Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Anxiety of Unbalanced Influence

When I was in grade 12 I had to read T.S. Eliot's, "The Hollow Men," and I loved the poem so much it helped to steered me into English and creative writing at college. I wrote at least one major essay on Eliot, usually on Prufrock, every year of my undergrad, culminating in 45-page university-funded research project that examined depictions of women in, "The Waste Land." Though I still enjoy Eliot's work, I find it more problematic the more I study it, particularly when it comes to his depictions of women. Reading through my pre-undergrad poetry, I discovered how much I leaned on him to develop my own tone and voice. This seems a bit odd to me, considering that most of my poetic endeavors have a strong feminist slant to them. To reconcile my first and perhaps most formative influence with my theoretical and political dedication to feminism, I have recently picked up a draft of a poem begun two years ago, called, "Other Observations." In this poem I am rewriting, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," from the point of view of the female subjects that appear in the poem. In doing so, I hope to somehow explore or recover the voices and experiences of women, so often marginalized by the markedly masculinist and patriarchal side of modernist writing. Here's the first fragment:

Other Observations

A flimsy crutch to hold the light
Day’s back strained against the night
We stroll in sunset’s consumptive rattle.
He scuttles me through muffled streets
Our tedious retreats
Drain hours--the sour aftertaste of milky tea
His company, the dregs of winter between my teeth
Until some baleful fit guides his stupor
To lift a stammering hand to my back
And shuffle closer through the sawdust and ash
To troll me through still more stale roads
And cocoon me in dusk’s colic glow

All too soon his fumbling gaze
Tugs the hemline of my ease

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