Thursday, 24 July 2008

The Sphinx and the Potter

A: Poem

You unwrap,
you unsquint your eyes cautiously.
I am sorry: I see
I acted like some sort of doctor,
cruel to be kind, kind but firm etc

I dragged you out backwards
clenched your barely known intelligence
before anything can be known
really; moulded you tartly
like a cook
with a large family to turn out for
(meat and two veg)
or a potter: more cups, they break
trays of
identical beakers.

You would have come out in your own time.

We can't be certain
at least you exist,
half-done, dwarfed, off shape
meagre, a thin subsidized
at least you exist.

I wrap you up in the most exalted
trimmings,
one must guard you.

I was so hungry and thirsty for you.


(Judith Kazantzis from The Wicked Queen 1980 )

Like many women's poems this one turns on birth images. But also in there is the metaphor of a potter throwing a pot. And behind that image is.. I thought (well I used to), oh to throw the perfect poem, the pot of gold! But perfect art is only some misty marriage of the spontaneous, the wise, the universal, the pure. In real life the aim of the poem might be to stand up as the useful and handsome pot made of whatever its maker feels and thinks at the time of writing, those earthly ingredients whirled and shaped together in her act of creation.
Ah, so this is Genesis and I am the goddess?
Back to earth. To carry the craft image through, the poet is not just the wheel and its potter, she is also the potter and her kiln, sometimes turned lower, sometimes on high. Though it's not in this poem, the kiln with its slow working might, I suppose, stand for rereading, reconsideration, revision. Perhaps that's just why I didn't go beyond my potter's wheel metaphor, since the poem below is all about need nearly wrecking joy...
....A few scribbles on a bit of paper light up at the moment of writing, light up as if the momentary gas flame that flares inside could slow bake some exquisite and moving piece. Ten minutes later ....
But maybe, still runs the hope...
The poet Ruth Fainlight, whom I much admire, has many poems about the intensity, the difficulty, the inevitability, the joy, of making poetry. At random I find a poem, 'The Poet - ' in her Selected Poems (1995). Isn't this affecting and truthful poem the answer to the question, why poetry?
As, in its different way, was the answer my own private sphinx moodily uttered above.

1 comment:

Peter F said...

Hi Judith,

Just leaving you a comment, so that you can check if the moderation etc works!