Genetics – Sinead Morrissey

Genetics is a poem that looks at a child’s perspective of where her identity comes from and the way she is a physical reflection of both her mother and father. She is the unity between both parents even though they are separated.

Themes –

  • Family: This poem looks at the fact that although the speaker’s parents may ‘sleep with other lovers’ and be in ‘separate hemispheres’, she is still a product of the love they once shared. They may not be the usual type of family you might see, however there is this sense of ‘togetherness’ and this unity that will forever coexist in the speaker herself. It is at the end of the poem where we see the speaker look on into her own future family as she herself is ‘mirroring in bodies of the future’, meaning (like her parents) she will one day mirror her genetics in her child.
  • Identity: Another one of the key themes seen in this poem is identity. It is through her mother and fathers genetics that the speaker gets her identity, to paraphrase she has her father in her fingers and her mother in her palms. The combination of her mother and father is what makes her.


Tone of the poem –

  • There is almost a comforting tone to the poem as the speaker assures readers who may also have separated parents, that they (as the child) are a representation of the unity of their parents. At first it appears to be a sad poem as we see that the speakers parents have ‘been repelled to separate lands’, but upon further inspection we see that she knows ‘their marriage by […her…] hands’. They may be divorced on paper, but her body is ‘their marriage register’, they will forever have that unity within their child.


Structure –

  • The poem is structured in villanelles form, meaning it is made up of nineteen lines, with only two rhymes throughout, and some lines repeated. Villanelles are poems, which usually highlight themes of love, loss and challenge as seen through this poem.
  • The poem consists of tercets and at the end a quatrain. The tercet is a symbol of the three beings which make up the speakers family (herself, her mother and father), the poem ends with 4 lines to maybe symbolise the addition of her own child to the family.
  • There is a half rhyme scheme running throughout the poem, which could be a representation of the fact that the speaker is half her father, and half her mother.
  • There is also enjambment used which could represent the physical separation of her parents, but the fact that they are still connected through their child, like the split up sentence is still one thing.


Techniques –

  • There is imagery used through the description of the speaker playing with her hands. She shapes ‘the chapel where a steeple stands’, and she rein acts ‘their wedding with […her…] hands’. This shows that it is through her hands and her genetics where their lifelong commitment lives.
  • The poem ends on a positive and comforting note as she looks on into the ‘future’ at the genetics she will one day pass on. She will one day ‘bequeath’ her ‘fingers’ with someone else’s ‘palms’ to create a physical commitment and being that will then pass on their genetics.

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