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Saturday, January 6. 2007
Arms and the Boy
Let the boy try along this bayonet-blade
How cold steel is, and keen with hunger of blood;
Blue with all malice, like a madman's flash;
And thinly drawn with famishing for flesh.
Lend him to stroke these blind, blunt bullet-heads
Which long to muzzle in the hearts of lads.
Or give him cartridges of fine zinc teeth,
Sharp with the sharpness of grief and death.
For his teeth seem for laughing round an apple.
There lurk no claws behind his fingers supple;
And God will grow no talons at his heels,
Nor antlers through the thickness of his curls.
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If war corrupts youthful innocence with its unnaturalness, menaces and even tempts, is Owen saying that violence is a learned/ imposed behavior men teach and draft boys to engage in? What does this say about the dual nature of man inherent within us from conception, in boys who become men who would war? (As an aside, and everybody here will disagree with me and maybe I shouldn’t write this but virtual tomatoes aren’t difficult to clean up, so, I’m going to say that this is a homoerotic piece. Owen describes the implements of war almost as devices of a cruel lover to be, with strong overtones of older man-mentor inducting supple youth into a world of sin and hard violence from his natural state of grace.)
Anti-war lit is always so powerful for good reason. Wonder if post WWI writings on the horrors of the trenches contributed to the reluctance to take on Hitler earlier and more forcibly?
"Arms and the Boy" has two meanings- that of the tools of war presented to a youth and also that of the boy's embrace by an older man- a hard, evil one who would hurt, kill or corrupt him.
Violence always has an erotic component, from a depth psychological standpoint. Friends have confided to me that they have gotten erections when shooting large game - and these are normal, straight, non-sadistic fellows. War as lover is a not-unusual poetic image.
To call the poem homoerotic is reductionistic - tho it does have some homoerotic-tinged imagery I guess. Any friend of Sassoon learned something about homosexuality, for sure.
Don't you think that the older malicious Man/Beast with designs on the boy and his innocence is a horned and taloned Satan?
Owen was gay, btw.
I know - probably. But he was young. The question at hand is whether it's a homoerotic poem, using war imagery - or a war poem, using erotic imagery.
Not that it matters - I think it's powerful.
A favorite poet of mine. But in my sheltered English girls' school when we read the WWI poets for a year and discussed them we never once mentioned his sexual orientation, tho I remember discussing themes of seduction, youth being corrupted and betrayed by age, a war waged by middle aged power brokers with the bodies of idealistic young men, eucharistic themes of this body broken for us, the bonds between men who have faced death together, bonds as sacred as those more usual poetic topics of romantic love and natural beauty...We talked about the generation of English women who grew old alone because their sweethearts and husbands died in that war. We talked about how devoted the young Wilfrid was as an officer to his men, and we didn't waste much time speculating about whom he might have been attracted to or not...We, in our cloister (literally), were taught to honor and remember young men who grew up writing poetry and brooding over a landscape taking up arms, serving their country, looking out for their comrades, without a grumble or drop of cowardice. In short, we were taught to honor ordinary men facing extraordinary danger with courage and heart. Not many draft dodgers in that generation! Owen volunteered as did the best and the brightest of the day.
)ne great grandfather served over in France despite (because of?) having six children, and ended up doing something with the White Russians after WWI (we just found some medals and things from the early twenties clearing out a house after a family death). No poems, tho.
For a female response to the Great War, and its aftermath, try the Russian Acmeist poet, Anna Akhmatova. Living thru the Revolution, Stalin's purges, losing everyone, she lyrically captures the heart of love and loss, pity in a pitiless age, etc. Probably better in Russian, but even in translation she is fabulous!
I admit I am not familiar with the poetry of Wilfred Owens. I guess luck does shine on me from time to time.
I won't bother Wiki or Google to tell me whatever they might about Wilfred Owens, it's not worth the time.
