Writing on Women Writers

A site for college students to write about women writers.


Leave a comment

My Lifetime Between Great Hands

 

“I am in the world

to change the world

my lifetime

is to love to endure to suffer the music

to set its portrait

up as a sheet of the world…

and the child alive within the living woman, music of man,

and death holding my lifetime between great hands

the hands of enduring life

that suffers the gifts and madness of full life, on earth, in our time,

and through my life, through my eyes, through my arms and hands

may give the face of this music in portrait waiting for

the unknown person

held in the two hands, you.”

-Muriel Rukeyser; “Kathe Kollwitz” (pp. 1208)

The Longman Anthology of Women’s Literature

While reading this excerpt of Rukeyser ‘s poem, “Kathe Kollwitz”, I couldn’t help but picture a grieving military mother, mourning the loss of her child; perhaps her only child. The thought of a woman losing her own flesh and blood is a difficult one to completely grasp unless one has personally gone through the experience. However, the way that Rukeyser writes gives those lucky enough to avoid such an experience an opportunity to see through that perspective.  When analyzing this poem, I heard the voice of a mother in a sorrowful, prayer-like state, speaking openly to herself, and then to her deceased child. The first ellipsed section sounded like a sort of promise made by the mother, to carry on after her child’s death and “change the world”, using her tragedy as motivation, to display the wrongs happening around her in the form of a “portrait” or “sheet of the world”. The second part has more of a mournful, despairing tone, in which the mother describes how she must “suffer the gifts and madness of full life on earth” without her child, awaiting the day when she will be reunited with the “unknown person held in the two hands”.

Personally, I think it is amazing how so much power can be held in two little stanzas of poetry. You can delve so far into this text and begin discussions about loss,  unconditional  maternal love, and especially about the struggles of military families. It is so saddening to picture a mother having to bury her own child and this poem gives a voice to those women who have. Oftentimes, people picture mothers of deceased children as powerless, and expect them to simply give up on their own lives to resort to a lifetime of mourning. While this may be true for some mothers, I like that Rukseyer displayed the strong side of motherhood; not only did she emphasize the pain and suffering that this mother was experiencing, she showed how the mother was channeling her pain into actions towards changing the world in the name of her child-so they would not have to die for naught. I think I was overwhelmed the most by the idea of the child living through the mother although they have passed and she now must go on living, caring the burden of her loss while using her body, mind, and soul to criticize and mend the world she lives in.

I found this video about two moms of deceased soldiers who are using their grief to make a difference:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJnEg_4VQPI

I think the group that presented this text was correct for including the portrait “Woman with Dead Child” by Kathe Kollwitz because it is a visual representation of all the emotion that Rukeyser was trying to get across (see below). This drawing, made in 1903, was the inspiration for Rukeyser’s poem. The most striking thing about Kollwitz’s work is the non-human appearance of the mother. She is cradling her child and buring her face into his chest. Although the viewer cannot directly see the mother’s face, the parts that are visible are haunting, and monster-like. Also, the size difference between the mother and her child (ex: her leg is the same size of the child’s whole body) creates the  sense that the child, although grown, is still a child to their mother. I think this can apply to all moms; they always see their children as babies, even when they’re grown with their own children.

“Woman with Dead Child”- Kathe Kollwitz

I really enjoyed this poem, even though the subject matter was pretty heavy. I think that military families and their daily struggles are things that need to be talked about; and not only talked about, but supported. For a mother, nothing can compare to losing your child, and thousands of military mothers, fathers, and families go through exactly that every year. But even through this immense loss, there is a silver lining of sorts. Through this loss, there is a common thread that ties all human beings. We all experience love, loss, and grief. And the love of a mother for her child transcends race, ethinicity, origin, etc. I think it is through these experiences that we can become closer in a worldwide sense, and resurface the humanity that we somehow lost along the way.


