines seven and eight, where they appear stacked. Looking at the poem again now, I also see some syntactical repetition, or repetition in the sentence construction, in the second half of the poem: I plus a present-tense verb. The questions in the first half of the poem give way to declarations as the speaker becomes more sure of herself: I know, I need, I become, I do, I am, I say.
I said earlier that betting on yourself is a big idea in You Could Make This Place Beautiful. I see it as a big idea in this poem, too.
Maybe you’re the person you’ve been waiting for.
Keep an eye on your inbox this week for a craft tip related to this poem. Paid subscribers will receive some other goodies, too. If you’d like to upgrade your subscription to have full access, you can do so at any time. Being a paid Dear Lifer means you’re making it possible for me to do what I do. You’re keeping the lights on in this writing room of mine. Thank you.
I’m so glad to share this space with you on my birthday, of all days. It means a lot.
And now: cake, cake, and more cake.