I mean here's an entire poem, it ain't got one mention of a ho or a 9mm bust'n a cap. What's all that about? I don't see bitch mentioned one time or anaconda time anywhere in the rhyme. Owens be freak'n bad.
They fought for their country, in those godawful trenches, and wrote great poetry, so whatever else there is about them can't be anything but secondary.
"All Quiet on the Western Front" was on cable early this morn--great film made in 1930. You could sure see, from the film, why it was popular to appease Hitler during that decade, as C points out. The "lost generation" art was certainly powerful on the war's horror & futility.
But the futility part came later, when Treaty of Versailles and League of nations all failed, and the war came again. Not until WWII made "the Great war" into "WWI" did it become a futility which utterly unjustified the sacrifice.
So, had there been no WWII, then the Great War had a chance to be what it was said to be during the fighting and on up to Hitler's ascendance: the "war to end all wars".
Sort of akin to Vietnam, psychologically, how it's often seen as an unmitigated disaster, a view which forgets that the intent was the political salvation of the hundreds of millions of people in a corner of a continent under attack, and that the war was something else first, before it became what it was last.
I'll take Barney Frank's favorite poets for $500.
I guess I'm just not cosmopolitan enough to appreciate the nuances of this wonder piece.
I better stick to Huck Finn and People magazine.
Barney sure is trying hard to shut down Fox News' criticism of Barney. So far he has tried to beat up three of their top dawgs--O'Reilly, Chris Wallace, and Neal Cavuto. What a turkey this congress is gonna be, feh.
Habu is a closet....poet, but he don't know it.
Halfway done taking down the tree. What a pain - and it's 65 degrees outside up here. I should be putting the tomatoes in.
Just about every fourth year, the peach country just to my west around Fredericksburg (birthplace of Admiral Nimitz) gets fooled into an early bloom, and then nailed by a late freeze. This's gonna be one of those years, I'm afraid.
Retriever, you could probably do an image search (google images, or ask.com images) of, say, "British combat decorations" or somesuch, and find identifying pictures of your ancestor's articles--be interesting, and heck, it'd sure make him feel good to know you did it.
Palm trees in Maine aside, I still don't like Al Gore very much
Simply astounding. One mention of homoerotica has everybody scrambling for the exits. The fact that Owen was gay says nothing about his brave service in the war, but of course this poem does not honor service, only decry the evil of war. To point out that much of Owen’s literary genius, to include this poem, had strong homosexual overtones is not reductionist nor secondary. The theme of this terrific poem is clearly anti-war, and is one upon which only a few of you elaborate. But the interesting metaphysical argument Owen makes- that of the corruption of youth by adulthood or the devil which stands in contrast to the belief in the in-born dual nature of man and original sin- and one which C mentions first and foremost is not discussed by any of you.
More importantly, the device that Owen chooses to use in conveying his theme is obviously one of violent (gay, menacing) seduction. To overlook the (admittedly embedded but not too- all of his literati friends would have seen it instantly even if British girl schools later in the 20th century would feign ignorance and “clean” it up, but for much of the century homosexuality was always a double entendre and not openly spoken of) device that Owen employs in “Arms and the Boy” would be almost like denying that Twain was using a prayer of hypocrisy to protest war in his Civil War era “A War Prayer” or perhaps some other heterosexual sensual metaphor another poet might use.
Why is device not just a throwaway secondary consideration? Because, otherwise, a poet could just repeat that war is evil, violent and wrong twelve times over in three quatrains. Boring. Literary device and image are the bone and sinew to thematic blood. This is a strong poem about the corrupting influence of war and its lurid rape-seduction-death of beautiful innocent youth. And it is not about the glories of enlisting in the armed forces or serving God and country, no matter how eloquently some of you wax on about it. To understand Owen’s poem the way it was written does not dishonor him, his service or his powerful writing. On the contrary, it would be to not deny who he was and what he lived and believed.