2 Comments

“Standing Female Nude” by Carol Ann Duffy

Unknown-2 carol-ann-duffy-portrait

Carol Ann Duffy is one of the most important contributors to contemporary British poetry. Duffy is known for granting voices to a wide range of women with varying tones. Oftentimes, her poems take on the form of a monologue and cover themes such as the representation of reality, the construction of self, gender issues, contemporary culture, varying forms of alienation, oppression and social inequality. While she is primarily known for her unique poetry, Duffy has also written numerous plays that have premiered in London. “Standing Female Nude” is conveyed from the perspective of an unfulfilled female nude model. “Standing Female Nude” was the title poem of Duffy’s first collection in 1985, which won the Scottish Arts Council Award.

In the first stanza, the model introduces herself as an objectified woman. The model narrates,”Belly nippe arse in the window light, he drains the colour from me” illuminating the artist’s transformation of her image to someone truly unrecognizable, which further emphasizes her objectification. The narrator continues, “I shall be represented analytically and hung in great museums” (334). In this line, Duffy blatantly highlights the model’s objectification to the reader. The model’s figure has been altered to please society. This idea can be supported by the final line of the poem, “It does not look like me” (335). According to the model, the artist procures some aspects of her figure; however, manipulates the parts he does not like to formulate a work of art. The model ascends into further detail of her objectification when she narrates, “He possesses me on canvas as he dips the brush repeatedly into the paint” (334-335). The speaker does not have any power or control over how she will be portrayed. Through his painting, the model believes that the artist took ownership of her body. The model continues, “When it’s finished he shows me proudly, lights a cigarette” (335). Although the artist and the model are both benefitting form each other to an extent, the artist carries himself in a manner that suggests his superiority to her. The model also states, “These artists take themselves too seriously,” further emphasizing his feelings of superiority over her (335). The model recognizes and detests the artist’s arrogance, concluding the monologue with “I say Twelve francs and get my shawl. It does not look like me” (335). The artist molded the model’s figure into an piece of art that would be aesthetically pleasing to his audience. However, at the conclusion of the session, the model feels out of control and objectified by a man that believes himself superior to her. The model states, “They call it Art,” utilizing irony to emphasize her disgust with the artist’s objectification of her identity (334). Throughout the monologue, the model questions the true meaning of art.

Throughout her poem, Duffy incorporates Marxist philosophies to further enhance the class struggle in France during this time. The insight behind Marxism was philosopher and communist Karl Marx. According to Peter Hayes, “In the Communist Manifesto, Marx presented a polarized view of classes under capitalism…the bourgeoisie owned the means of production, the proletariat did not; the bourgeoisie were employers, the proletariat were their employees. Not only were the bourgeoisie and proletariat diametrically opposed to each other, but other classes were subsumed within this clash of opposites” (100). The model begins by stating, “Six hours like this for a few francs” implying that she feels underpaid for her circumstances and does not enjoy her work (334). The model refers to herself as a “river whore,” implying that she has sold her body in multiple ways (334). Furthermore, states that both the artist and herself are using each other to an extent. The artist uses the model to build a reputation for himself by stating, “Both poor, we make our living how we can” (335). The artist and the model are in a sense collaborating to create a work of art for the Bourgeoisie. The narrator further perpetuates this idea with, “He is concerned with volume, space. I with the next meal,” further insinuating her low socioeconomic status and the necessity of her work for survival. (334) When the Artist states, “You’re getting thin, Madame, this is not good” (334). he emphasizes her low social status. Although the narrator does not enjoy her line of work, she must sell herself in order to survive. As stated above, both the artist and model are benefitting from each other’s work; however, the artist recognizes that he has more potential of success than the model. The artist hopes to climb the social latter and acquire a higher socioeconomic status in society.

