‘September Tomatoes’ by Karina Borowicz is an emotional poem that talks about the seasonal change and its impact on the poet’s mind. The poetic persona, here the poet herself, is a gardener who has a deep relationship with the plants she has planted in the summer. The tomato plant especially draws the attention of the poet. The poem begins with the rotting smell of the plant. It somehow reminds her of her past and makes her sad. However, the weather at the beginning of autumn is not suitable for such summer vegetables. The rotting of plants is caused by nature. The poet can’t change this natural order. For her love for the tomato plant, the poem appears as an elegy on the dying plants.
Summary of September Tomatoes
‘September Tomatoes’ by Karina Borowicz begins with the “stink of rot” that is coming from the tomato plants that she had planted in the summer. Now it’s September, the time of fall. Naturally, those plants are prone to rotting at this time of the year. The foul smell coming from the garden makes the poet visit there. As those plants will die soon, she uproots them and tosses the vines in the compost pit. At this moment she feels that she has developed a kind of relationship with the plants. This task takes the poet to her past. She can visualize her great-grandmother doing the same thing as the poet does with the tomato plants in the poem. The seasonal song that might have hummed the air during her old great-grandmother’s time suddenly changes her saddened mood and brings the poet into reality.
You can read the full poem here.
‘September Tomatoes’ by Karina Borowicz consists of four stanzas. The first two stanzas contain three lines in each and the rest two stanzas have four lines in each. Being a modern poem, it doesn’t follow a conventional rhyme scheme. However, the poet uses slant or imperfect rhyme in each stanza. Likewise in the first stanza, “rises” imperfectly rhymes with “plants” and in the second stanza “blossoms” and “roots” somehow rhyme together.
The metrical composition of the poem is irregular. Some lines are extremely long, containing more than 10 syllables and some are short only containing 6 or 8 syllables in them. However, the poet makes use of the iambic meter as well as the anapestic meter for maintaining the flow of the poem. There is also some occasional usage of spondee in the poem.
‘September Tomatoes’ by Karina Borowicz is full of images. For making the images more vibrant and lively the poet takes recourse to several literary devices in the poem. Likewise, in the first line, the poet uses a metaphor of the smell of whiskey while describing the smell of rotting plants. She also uses personification in this line. There is an alliteration in the phrase, “fruit flies”. In the following stanza, the poet uses a personal metaphor in the phrase, “claws of tiny yellow blossoms”.
In the third stanza, the poet employs another personification and inserts life into “summer”. The poet presents summer like one of her close friends or relatives. The poet uses a paradox in the last line of this stanza. In the last stanza, the poet uses a metaphor in the last three lines. The poet doesn’t talk about the weather of autumn. She actually hints at her mental state by using this word. Another important poetic device used in the poem is enjambment. The poem uses it to intricately connect the idea of the lines.
Analysis of September Tomatoes
The whiskey stink of rot has settled
when I touch the dying tomato plants.
‘September Tomatoes’ by Karina Borowicz is a poem revolving around the theme of death and decay. Hence, the poem starts with the images of rotting tomato plants and fruit flies. It introduces the effect of September or to be specific the autumn season on the natural world.
After the gay summer, comes Autumn with her dry and emotionless weather. It presents the prologue of winter’s cold book. Plants start to crumble from within and die. The tomato, being a summer fruit, also faces the same tragic destiny. As the poet has planted those plants with love, it makes her feel sad to see them in this condition.
Still, the claws of tiny yellow blossoms
and toss them in the compost.
In the second stanza, the poet says some of the plants are still alive. But the poet has to unroot them as those plants will also rot in a few days. She can feel their spirit and inner urge by looking at the “tiny yellow blossoms” and the claws. They still have their time left. September has just begun.
The poet disgusted by the foul smell, cannot wait for that long. She has to clear the garden as soon as she can. So, the poet pulls the vines out of the ground and throws those plants in the compost pit.
It feels cruel. Something in me isn’t ready
Those pale flowers might still have time to fruit.
In this section, Karina Borowicz thinks about what she has done. She has not only cleared her garden of the decaying plants but she has also killed some living plants. It makes her feel cruel about herself.
She has a long relationship with her plants. In the summer, she has sown tomato seeds, nourished the plants, and enjoyed their fruits at the end of the season. Now, she has to evacuate them for their foul smells. Isn’t it selfish? This thought makes her feel dejected. She thinks, “Sometimes in me isn’t ready/ to let go of summer so easily.” This line reflects her love for the summer season and its fruits. The present moment has created tension inside her heart as summer is ending and autumn is approaching with her dry steps.
My great-grandmother sang with the girls of her village
seemed to turn the weather.
In the last stanza, the poet goes back to the past. She imagines her “great-grandmother” doing the same thing as she is doing right now. The poet feels dejected while clearing her garden but her great-grandmother was not unhappy at all. She along with the girls of her village pulled the flax plant and sang the autumnal songs. They were happy about the change. There was a sense of mobility in their collective hearts. In contrast, the poet’s thoughts are blocking her from what she is doing.
For this reason, at the end of the poem, Karina Borowicz says that “the very sound” of the song changes her perspective about natural change. It fills her heart with the dynamism of life.
‘September Tomatoes’ by Karina Borowicz first appeared in the “Ecotone” journal. It is a recent poem, written most probably in 2013. The poem presents two important perspectives relevant to the modern scenario. There is a tone of harsh realism colored with postmodern thoughts. Another important aspect of the poem is its unique romanticism. The poet expresses her love for the plants she has planted in her garden. At the same time, her realistic mind knows, it’s always better to accept the change as early as possible.
Here is a list of some poems that are following the theme and subject matter of Karina Borowicz’s ‘September Tomatoes’.
- Autumn Song by Sarojini Naidu – This poem by Sarojini Naidu is close to the essence of Borowicz’s poem.
- Autumn Song by Dante Gabriel Rossetti – Dante Gabriel Rossetti talks about the pain of nature at the end of autumn.
- First Fall by Maggie Smith – In this poem, Maggie Smith reflects on the beauty of the fall season.
- Autumn Fires by Robert Louis Stevenson – The poet, Robert Louis Stevenson talks about the colors of autumn.