Who we are is far more than our sexual identity, thank God. Owen's greatness lies in his capturing the horror and pity of war, the waste and cruelty of it. Call it cleaning it up, if you like, but tho his metaphors of the devil and seduction are powerful, I don't really believe that Owen's sexual affiliation is a central issue.
In my own vocation (which I do not write about here) I do not inflict my own sexual orientation, preferences or lusts on anyone. Not because my prudish upbringing made me a prude, but because sex is supposed to be private. It is vulgar to rub other people's noses in one's own business. I would be appalled if anyone ever considered my own sexual orientation to define me. We humans are mostly animal, and so we cannot do without sex. But it doesn't define who we are. Thank God.
I agree that this poem and his other work are not about the glory of patriotism or serving God and country, but then again most real heroes rarely blow their own horns. Just because you don't say or perhaps son't even realize that you exemplify much that is noble and true, doesn't take it away. Of course he wasn't writing recruiting pitches. But that doesn't stop us admring his courage and his patriotism under fire. So admirable. His men didn't want to frag him, even tho they were mired in a horrible place.
Also, for the record, I have to say, having grown up in England, that the peculiar social climate of boys' boarding schools and kids' experiences there give a gay flavour to much imagery used or alluded to by many British authors, gay or straight. But you can't apply militant Yank political cant to it. It didn't mean the same in cultural context there and then as it does here and now.
I think I shall be sick if anyone tries to claim Owen as a Gay Bard. It revolts me when people politicize a personal identity, and end up dividing our humanity. Like when they call people African American, Asian American, Italian American, everything except the only important part which is American. Give Owen his due as a haunting and haunted recorder of the Great War. Poet soldier. End of story.
I agree with X that you can't separate the poetry from the soldiering, as they amplify, verify, & explain each the other.
But the guy's sexual nature doesn't need to be a part of that relationship. It can be, of course, but it doesn't have to be, as it doesn't actually pertain to the central fact that he was a soldier of a particular war event (that thing we think of when we hear "WWI"), and he wrote "this" about it.
If the "this" was unremarkable, or even if it was technically good poetry about the war but the writer hadn't had such experience in the maw of his topic, then he would not be the icon, or even be remembered by now (sad to say for all but a few long-ago heroes).
Same with, say, Abraham Lincoln. The Gay Lincoln meme is so off the track of what Lincoln was all about, it's just dumb.
C: You weren't bothering me!
To all: Wish we could have this level of discussion on every Saturday verse. Excellent fun.
OK, then, BD. Could I post one last comment?
Xxx/retriever, who cares about Owen being a gay Bard or not? This isn’t about multiculturalism or a PC lurch by me, but good try (you get a B minus for effort!) Owen could have been a thoroughly hetero man and still have written this piece the way he did. But the point here is how he chose to portray the evil of war- that is of an implied Beelzebub chickenhawk steel war-machine man/Beast who embraces innocent boys, luring and ravishing them to sin and their violent end. I’ll not bother going through this piece line by line, because it’s fairly evident. You could pretend the older lascivious pedophilic homosexual Devil or predatory adulthood isn’t implied and choose to view this as the Devil/war machine tempting and killing youth, which is plausible, but don’t deny the Devil or sinful condition of adulthood here! (I personally think that would be an incomplete understanding of the vehicle Owen is using, like going to the Louvre and with one’s back turned to her, putting on dark sunglasses and using a smudged mirror to view the Mona Lisa.)
At any rate, you can claim I dishonor Owen somehow by seeing his poem in this light, but I think you’ve only managed to twist things backwards. Actually, I had no idea of his supposed sexual predilections until after reading the piece and forming a strong impression, and then got curious and looked up his bio. I read lots of poetry and don’t see [HOMOSEXUALITY] everywhere or even in the vast majority of poems. I don’t even look under my bed at night for queers or for your other hyphenated peoples.