At the conclusion of the third and beginning of the fourth stanza, Duffy wrote, “His name is Georges. They tell me he’s a genius” (334). In Angelica Michelis and Antony Rowland’s book ‘Choosing Tough Words’: The Poetry of Carol Ann Duffy, “Deryn Rees-Jones suggests that the culprit here is the french artist Georges Braque. Her interpretation can be supported with reference to the last stanza: when the model asks why he paints, the artist replies ‘Because I have to. There’s no choice’, which chimes with Braque’s statement that ‘I did not decide to become a painter, any more than I decided to breathe” (14). Although many critics have attempted to discover which Braque painting Duffy refers to, the most common assumption would be his Cubist painting “Large Nude” (1908). Because the Braque utilized a Cubist style to create his modernist painting, the conclusion of Duffy’s poem can be considered from a different angle. When the model states, “It does not look like me,” the model may have felt critical of her own body. Furthermore, the style the artist utilized to capture her figure would easily make her body appear unrecognizable. Today, the painting remains in a private collection.

Large nude.08

I found a collection of discussion questions to help you further solidify your understanding of Duffy’s poem:

http://www.morelearning.net/KS5/CarolAnnDuffy/Standing%20Female%20Nude%201.pdf

I also included a video from a 2013 Dove campaign pertaining to body image and how women view themselves as opposed to how others view them:

http://www.dailylife.com.au/health-and-fitness/dl-wellbeing/the-body-image-video-every-woman-should-watch-20130417-2hz3v.html

Works Cited:

Duffy, Carol Ann. Standing Female Nude. The Longman Anthology of Women’s Literature. Mary K. DeShazer. 1st Edition. New York: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc, 2001. 16-72. Print.

Hayes, Peter. “Marx’s Analysis of the French Class Structure.”Theory and Society 22.1 (1993): 99-123. Print.

Michelis, Angelica, and Antony Rowland. The Poetry of Carol Ann Duffy: ‘Choosing Tough Words’., 2003. Print.


Leave a comment

Homage to my Hips

lucille-clifton

Lucille Clifton was born in Depew, New York to Samuel Louis and Thelma Moore Sayles. The exciting thing about Clifton is that she attended Fredonia State Teachers College in 1955 and is now an alumni. She once said “I am a Black women and I write from that experience, I do not feel inhibited or bound by what I am.” She has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and is the recipient of many other honors, including a 1999 Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award. As said in the Anthology many of the poems that the book focuses on are ones written about her great-great-grandmother, who was sold into slavery from her home in West Africa in 1830. The Anthology also states that the poems pay homage to the “mother-daughter” connection.

In “Homage to My Hips” Clifton is creating a sense of symbolism with her hips.

lucille_clifton_october_19751

Homage to My Hips
these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!
This poem expresses how the hips, or the person this poem was intended to speak about does not like to be restrained or controlled by others. “they don’t like to be held back/these hips have never been enslaved”. I think Lucille wrote this poem in terms of her own hips. While writing this poem she may have thought about her great-great grandmother’s enslavement when she was kidnapped and wrote this poem expressing that she has escaped that challenge and does not expect to relive the life her relative had to. This poem talks about the hips being strong and independent. “they go where they want to go/ they do what they want to do”(line 9).  She is able to catch the symbolism and also the reality of the human body. In the poem she speaks of her own body and accepts herself as she was made and turns it into a positive. She portrays the body as a vehicle of pleasure. Yet she lets it be known that her body is her own and it is hers only. Since hips are associated with childbearing and are a very feminine feature, one can also gather that they are being used as a symbol for women. So, the ideas Clifton is bringing to light can be applied to all women, not just herself specifically, or women who are larger in size.  She repeats the word “hip(s)” throughout the poem, showing she is not ashamed of them, and showing the importance of them. “These hips are big hips/they need space to/ move around in./they don’t fit into little petty places”(lines 1-4)—This is one of the more pertinent ideas in the poem.

Clifton, Lucille. The Longman Anthology of Women’s Literature. Ed. Mary K. DeShazer. New York: Addison Wesley Educational Publishers Inc, 2001. 818. Print.

“Homage to My Hips.” Poetry Foundation. PoetryFoundation.org. 2013. Web.  26 April 2013.

