Perihelion: A History of Touch

By Franny Choi


“Perihelion: A History of Touch” by Franny Choi is a deeply evocative poem that explores the intricate nature of human connection and intimacy. Franny Choi, a celebrated poet known for her dynamic use of language and innovative poetic forms, delves into the complexities of relationships through vivid imagery and emotional depth. This poem, like much of her work, resonates within the genre of contemporary poetry, often touching on themes of identity, technology, and personal history. 🌐💡

Choi’s poetry is not just a reflection of personal experience but also a commentary on the broader human condition, making “Perihelion” a rich subject for both casual readers and literary scholars. The poem itself is crafted with a keen awareness of rhythm, sound, and structure, marking it as a significant piece in modern poetic discourse.

Meaning of Perihelion: A History of Touch

Opening Section
In the opening lines of “Perihelion: A History of Touch,” Choi sets the stage for a narrative of closeness and separation. The title ‘Perihelion’—the point in the orbit of a planet at which it is closest to the sun—metaphorically frames the poem around themes of warmth, light, and proximity. The verses begin with a gentle, introspective tone, inviting readers to contemplate their own moments of closest contact with others.

Mid Section
As the poem progresses to its mid-section, Choi introduces contrasts—coolness following warmth, distance following closeness. This juxtaposition deepens the reader’s understanding of ‘touch’ as a transient, often fleeting experience. The poet’s use of vivid imagery here paints a complex picture of human interactions, reflecting on how they can be both deeply fulfilling and painfully ephemeral.

Concluding Section
The conclusion of the poem brings a reflective and somewhat melancholic tone. Choi ponders the inevitability of parting and the solitude that follows intimate moments. This section often leaves readers with a poignant sense of longing and the bittersweet nature of memory and loss. The language here is particularly resonant, aiming to evoke a visceral response from the reader as they reflect on their own experiences of connection and isolation.

In-depth Analysis

Stanza 1 —

  • Imagery and Syntax: The poem begins with a delicate structure, short lines that hint at the fragile nature of human connection. Choi uses simple, clear imagery to evoke a sense of intimacy that is almost tangible.
  • Diction: The choice of words is gentle and precise, with each term carefully selected to enhance the emotional weight of the verse.

Stanza 2 —

  • Figurative Language: Metaphors of nature and celestial bodies dominate this stanza, comparing emotional closeness to astronomical events. This not only elevates the poem’s thematic depth but also enriches its lyrical quality.
  • Contrast: The shift from warmth to coolness in imagery reflects the thematic contrasts of closeness and distance, highlighting the transient nature of human connections.

Stanza 3 —

  • Symbolism: The use of symbols such as ‘the sun’ and ‘orbit’ continues, reinforcing the poem’s exploration of cycles—both celestial and personal. These symbols serve as anchors, drawing parallels between cosmic patterns and human relationships.
  • Structure: The stanza’s structure grows increasingly fragmented, mirroring the emotional fragmentation the speaker feels as the poem progresses.

Stanza 4 —

  • Tone: The tone shifts towards a more introspective and somber reflection. The use of darker, more somber diction reflects the poem’s exploration of solitude and the aftermath of intimacy.
  • Pacing: The pacing slows, allowing the reader to dwell on the impact of ‘touch’ and its lingering emotional residue.

Poetic Devices used in Perihelion: A History of Touch

DeviceExample from PoemEffect
MetaphorComparing proximity to ‘perihelion’Enhances the thematic significance of closeness in relationships.
ImageryDescriptions of celestial movementsEvokes visual and emotional responses, connecting the vastness of space to personal experience.
Alliteration“Proximity pulses with potential”Creates a musical quality that emphasizes the beauty and danger of closeness.
AssonanceUse of repeated soft vowel soundsContributes to a melodic quality that softens the tone and enhances readability.
SymbolismThe sun as a symbol of warmth and lifeDeepens the meaning of emotional warmth and enlightenment in relationships.
PersonificationGiving human-like qualities to celestial bodiesMakes the cosmos relatable and reflects human emotions through universal elements.
ContrastJuxtaposition of warmth and coolnessHighlights the dualities in human relationships and the complexities of emotional experiences.
AnaphoraRepetition of “We are” at the beginning of linesBuilds rhythm and emphasizes the collective human experience.
EnjambmentBreaking of lines mid-thoughtReflects the suddenness of emotional changes and the unpredictability of relationships.
IronyThe closeness in ‘perihelion’ leading to eventual separationReflects the ironic nature of intense relationships that often lead to profound separations.

Perihelion: A History of Touch – FAQs

What is the main theme of ‘Perihelion: A History of Touch’?
The main theme of the poem is the paradox of human intimacy; it explores how the closest connections between people can also lead to profound feelings of separation and loss. The poem uses the astronomical concept of perihelion to metaphorically discuss the cycles of closeness and distance in relationships.

How does Franny Choi use imagery in the poem?
Franny Choi employs vivid imagery related to celestial bodies and natural phenomena to draw parallels between the universe’s grandeur and personal human experiences. This imagery helps to evoke emotions and underscore the themes of intimacy and detachment.

What poetic devices are prominent in ‘Perihelion: A History of Touch’?
The poem utilizes a variety of poetic devices including metaphor, symbolism, personification, and contrast. These devices enrich the text, providing deeper layers of meaning and enhancing the emotional resonance of the poem.

Can you explain the significance of the title ‘Perihelion’?
‘Perihelion’ refers to the point in the orbit of a planet or other celestial body where it is closest to the sun. In the poem, it symbolizes the peak of intimacy and connection, highlighting the thematic focus on the fleeting nature of such moments in human relationships.

How does the structure of the poem affect its meaning?
The structure of “Perihelion: A History of Touch” shifts from cohesive and compact to increasingly fragmented. This progression mirrors the emotional journey of the speaker, from moments of close connection to feelings of isolation and separation, effectively conveying the poem’s exploration of relational dynamics.

Perihelion: A History of Touch Study Guide

Identify and list all the poetic devices used in the following verse from “Perihelion: A History of Touch”:

In this orbit, we find
our brief warmth, fleeting
as we spin away into darkness,
our backs to the sun, remembering the light.


  • Metaphor: The entire verse serves as a metaphor for human relationships, comparing them to celestial orbits.
  • Imagery: “brief warmth,” “spin away into darkness,” and “remembering the light” vividly paint the emotional and physical sensations associated with closeness and separation.
  • Personification: The sun is given human-like qualities related to memory and emotional warmth.
  • Symbolism: “Darkness” and “light” symbolize the emotional states of loneliness and happiness, respectively.
  • Contrast: The contrast between warmth/light and darkness effectively highlights the poem’s theme of the fleeting nature of intimate moments.

This exercise encourages students to closely read and interpret the text, enhancing their understanding of poetic techniques and their impact on the reader’s experience.