You can’t tell me with all of the literature you’ve read and pondered that you think writers don’t infuse their work with sexual metaphor and often as primary vehicles. That would be plain crazy and, uh, not penetrating analysis. And, Buddy, when Lincoln writes a brilliant homoerotic address to the nation, only then would I consider his sexuality one way or another. I really don’t understand the relevance of your point. This poem is amazing because it works on several levels with hard seductive imagery of the arms made tantalizing and terrible and contrasted to the suppleness and sweetness of the boy about to be corrupted to an unnatural state of sin, death and, I suppose, damnation. A straight man liking this poem only exhibits good taste and perhaps a subconscious revulsion (which Owen intended to elicit) to the idea of an innocent youth about to be seduced and taken so.
All of the above is simply about trying to understand, to get at, Owen’s intended imagery and message, not to pass judgment on his personal life. But by going into reflexive denial over Owen’s approach to this poem and toward a good deal of his writing IS passing judgment on him (and me!) in a prudish Victorian way. And, still, nobody discussed what they think Owen was saying about sin and evil. Does he see them as inherent tendencies only manifested in adulthood or as coming from as an external satanic influence? Is the state of man, when young, naturally so pure, peaceful and unbeguiling as he seems to be saying?
PS: "But you can't apply militant Yank political cant to it." (xx) Uh, what??? I had two British English profs who would not only have agreed with my take but who would have taken it further and much more explicitly. We were always either blushing or moved to greater understanding in their classes.
I'm not quite sure what the point of contention actually is, but it sure is fun reading the cases. Good writing!
Sick all day, kiddie bug, so please excuse my cantankerousness yesterday.
On reflection, and given that I agree with the majority of what you say C, I think I still have (creature of my upbringing that I am) a don't ask, don't tell approach. In other words, I wish that every teenaged boy or girl thinking of enlisting should read Owen just as they should watch Platoon and Saving Private Ryan. To think about what they are about to do. But to introduce it as gay poetry (if in fact it is that) is to limit its potential audience.
Although it is hugely entertaining to ponder imagery and relate it to aspects of the author, real or imagined, once you label it gay poetry, you effectively make it off limits for a huge percentage of the population. Their loss, you will say. My point is that there are times when to draw attention to a person's orientation is to kneecap their effectiveness in the real world whether they are a poet or a soldier or a corporate pirate or whatever. There are still very good arguments for not outting people, even after they are dead.
I am still not sure myself that Owen was gay,and not really sure if I even care, but that is probably my ignorance or denial. My point is, if someone can elegize doomed youth and target militant evil so powerfully isn't it better to leave the magic of his imagery to work unconsciously on people? Rather than label it and thereby mark it off-limits...
To get a dog to swallow a pill you usually have to disguise it with peanut butter.
Maybe an example. In a former church we attended, the place was topheavy with mediocre clergy who told the congregation exactly what they wanted to hear, and who lived like fat cats. There was one woman priest who was not a stellar preacher, but at least fervent and a devoted pastor. Everybody loved her, and hoped that she would be the one to call when someone was in hospital. She was straight. THere was another priest who was equally fervent, way more evangelical, funny, eloquent, and quite brilliant at times. The only good preacher in the place. Altho he was open about being gay with people he knew well in the congregation, the vast majority of the apathetic congregation neither knew or cared who he slept with. They were quite happy whenever he was preaching, as they knew they would be entertained and edified and sent home with some spiritual meat and drink to digest instead of crowd pleasing cotton candy. But if he had hammered on about being gay, and beat people over the head with it, at least 80% of the congregation would have wanted him to leave. Discretion can be the better part of valor. I know he was an agent of God's love in the lives of many people too ignorant and too prejudiced, at that point in their lives, to have otherwise benefitted from his ministry.
But dismiss all this if you like. My temperature is still over 100. On the subject of English professors, my favorite one in grad school was constantly tracing homoerotic themes in his courses, quite brilliantly. But a pregnant friend of mine and I eventually tired of it, and prepared a joint line by line analysis of the day's text focussing on images of fecundity and fruit, ripe and rotten, etc. We were both rather tired of being called "breeders" by the gay males in the class, so gave them a taste of their own medicine...Nothing like lingering over poetic allusions to feminine anatomy to make a daring gay professor squirm....