 


Leave a comment

Cultural Identities

   

Many times when a woman writes, her stories go beyond the issues of women’s inequality and their struggles to find acceptance in society; their writing becomes a symbol and inspiration for those who are of  different nationalities and come from different cultural backgrounds. Michelle Cliff is a prime example of a famous women writer who takes true-life experiences and implements them in such a way that forces her audience to be aware of how one’s culture can affect their entire lifestyle.

Born in Jamaica, Cliff was a light-skinned Creole and a lesbian.  Her autobiography entitled If I Could Write This in Fire, I Would Write This in Fire, explores her identity as a Jamaican woman and uses the diversity of her and her ancestors in order to investigate and criticize the events that led to their oppression by the “white” society.  Cliff combines elements of history and fiction to represent the suppression and realism of her cultural identity.  Her reinvention of history through fiction can be seen as Cliff’s attempt to have her audience walk in the shoes of the oppressed and to peak into history through their eyes.

While explaining the roles of the “white” teachers during her secondary schooling, Cliff writes in her story:

“One teacher went so far as to tell us many people thought Jamaicans lived in trees and we had to show these people they were mistaken.)  In short, we felt insufficient to judge the behavior of these women. The English ones (who had the corner on power in the school) had come all this way to teach us.  Shouldn’t we treat them as the missionaries they were certain they were? The creole Jamaicans had a different role: they were passing on to those of us who were light-skinned the creole heritage of collaboration, assimilation, loyalty to our betters.  We were expected to be willing subjects in this outpost of civilization.” (919)

In my opinion, I could pick up a strong sense of sarcasm while reading this specific passage.  Cliff was light-skinned, but yet her “white” elders still demanded and expected behavior from her and her peers that reflected the utmost respect; but not respect based off of positive morals and excellence in being a role-model, but respect based solely off of the fact that their culture was deemed to be the “right” way of living.  Throughout Cliff’s story, she expresses the fact that her cultural identity had a significant impact on not only her writing, but her life as a whole.

Just like Cliff, Shara McCallum expressed much of the same ideas of cultural identity.  McCallum also was born in Jamaica and used her heritage as a source of influence for her writings.  During an interview, McCallum states that she considers herself to be a woman writer of many cultures.  Her poetry was highly effected by her need to re-write and revise history.  Many times McCallum moved back in time to popular myths and legends that shaped to world of women, and would attempt to “write or right” their story.  McCallum considered many of her works to span across a wide range of material that was meant to be reinvented in order for her audience to gain a new perspective on a traditional story.  During her interview, McCallum states: “The poet has always had a responsibility to address the culture in which she or he is raised and lives; and culture, second only to being conveyed by language itself, is transmitted through the stories, fables, and myths we make of our experience as human beings. It follows that rewriting these tales is one avenue to addressing their permanence and their effect on us ontologically.”

McCallum’s poem Seed states:

I am a child of the sun, balancing

the wind on my hips.
I have learned to make stones
dance, to walk with each footfall
echoing silence, to listen to the songs
of leaves. I am a child of the hushing sea:
waves, the sound of my listening;
salt, the scent of my sight.
I have taken machete to the coconut,
ground sugarcane between my teeth,
to unclasp their sweetened rhymes.
At dawn, I have held the waking earth,
each grain of dirt and sand
spilling from my half-open hands.
Wherever I am, I am
that space between
the husk and the heart
of the fruit.

McCallum takes many elements from her cultural background and creates a sense that it is not only her femininity that is being represented.  Especially in the above poem, McCallum emphasizes the hips, a body part that is the focus of many other writings; but she also mentions coconuts, sugarcane and rhymes, which are all elements of the Jamaican culture.  The video that is linked provides a small insight as to the daily lives of the Jamaican people and the importance of nature and how it shaped their entire well-being.  Natural fruits, bodies of water, dirt, sand and the sun provide resources for many societies in Jamaica that allow them to function, and by showcasing these elements, McCallum is expressing her appreciation for her culture.  This poem sheds a positive light on coming from a different nationality, but none the less shows how much of an influence culture has on the identity of a woman writer and how it can affect their writing style and content.


