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The Poem “That Time I Was Mistaken For Dominique Dawes’ By Lauren Nicole Nixon Essay

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Updated: May 15th, 2019

Introduction to the poet and the poem

Lauren Nicole Nixon, an Austin based arts teacher and a poet, can be considered a modern poet whose themes surround contemporary issues in the American society. Nixon obtained her masters degree in Arts and Politics from the Tisch School of Arts, University of New York. In this poem, the narrator (probably Nixon herself) explains how she experienced a humiliating moment in which she was mistaken for Dominique Dawes, a renowned American artistic gymnast, Olympian and retired world championship silver medalist.

Nixon has shown the ability to apply various poetic techniques to communicate her message and themes to the audience with success. The purpose of this paper is to develop an in-depth analysis of Nixon’s poem in order to show how different poetic techniques are applied to effectively communicate the poet’s message.

Analysis of the Poem

Imagery

By definition, imagery is the comparison between an object that is not necessarily there with an object or subject that is actually there (Kirszner and Mandell 37). The purpose is normally to create a mind of comparison to the intended audience so that they obtain a more meaningful experience (Myers and Wukasch 43).

Nixon has based her poem primarily on imagery. The main theme in the poem regards the experience the narrator had, twice, when mistaken for a sports celebrity and the humiliation she experienced. She has used similes and metaphors to develop a comparison between her and the celebrity Dominique Dawes. For instance, in the first stanza, the poet says, “at the time my cheekbones curved and peaked like an apple” (Nixon 1).

The word ‘like’ is actually a simile that provides a comparison between what is there (curved cheekbones) and what is not there (the swoop of an apple). In the third stanza, Nixon says ‘I will step outside my body like a spirit…’ and continues ‘…while I watch it like a firecracker’ (Nixon 1). Again, the word ‘like’ has twice been used to develop a comparison between an object that is there (stepping outside her body and watching the body respectively) with what is actually not there (the spirit and the firecracker respectively).

Tactic imagery has been used in the first stanza, where Nixon describes the experience of the athlete celebrity Dominique Dawes in action as ‘…even when her tendons became ‘swollen’…’ (Nixon 1).

By this, the poet seeks to make the audience develop an image of he feelings of touch (swelling) that she would be having if she were Dominique, for whom she was being mistaken. For Nixon, this would actually be a bad experience because unlike Dominique, she does not possess the athletic characteristics and features.

In addition, Nixon has attempted to make use of kinesthetic imagery, in which she describes a comparison between a ‘movement’ that is there and a ‘movement’ that is actually not there (Kirszner and Mandell 37). For instance, in the second stanza she describes the characteristic movement of an athlete that Dominique made in videos and TVs as “… she slithered onto the balance beam… proposed herself up…” (Nixon 1).

These movements are used to develop an image within the minds of her audience so that they have an understanding of the comparison between Nixon and Dominique Dawes. The third stanza has made used a kinesthetic imagery, in which Nixon attempts to explain how she will behave next time the public makes an error by confusing her with the athlete Dominique Dawes. For instance, she says ‘…I’ll shuffle my feet…’

Hyperbole

In poetic techniques, hyperbole is actually a technique of making some exaggerations of the situation in order to attract the attention of the audience (Myers and Wukasch 43).

In this poem, Nixon has used hyperbole in the third paragraph in which she says that ‘…I will step outside of my body … while I watch it whip’ (Nixon 1). In real sense, it is not possible to make such moves as stepping ‘outside the body’. However, this exaggeration statement tends to explain the rigor and vigor she would use in case she is mistaken for Dawes again.

Thematic analysis

In this poem, Nixon’s main theme is to develop a critical description of her body in comparison to the physical characteristics possessed by the athlete Dominique Dawes. From her poem, it is evident that people tend to confuse her with Dominique because their physical characteristics are quite alike in some ways.

She stresses this by explaining, in the first stanza, that she has been mistaken for Dawes, not once, but twice. This is used to emphasize the theme of public perceptions on celebrities and the accord given to people with extraordinary lifestyles or talents. It seems that the public gave some special attention to her in both cases, once outside a hardware store and secondly on the stoop of a diner, just because she looked lie Dawes.

In addition, Nixon attempts to bring into the minds of her audience the theme of body characteristics and public perception on people with certain physical features. For instance, to explain why the public may have confused her with the athlete Dominique Dawes, the poet provides a description of how she looked at the time of her humiliation- that she had ‘cheekbones that curved like the swoop of an apple….

A hard and projecting collarbone and calves that were flexing with every footstep…’ (Nixon 1). These characteristics are normally present in the bodies of career athletes and within the minds of the public, a person with such features may be associated with an extraordinary career such as being an athlete, a gymnastic or some sort of a career.

However, Nixon, despite having these features in her body, was not actually an athlete, neither did she involve herself in using her features for a talent. To Nixon, the comparison between the two different (but apparently similar) persons is wrong according to her reaction in the poem. For instance, she says ‘…if there is ever another day in life…, I will maintain that Minotaur strength…’ meaning that she will act to show the people the difference between her and Dominique Dawes.

Irony

In this poem, it is ironic that despite having the athletic features in her body as well as the potential to use her body in make extraordinary moves as she explains in the third stanza, she does not involve herself in athletic works; neither does she attempt to show the public that indeed she was not Dawes.

Secondly, it is ironic that even though Nixon has been confused twice with the athlete Dawes, she did nothing to release herself from the tension and humiliation, yet she plans to make some moves to show the people that ‘yes, it is me’ (Nixon 1). In addition, it is ironic that she expects to experience another moment of mistaken identity; yet she attempts to show that she no longer have the characteristics similar to those possessed by Dominique Dawes.

She says ‘at that time I had…” (Nixon 1) to make the audience understand that she may have changed significantly, and probably no longer resembles Dawes. Despite this, she expects to experience another moment of being mistaken for Dawes, an irony.

Works Cited

Kirszner, Laurie G and Stephen R. Mandell. Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. Boston: Wadsworth, 2012. Print

Myers, Jack and Don Wukasch. The Dictionary of Poetic Terms. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 2009. Print

Nixon, Lauren N. “That time I was mistaken for Dominique Dawes”. The pedestal magazine poems. New York: The pedestal magazine, 2012. Web.

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