‘Begotten’ is a short, humorous poem about the ancestry and human behavior. Through the title, the poet Andrew Hudgins hints at how a child tries to find a connection with his family and their traditions. He knows he is biologically related to his parents yet there is confusion regarding other members of his family. He is confused regarding the actual relation between him and them. Are there any common features that make him part of them? Hudgins provides the answer at the very end of the poem.
‘Begotten’ by Andrew Hudgins details an introspective speaker’s confusion regarding the features he shares with other members of his family including uncles, aunts, and cousins.
This piece begins with a humorous note. The speaker (a child) says he does not believe in what other kids of his age imagine. According to them, they are probably misplaced by some rich parents. Someday they would come and take them with them. What the speaker believes is that he belongs to his own family. There is a stark resemblance between their way of talking and their physical attributes. By looking at other members of his family, he finally understands what/who he is.
You can read the full poem here.
I’ve never, as some children do,
looked at my folks and thought, I must
I lingered, elbow propped on red
oilcloth, and studied great-uncles, aunts
Andrew Hudgins’ poem ‘Begotten’ is about how a child gets familiar with his own identity and his relationship with his family. The poem begins with a humorous statement. According to the speaker, he never believes what other children think about their parents. When they look at his family members, they feel he must have a different origin. He does not belong to those who begot him.
Their foolish imagination recourse to some myth and novel. They think the speaker might be the child of rich parents who misplaced him in someone else’s arms. Someday they would return and claim him as their child. In reply, he firmly answers in negative. He feels a bit embarrassed by what they think of him.
So, he tries to find similarities between himself and other members of his family. He looks at his cousins’ faces and listens to their voices attentively in order to find similar attributions. On Sundays, after the family dinner is over, he stays in his spot and fixates his eyes on his great-uncles and aunts in order to study their faces.
and cousins new to me. They squirmed.
So this, dear God, is what I am.
Furthermore, the child looks at those cousins who have not come to their house before. All of them get alarmed by this peculiar behavior. But, he stares at them until he finds what he is looking for. He goes on to analyze their eyes, nose, lips, and hair.
It naturally makes them annoyed and they snap at the child. They find it quite awkward and think he is probably finding something else. To get himself comfortable in front of them, he lies. But, again he looks at them after counting ten.
In this way, the speaker finally finds an answer to his query regarding his true identity. He never has to ask anyone else to confirm the same. In the end, he looks at his “blood-kin” or his parents and understands he belongs solely to them, irrespective of the minute dissimilarities.
Hudgins’ ‘Begotten’ is a free-verse lyric poem. It is written from the perspective of a child speaker. The poet uses the first-person pronoun “I” in order to bring home his ideas. There are a total of 22 lines in the poem that are packed into a single stanza. Hudgins judiciously connects the lines using a figurative device. Besides, the speaker directly talks with readers in a casual tone. This friendly and conversational tone welcomes readers to muse on the speaker’s question, “What am I?”
Hudgins uses the following literary devices in his poem ‘Begotten’.
- Enjambment: It occurs throughout the text. Hudgins uses this device to internally connect the lines. For instance, it occurs in “I must/ have come from someone else”.
- Caesura: It occurs where a line is halted in the middle to introduce another idea. For example, “I lingered, elbow propped on red/ oilcloth, and studied great-uncles” contains caesura.
- Anaphora: Hudgins uses this device in lines 7-8 and lines 20-21.
- Rhetorical Question: “What am I?” is a rhetorical question. It is used for the sake of emphasis.
Andrew Hudgins’ ‘Begotten’ is about a child confused regarding his true identity and his relationship with his parents. He sometimes gets confused by his friends’ comments regarding his parents. So, he tries to find to whom he really belongs.
The poem was first published in Andrew Hudgins’ poetry collection The Glass Hammer: A Southern Childhood. It was published in 1994.
It is a free-verse lyric poem that contains no set rhyme scheme or metrical patterns. The text consists of a total of 22 lines that are grouped into a single stanza. Hudgins writes this piece from the first-person point of view.
This poem encompasses a number of themes that include ancestry, parents, relationship, and childhood. The main idea of the poem concerns a child struggling to establish a relationship with himself and his parents.
Readers who enjoyed reading Andrew Hudgins’ ‘Begotten’ could also find the following poems interesting.
- ‘Inheritance’ — This piece reflects on the characteristics and mannerisms Sheers inherited from his parents.
- ‘Supple Cord’ — This poem describes a simple link between two siblings that represents unity.
- ‘The Black Walnut Tree’ — In this poem, Oliver talks about family history and relationships.
You can also explore more of Andrew Hudgins’s poems.