Leave a comment

What’s the true story?

200px-Lucille_clifton 220px-Paula_Gunn_Allen

Lucille Clifton is an African-American writer and teacher who creates poetry that allows the reader to see well-known situations at a completely different angle. She uses her interest in feminist themes to recreate the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac in which God demands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, but at last second, God stops him and he later just sacrifices a lamb. This theme has been prevalent throughout history and has been recreated by many artists, but always following the same story line.

Abraham titiaan_abraham_izaak

For many artists, this has been a very popular scene to paint. It is almost always at the point in time where he is just about to sacrifice his son and God stops in just seconds before. As you notice, Isaac’s mother, Sarah, is not present. She has no influence over this situation and it is unclear as to whether she agreed to this or not.

In Clifton’s poem, sarah’s promise, she gives this figure a voice. Whether this be the truth or made up, she allows this person who is never even viewed in the visual recreations of this story a say. She states:

who understands better than I

the hunger in old bones

for a son? so here we are,

Abraham with his faith

and I my fury, Jehovah,

I march into the thicket

of your need and promise you

the children of young women,

yours for a thousand years.

their faith will send them to you,

docile as Abraham. now,

speak to my husband.

spare me my one good boy. (820)

In the Bible, women often don’t have a voice. They are viewed only for procreation because the greatest woman is Mary. Clifton takes this opportunity to give Sarah back her voice and create a different context for the reader. Sarah is demanding God of all things to stop this blasphemy and spare her son. Not only is this unacceptable for a person to do, but it is INSANE for a woman to do or even think of. She doesn’t show this women as weak because she is “losing faith” in God, but strong-minded because she has expressed her anger and stood up for herself. Clifton believes strongly in giving this voice back to women and starts to do so by almost rewriting history in the way that she would like to view it.

Similar to Clifton, Paula Gunn Allen creates a new view on the most well-known biblical story of Adam and Eve. The story of Adam and Eve has been told for many years in order to teach Christians of the ultimate sin. This is part of the creation myth where God creates these two people to multiply. God gives them one rule and it is to not eat from the tree of forbidden fruit. As the serpent tempts the two, they are persuaded to take part in the “Ultimate Sin.” Of course the women, Eve, eats from the tree and then persuades Adam to do the same. Resulting from this is the expulsion from the garden. Leaving Adam and Eve more aware of their nakedness and ashamed of themselves. As of the story of Abraham, this has also been one that has been reproduced time and time again in the history of art. Visually, this has never been an invigorating experience, sexuality is clearly a topic that is frowned upon and this is where many Christians teach lessons about sexuality and what they belief is right and wrong.

MICHEL~1

In the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo illustrates two parts of this scene. At first, before the serpent tempts these two people, they seem care-free and happy. After the expulsion, they end up mortified and run away covering their private areas up. Also in these two examples below, it is clear that they are ashamed of themselves.

0007727563 masaccio_expulsion_dtl

Paula Gunn Allen’s poem Eve the Fox she states:

Eve the fox swung
her hips appetizingly, she
sauntered over to Adam the hunk
who was twiddling his toes and
devising an elaborate scheme
for renaming the beasts:  Adam
was bored, but not Eve for she
knew the joy of swivelhips
and the taste of honey on her lips.
She was serpent wise and snake foolish,
and she knew all the tricks of the trade
that foxy lady, and she used them
to wile away the time:  bite into this,
my hunky mate, she said, bending
tantalizingly low so her warm breasts
hung like peaches in the air.  You
will know a thing or two when I get
through to you, she said, and gazed
deep with promise into his squinted eyes.
She admired the glisten of sweat and light
on his ropey arms, that hunky man of mine,
she sighed inside and wiggled deliciously
while he bit deep into the white fleshy
fruit she held to his lips.  And wham-bam,
the change arose, it rose up in Adam
as it had in Eve and let me tell you
right then they knew all
they ever wanted to know about knowing,
and he discovered the perfect curve of her
breasts, the sweet gentle halfmoon of her belly,
the perfect valentine of her vulva,
the rose that curled within the garden
of her loins, that he would entered like bees,
and she discovered the tender power
of his sweat, the strong center of his
muscled arms, she worshipped the dark hair
that fell over his chest in waves.
And together riding the current of this
altogether new knowing they had found,
they bit and chewed, bit and chewed.

