On reading the poems it is clear that ‘My Box’ is about a positive and good relationship and in contrast ‘Valentine’ is quite the opposite in that it is about a bad relationship.
The structure of the two poems is different. ‘My Box’ has three Stanzas, of eight lines each. Whereas ‘Valentine’ is structured in a pattern of, single lines and blocks of four or five lines. The different structures might be a clue to the type of relationships in that ‘My Box’ represents a solid relationship, by the blocks of eight lines. Whereas ‘Valentine’ is a broken structure, indicating a weak relationship. I have tried to analyse what each of the poems are trying to tell the reader and have compared and contrasted details where possible.
A woman recollects on how wonderful, fulfilling and fruitful her life has been, using the box to illustrate this. Made of golden oak suggests that it is an item of great value like Gold, but also one of honesty and practicality (like the wood used). The item, a box in itself a solid object with sides, a lid and a base with a ‘lock of brass and a bright key.’ This could be the house and home that the lover is describing. The giver has taken care in its construction, it has hinges, it has been sanded, oiled and planned and great care has been taken to ensure it is perfect. Everything about it is solid, well made and durable, this will last for a very long time, again this is referring to the relationship.
The engraved golden tree inside the lid again suggests something very precious, and the fact that it is inside the box, it is very safe. The tree is a symbol, a symbol of life, with its own solid roots and foundations, strong branches, leaves and seeds, just like a solid relationship these people appear to have. They have grown like the tree together, strongly and their relationship can be considered golden.
In the second stanza, more information is given about how this relationship metaphorically was achieved. ‘Twelve black books’ could signify the months of the year, which were used as diaries to record life’s toil. ‘Black’ is a bad, dark and evil colour and it suggest even more that the diaries will have been used to record problems that their relationship has gone through. It suggests a time span, over which the ‘sanding, oiling, planing, planting a garden, building a wall,’ took place and how this relationship grew with time with both of these people working at it.
Not only did they ‘build’, they shared the good time experiences, seen ‘jays and goldcrests and rare red kites’, in other words they found time for each other. Similarly, they explored together and found the ‘wild heartsease’ herb. This may mean they explored each other and found comfort in each other. They have ‘drilled a well.’ Water being necessary for growth of life and this poem again suggests fruitfulness ‘the harvesting of apples’, which could be children. A timespan where ‘words and days’ are shared, enjoyed and experienced. A golden tree is planted, nurtured, bears fruit, takes solid roots and foundations and flourishes to last for a long time.
In the final stanza, ‘On an open shelf I keep my box’, suggests an open relationship. There are no secrets here, the key is in the lock and the contents of this box, the solid relationship, is there for all to see by future generations or anyone who cares to look, and reminds us that everything takes time to grow and flourish, but it needs a solid foundation and effort.
A sad bitter reflection of a woman reliving a disappointing relationship. It begins negatively, with a single line. ‘Not a red rose or a satin heart.’ The woman speaks to herself, and she interprets the gift that she has received which could be imaginary, this tells us that this is not going to be something affectionate, usually associated with care and devotion.
‘It is a moon wrapped in brown paper,’ she continues bitterly. A moon appears at night, we cannot see in the dark, it is a dangerous time. The brown paper wrapping suggests something secretive, like certain magazines being sold over the counter or sent through the post in brown paper wrapping because they are rude.
Unlike The Box there is no togetherness, no sharing and no growth, there is only a promise of light, which we associate with warmth and comfort and clarity but we know that the light from the moon is not warm.
The rest of the line sates ‘Like the careful undressing of love.’ This suggests an expectation with each layer of something more than is actually received. The causes could be seen as promises that were broken and probably ending in tears like an onion can bring when removing the layers.
The one word line, ‘Here,’ indicates the tone and manner of the lover’s behaviour in the relationship. ‘It will blind you with tears, like a lover.’ This could mean that the relationship was based on blind love, which turned out to be painful.
‘It will make your reflection a wobbling photo of grief.’ The woman has suffered from the relationship to the extent her grief and pain has prevented her seeing clearly.
The woman continues to torture herself by reminding herself that this is ‘Not a cute card or a kissogram,’ both examples of emotional love. The fierce kiss will stay on your lips, possessive and faithful as we are, for as long as we are. This is a relationship that is going nowhere. The ferocity of the kiss suggests a quick intense encounter, full of passion, hence, ‘fierce’ and ‘possessive’. The word ‘faithful’ does not mean a strong solid commitment but one that is only, ‘as long as we are,’ probably until they tire or get fed up with each other and end it.
In the final stanza, ‘Take it,’ referring the onion is expressed without much care, and even the woman bitterly relives the uncaring lovers words who is no more. The platinum, a hard precious metal, wedding ring, which she can wear, if she likes. There is very little evidence of commitment.
A one word line, ‘Lethal,’ captures the essence of this person’s relationship. This could mean emotional if not actual physical death. Unlike the box, growth and fruitfulness are not in this poem, only an end. If this woman married this person it would have been ‘Lethal.’
The final lines states ‘Its scent will cling to your finger, cling to your knife.’ This woman through her own vision, living on hope, has been promised empty promises and been left unfilled and bitter she can still smell the onion on her fingers and the knife. It symbolises the end of the when she cuts the relationship off, but the memories of this painful relationship still linger like the scent of the onion.