As far as what Owen is saying about sin, that is the most important aspect of his work, and you are right to remind us to pay attention to it... "what anthems for those who die like cattle..." Sin is his chief subject. Satanic influences, the corruption and hardheartedness of age, greed and ignorance carelessly sacrificing young lives, I could go on and on. Sin in us, around us, as well as in others. The worm at the core of the apple. This would fit in with his elegiac approach towards doomed youth. The apple looks fine initially, as the maggot doesn't hurt it until it grows bigger.
If I seem impatient with discussion of Owen's personal life, it is just that none of us can hone and perfect our private lives the way we can a poem. Probably all of us have had moments of eloquence when we have moved or cheered or inspired people who would have despised us had they known too much about our personal lives. Familiarity breeds contempt. Remember how Jesus' neighbors and relatives ran him out of town. They knew too much about the real guy...
So, although I naturally am curious about people whose work I admire, I remind myself that they too have a right to some privacy. Is this prudish of me? Perhaps...I think my personal weakness with literary and historical heroes is to want to idealize them. For the record, Lawrence of Arabia will always be my hero, regardless of his personal life. The sanitized Hollywood version of him that captured my imagination (and who could resist Peter O'Toole?!) is probably mocked by people who know more sordid details, but is it so dreadful really to idealize people? I think it inspires us to emulate the best things about them...
I am still flummoxed by all the stuff about homoerotic themes in LIncoln. Guess I missed something during the last 18 years of childrearing and work and church. Have to go investigate that...
Off I go, outwardly the same dull churchmouse suburban matron, but mind buzzing with interest again. Same old duck pond to swim in and quack on tomorrow, but things to think about...
You lose me, x/xx. I didn't characterize Owen's poem primarily as homo. First, I brought up other metaphysical dimensions to it (which no one addressed) but then described what seemed to be his chief device to convey them. You only reacted over and over again in denial of the latter.
Whether one is repressed or frustrated doesn’t make suppressing an author’s intent valid. If Owen’s piece on a not so submerged level is, indeed, sexual in addition to the metaphysical (and with nobody giving any specifics or proof to the contrary), are we to avert our eyes in polite denial? Whatever for? Should we spit out food after we chew it some? Are we to laud anorectic analysis with no full-bodied enjoyment? Poor Owen and others, if we are only to look at their literary product with puritanical blinders on, because then it becomes more about OUR prissy sensibilities and hang-ups than about another's experience, artistry or philosophy.
Moral high-handedness and authoring essays as Defender of Goodness doesn’t make for good lit analysis- just makes one feel good and apparently look good to some others. But it enlightens, explains and celebrates not one little bitty whit. Argue the points I make, but don’t set up MC (morally correct) strawmen about Owen’s service about which no one said anything derogatory or about "militant Yank cant" which comes out of left field and disavows the Greek love-mentoring man-boy poet experience of the luminous writers of his day. History, my dear, is not cant. Literature, xx, is best savored when not censored for political-moral reasons.
Last, I don't see how false or real outings of Lincoln or others figure into poetic devices that Owen uses to great effect. Why can't people stay to specific issues and instances of a piece of literature and honor the real life circumstances surrounding them? Re the loaded term "right to privacy" wrt to poets and authors: this poet wrote poems for public consumption, so why would it be incumbent upon us NOT to understand them in terms of an author's life, experience, outlook and literary devices used? Are we the high decorum police and censors of talented poets? Are we to deny them as we see fit?
Last, and I hope this is somewhere in the Bible, suburban matrons don't have to quash the real to deal... or at least I hope to God not!
Please get well, btw :) Meanwhile, I have abused my one "last comment" here
"Greek love mentoring man-boy poet experience of the luminous writers of his day?" Afraid such things interest me not in the slightest. Too much room for exploitation.