In this poem, she clearly shows Eve expressing her sexuality and embracing the erotic. She uses phrases like “Eve for she knew the joy of swivelhips and the taste of honey on her lips.” Here it is clear that she is aware of her sexuality and it is in a positive way. She also uses words like “appetizingly” to express Adam’s desire for Eve’s hips. This story has been converted into something almost liberating, showing women that they need to express their bodies in a positive way and that the awareness of these sensations is okay. Many of Paula Gunn Allen’s poems and Lucille Clifton’s poems express the many differences of women, but in a positive way. Often times, women have been viewed negatively for expressing their sexuality and have been judged for their many differences. Just by their different sexual organs, women have been put on the bottom of the totem pole and both of these poets want to reclaim these differences and express the beauty in them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLqteJDupCM


Leave a comment

Day, Night, Images, Sounds, and Music in “Psalm for Kingston”

Shara McCallum

mccallum008shara2

In “Psalm for Kingston,” Shara McCallum recounts vague childhood memories in her home country, Jamaica using predominantly imagery and sounds. One of the aspects of this poem I picked up on was the contrast between day and night to depict the positive and negative characteristics of this setting. McCallum sets the beginning of the poem during the daytime.

“…City of market women at Half-Way-Tree with baskets”
atop their heads or planted in front of their laps, squatting or standing
with arms akimbo, susuing with one another, clucking
their tongues, calling in voices of pure sugar come dou-dou: see
The pretty bag I have for you, then kissing their teeth when you saunter off

City of school children in uniforms playing dandy shandy
And brown girl in the ring-tra la-la-la-la—
eating bun and cheese and bulla and mangoes,
juice sticky and running down their chins, bodies arced
in laughter, mouths agape, heads thrown back…”

The two stanzas suggest daytime in several ways. We are presented the image of a market and women carrying baskets. Children are singing and playing games in school. The mood is quite positive, as words such as “pretty” and “kissing” are used, as well as the phrase, “voices of pure sugar.” Children are singing and playing games. Their hunger seems to be satisfied with a variety of things to eat. Amidst the description of the food is the phrase, “arced in laughter.” This positive portrayal of food suggests food may be one of the main things in a child’s life that produces happiness. In our culture, we need and want food all the same, but prize it less than say, ipads or computers since it is so readily available at all times. So the fact that food is depicted in such a prized manner may suggest that it is also precious, and not very abundant.

“…City where power cuts left everyone in sudden dark,
where the keroscene lamp’s blue flame wavered on kitchen walls,
where empty bellies could not be filled,
where no eggs, no milk, no beef today echoed
in shantytowns, around corners, down alleyways”

As can be seen in this stanza, McCallum was indeed foreshadowing hunger. The reference to power cuts creating sudden dark indicates night, as do corners and alleyways, which I think of as areas that are shady at night. It is stated in actual terms “empty bellies could not be filled.” The quote, no eggs, no milk, no beef today gives the reader an auditory image, creating even more of an impact.

McCallum uses this tool of authentic language often. The “tra-la-la” of children singing as well as the women “susuing” and “clucking,” are not quotes so much as they are sounds the reader can audiate to experience McCallum’s childhood world. I compare this technique to that of music, which is entirely sound, and functions to conjure imagery. One can argue that the sounds in this poem are in fact, music, just not in a conventional sense. Additionally, the repetition of phrases/words and similar form among stanzas creates a sense of rhythm within the poem. I was not surprised when I learned of McCallum’s musical background during the skype session.