I don't write total strangers all that Owen's metaphors stir up, not because I am some uptight twit, but because one doesn't elaborate the kind of fears, ambivalence, confusion, etc. they create. The stranger in the movie theater may see one weep but you don't tell the person all the reasons why it makes you weep.
I do sympathize with your frustration that the stuff you cared the most about, the metaphysical issues, got short shrift in this particular set of postings. Life's not fair. As I said, I agreed with most of your observations and saw little reason to paraphrase them or say other than that I mostly agreed.
Was reflecting this afternoon on the Victorian literary traditions in which Owen was raised, in which seduction was code for rape. It's a code not as prevalent today. But I think that if you are going to bring up the sexual stuff, maybe that's one of the reason people like me are more skittish than usual about looking at it. Because, yeah, war as lover is a common literary theme, but rape is more common than what modern people would consider seduction in wars. And as we are ceaselessly reminded, rape is about power not about sex.
Just because someone wrote things for public consumption, doesn't give anyone the right to be a voyeur into their private life. If you write here, I enjoy reading it and perhaps arguing with you, but without the wish to know about you or your life. I can appreciate the cleverness of your argument and disagree with a particular judgment of yours without needing to know anything about the person who wrote them. If I can learn something new about Owen or poetry or an intellectual or emotional blind spot of mine, if what any of us illumines any of our darkness a little, that is a gift.
The beauty of poetry is that it communicates so much with so few words. It stirs up a universe. As Blake said in another context, it makes it possible to "hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour." We both agree on that, I think,
"Whether one is repressed or frustrated doesn't make suppressing an author's intent valid"? You don't know me, and you don't know Owen's intent. We both appreciate his poetry, and we both see different things in it. I would hope that we could both remember that each can enlighten the other. I don't know what Owen's intent was and wouldn't presume to say I had the answer. I can only write about the effect it has on me and speculate about what he might have been trying to say, and relate it to what I know about him, the Great War, his peers.
I wouldn't presume to judge any man who died for his country while I am comfortable at home. But art has a moral impact on people, and it is not being morally highhanded to ponder that impact.
I am not a censor, and no one who knows me has ever called me a prude. We never draped the statues in my family's houses. I do not quash the real to deal, but I see nothing wrong with focussing on the words themselves, or the deeds, of an artist or a hero.
Those of us who have accomplished little by comparison ourselves must beware the occupational hazard of critics and collectors: dissecting and embalming things of beauty. Is there any more terribly lovely sight than those rows of framed glass cases of brilliant blue butterflies in Brazilian museums of natural history? All dead. But all pinned down and preserved and labelled precisely. Better to catch a glimpse of one live one...
All anyone like us who reads a good poem or sees a brave deed can do in response, actually, is to try and act morally in their own lives. To appreciate beauty without trying to make the world safer for it, is lazy. I have no illusions that any of my writing or actions will make even a ripple in the world, but it would be self-indulgent to wallow in reading poetry without asking "Does this wickedness he describes feel familiar? Am I this way? " I have no interest in belonging to the high decorum police or being a defender of goodness. Owen's poetry doesn't make anyone feel good, it wasn't intended to. Dulce et Decorum est puts the lie to---you know the rest. But I would hope that reading him would inspire all of us who are clods by comparison to behave more decently.
Any female like me who has lived in Greenwich Village and on Beacon Hill 20 years ago has seen more disgusting and lecherous behavior than most people, and had intimate conversations with people of every persuasion about topics that would make the proverbial sailor blush. ER personnel saying where they found guinea pigs...
Puritanical blinders have not been part of my daily armament. Although I suggest you go and re-read some Puritan authors and check out their journals, and not simply stereotype conscientious and passionate people who were better than you or I ever will be. This country could do with a few more real Puritans....
Enough from me. Thank you for wishing me well despite my crankiness. Now 102 temperature. More fun to think about poetry than my head and ears...To work tomorrow, heavily dosed, where nobody has ever heard of Wilfrid Owen..
Well, get well. I give up and will not discuss Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Canterbury Tales, or The Way of All Flesh here (HS freshman stuff), and that's a promise, since passages in them well up uncomfortable images and very probable sexual interps. Too bad many of us have had the misfortune of studying poets and authors in context of their times which, as some very bad teachers and profs told us, influenced to an extent what they wrote, as did their personal outlooks, politics, philosophy, childhood, friends and mentors and orientation. Pretty dumb, eh?
BUT, when you say "I wouldn't presume to judge any man who died for his country while I am comfortable at home," you are going in a strange direction, xx. To say such a thing would be to truncate all literary discussion, unless you mean this as a loaded, passive-aggressive way of saying that one is "judging" a man who served his country in wartime and harshly by mentioning the possibility or likelihood of his homosexual orientation. Anyway, in such an event, you would have 90% of professors, critics and the blogosphere to take on in Owen's case, and it's an unnecessary shot when you know that no denigration is intended, only explanation for his propensity to use homoerotic device. If you wish to deny his tendency to homoeroticism, then you're in a tiny minority of critics, which would be fine, except for the fact you offer no fact or position to support your take other than some kind of moral posturing. Poor Owen and other great writers. They are only to be considered hetero by moral default and their work asexual, if homosexuality dares rear its (ugly??) head. How dull and rude, really. I consider his words, too, xx. And they paint a powerful picture beyond their literal syllables.
If you consider W. Owen sullied by looking at his life and use of particular poetic devices, then I don't know what to say to you. I think him a genius and Bird Dog brilliant to post this viscerally strong anti-war piece (that said, I happen to believe in war...) And might I say this as someone whose family members served in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the Great War, WWII, etc. and as a wife of a career Army officer and as one who volunteered on behalf of service members ad nauseum for years? Yank, though, so sorry!
But I don't believe that, upon reading and interpreting this piece, I am morally bound to go out and perform some kind of civic or religious duty, as you seem to say is necessary. That's a new one on me. Further, you seem to be arguing for taking literary work on its isolated merits and as viewed by individuals without benefit of knowing background on the author, his or her experience, preferences and beliefs. And yet you tell us about your upper-class Brahmin, Bostonian, Ivy League family, elitist schooling, etc etc in many/ most? posts you make-- to help us understand you and what you write a little better, I suppose?
Maybe my family just be southern trailer trash, but I won't tell because I don't consider my comments on others' published literary work to be worthy of that much reflection :) But if I start writing as a lesbian, communist, born-again, Buddhist, populist or Greenie, you might wonder about my politics and orientation without being unduly prurient. If you don't, you'd be seriously uncurious.
You gals may get annoyed with one another, but you do bring out the best lit crit that way, and you're both very, very good, both in thought and its expression. I be impressed, and feel like something the cat drug up, by comparison. anyway, thanks for the good reading--it was a knife fight at the Algonquin round table.
Anonymous, you are exceedingly gracious.
Please allow me, x/x and anon, to correct my seriously dumb mistake: "incurious". Pretty funny to end on a made-up word, huh? (Attributable to my female heteronormative disinterest in precision, right? )
And x/x, please have the last word. Although we disagree on the validity of or need for lit critique and analysis, you make some impassioned points that are enjoyable to read. That you make them while in the throes of a high fever means you are a much better trooper than I!
Bird Dog, thanks for the cyber inches (feet?) of several “last” comments. And also to Buddy for being so nice about it all. Am too busy this week to comment, but look forward to reading everybody’s theses on the poem a few posts up :)
Correction no. 2: “Maybe my family just be southern trailer trash, *or maybe it not be*, but I won't tell either way because I don't consider my comments on others' published literary work to be worthy of that much reflection.”
Not with a bang, but a whimper...pun intended...