Political issues and prominent Jamaican musical and political figure, Bob Marley are referenced in the second to last stanza.

“…City where Marley sang, Jah would never give the power to a baldhead
where the baldheads reigned, where my parents chanted down Babylon—Fire! Burn! Jah! Rastafari! Selassie I!–…”

Again, here are sounds that contribute to the overall mood. I don’t know what some of these words mean but I can feel meaning by the way they sound. McCallum explained that she quoted the text of a Marley song that addresses European colonization in Jamaica. This idea is what “the baldheads” references.

 

European colonization of Jamaica

1894_banana_transport2_Jamaica

 

This video addresses Marley as a political influence through his music

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bc4xhF1UlI

Bob Marley: Time Will Tell

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meKhfr_CjQ0


Leave a comment

The Thread of Time

Having Jamaican American poet Shara McCallum as a guest speaker got me to thinking about a lot of things. These thoughts lead me to a reflective place; I wondered, how do people change as time goes on? And does time change the type of people we are? There is no certain answer for these questions, I know, but in works like that of Shara McCallum we can see the stages and changes that individuals go through. In a personal blog post McCallum says, “In retelling stories (personal, communal, and national), we are often searching for the thread between events of the past and ideas of who we are in the present and who we might become in future.” This quote developed a sort of project for me, and I chose to go back through the books of poetry that McCallum has published and find a thread like she mentioned in her blog.

image.phpMcCallum circa 1999  mccallum008shara2 McCallum-present day

(google images)

In her first collection of poems entitled “The Water Between Us”, McCallum draws from the experiences of her childhood, specifically, her relationship with her parents and feelings of displacement after leaving Jamaica. One of her poems called “Jamaica, October 18, 1972” reads:

                                                                   Jamaica, October 18, 1972

image

You tell me about the rickety truck:
your ride in back among goats or cows–
some animal I can’t name now–
the water coming down your legs,
my father beside you, strumming
a slow melody of darkened skies

and winter trees he only dreamed
on his guitar. The night was cool.
That detail you rely on each time
the story is told: the one story

                                                                   your memory serves us better
than my own. I doubt even that night

                                                             you considered me, as I lay inside you,
preparing to be born. So many nights
after it would be the same.

                                                                   You do not rememer anything,
you say, so clearly as that trip:
animal smells, guitar straining for sound,
the water between us becoming a river.

(referenced from link on ANGEL page)

In her third collection of poetry, McCallum revisits the idea of motherhood and parental relationships; however this time, she writes from the opposite perspective: that of a mother. An excerpt from “The Book of Mothers” reads,

“I did not hear or could not listen, I barely knew you when you called.

Now when it’s too late I want to tell you I am a mother

and think I understand something more of grief’s depths.

I am a mother like but also not like you.

My friend (may I call you this in death?) my child’s throat I lean toward to kiss.”

motherhood-2        motherhood_3

From both of these poems, the reader gets a sense of dissatisfaction from McCallum when it comes to her own mother. In “Jamaica” she implies that her mother does not consider her, and makes the point by referencing the first day the neglect began: her birth. Years later, in her poem about motherhood, McCallum makes another reference to her own mother by saying she is “like but also not like” her, and chooses to kiss her child’s throat instead of what her mother might have done in her childhood. It is this idea that represents the ‘thread’ that McCallum mentioned in her blog. The relationship that she had with her mother, whether it be dysfunctional or not, had an impact on her development and her future role as a mother. The psychology behind mother-daughter relationships and their affect on individuals is another interesting topic that I’d like to explore future. There is so much information on this topic to choose from, but I found this video by psychotherapist, Rosjke Hasseldine discussing the importance of mother-daughter relationships. (Try to ignore the unpside-down book slip up haha!).

It might be a minor detail, but I found this visible transition from child to mother through writing really interesting.I also really enjoyed getting to talk to a real, life author about their poetry in class; we should do that more often when possible!