Thoughts straying more to global warming today as kids have been much upset by it. Not because the world as we know it will change, but because they are peeved at no snow...
Anyway,up at 5:15 to start making the porridge, wake up everybody for school. Temperature normal so no excuse not to go to work in a couple of hours. Can't do a Robert the Bruce with the porridge (his was cake, I know) so am distracted. Owen? Who he? The weekend's laundry awaits. The entire family played computer games all yesterday, ate leftover birthday cake instead of cooking meals while I was sick, and I am retrieving the permission slips they forgot to give me then...
One of my besetting sins is the periodic wail that rises silently in me "But I was made for higher things!" as I proceed now to my humdrum job that uses not an iota of my education or training, and that has nothing to do with the work I love.
One problem with doing the adult thing and supporting the family when it needs doing is that you mind goes soggy. At least mine has. I never use it any more in my work, and at home the rest of the family are mostly classical history and computer strategy geeks with Aspergers. The males are completely uninterested in literary discussion. So I am just plain rusty, and freely admit myself out maneuvred. This time...
Re: your sarky first paragraph, C. I in no way meant to suggest that people should not get great enjoyment about discussing such topics. Just as in youth we passed around the novels with the good bits, I revelled in things like the Song of Solomon, juicy myths, poems, stories.
It may be as simple as this: I read such stuff now and realize that I grow old (and can relate more to the "I should have been a pair of claws scuttling" sensibility of Eliot's that I so decried when I was a passionate babe.) It just depresses me in my middle aged doldrums to reflect too much on the passions of youth. My Achilles heel. But I know I am not alone in this.
Middle aged hetero men resort to gloating over porn etc. but middle aged hetero women who are not mutton dressed as lamb feel a certain sadness over their own lost powers of attraction, and get cranky that the world is only interested in sexy 19 year olds. My middle aged gay male friends who are not already settled down feel mostly as insecure as we middle aged matrons: wallflowers in a culture of predatory males of both persuasions who chiefly value youth and beauty. Those Greek dudes who so loved their boys treated their wives shabbily.
C, all of your points well taken. Confucius say (fond childhood memories of bad Chinese fortune cookie sayings) she who fence whilst feverish leave herself unguarded whilst swooping wildly...
On reflection, I think I just can't get as into discussing sexual themes today because I lack the emotional energy or heart. My poor shrink has a very dreary time of it as a result, no juicy tidbits to keep him awake....As I have drearily posted elsewhere in fits of loneliness and discouragement, in middle age much of my own efforts have gone into feeding the baby birds, trying not to peck everyone around me too savagely, and not just give up. So I tend to focus on themes of duty and salf-sacrifice, not because i think I am better but because one hopes to absorb them by osmosis.
Same reason I go to church. Not because I am holy, but because I need healing.
I read a poem and am transfixed by a metaphor, a beautiful or blinding image. God's light in the darkness or plain muddle of everyday life. Grateful for words I can repeat silently to myself as I scan a computer screen spreadsheet...
If I mention elements of my own personal history it is probably just a mix of stubborn pride in my heritage, laziness (gives people a quick way to ID my peculiar set of customs, values, prejudices, etc. so that they can immediately stop reading and go on to the next)...
Better stop, as older cat is knocking down valuables on top of the piano on her way to disciplining uppity new kitten who is retreating and making strange noises trying to hide on the piano strings underneath her...there's a metaphor for you!
Forgive the unsatisfactory response, domesticity swallowing me up again. The real reason there are so few decent female writers and poets who aren't wild dog alones--the ones who love and commit themselves to others rarely have a minute to concentrate. That doesn't make us better, it just makes us more distracted...
Two kids spectacular poets already (screwed up family not essential, but it helps!) but as a mom I pray daily that theirs be happier lives than Emily Dickinson's.
Wow - this has been a real pleasure. Thanks to all. We will not do a Walt Whitman on Saturday. Maybe something like Ogden Nash?