Saturday, March 1, 2008

We don't have to limit ourselves to poetry here, do we? Much of the stuff I read when writing papers finds its way into my poetry. For example, I'm writing a chapter for a volume on shame and death, and I'm exploring the mask as a kind of interface between shame and death. So for the paper I'm re-reading Freud's "The Uncanny" this morning, and he concludes that "the sense of the uncanny attaches . . . to the idea of being robbed of one's eyes." That's why Neil Gaiman's *Coraline* is so uncanny: the double mother has buttons sewn in for eyes, and she threatens the heroine with the same operation.

Has this fear of losing one's eyes --or fear of false eyes--ever surfaced in poems you've written? Or read?
March 1, 2008 1:11 PM


  1. Hilary, no, not limited to poetry. This is a very pertinent theme in my writing right now. Turning a blind eye. So common in familial tragedy. The clown as transitional object, with blind button eyes. Have you wandered the doll eyes in toy stores recently? Check out their eyes. I must re-read Freud. Uncanny indeed how this feeds into what i am working on.

  2. HIlary,

    My recent "vitreous detachment" gave me a scare regarding my vision. My pupils were forced open for a test and remained dilated for hours. I had to walk home on a sunny winter day and was absolutely blinded by the whiteness. Have you ever read Jose Saramego's _Blindness_? I found it particularly terrifying. I haven't written about blindness though I often write in the early morning darkness. Interesting you should bring this up because the topic for my workshop this week is "vision".

    I've taken mask workshops before and they are immensely powerful. The mask as revealing rather than concealing. As the exploration of archetypes. The all-white "neutral" mask that is the essence of every emotion. The "neutral" mask being the most difficult to wear.

  3. Jenn, glad to hear you on here. I did a performance of movement with mask years ago, to a video poem called 'bones,'(actually then it was to slides and tape recording of the poem to electroacoustic music by Toronto Composer Mara Zibbens). The mask was a wooden African tribal mask. The performance/experience was incredibly powerful and every time I performed it, it seemed like i
    was gaining power from the piece, a combination of music, movement, poetry, art, and mask.

    The sense/fear of losing one's sight, or one's self are similar, I think. The visual emotional constructions of our lives. To be outside, beside, lose sight of one's world or oneself.

    Good luck with your workshop

    Hey, maybe post/reference Saramego's poem.

  4. Hi ML,

    Tribal masks and video poems. The "power" is key, I think. And it's almost a power of the other, wouldn't you say? It's otherworldly or outside of yourself, yet embodied all the same. I took a clown workshop where you painted your face white. It was a workshop on the "Joey" clown which is a European term for the power clown, the black/white/red/silver clown. Sexual power is key here. And self-love. Absolute self-adoration. The face is painted completely white and you are so enormously important in the world you can hardly move your own arm--someone should be there lifting your goodness for you. It's the most powerful, certainly, that I've ever felt and after a few hours it was so completely exhausting and even boring. The mirror is only interesting for so long, you know?

    Saramego's _Blindness_ is a novel actually. Pick it up if you can sometime.

    The workshop went well last night. We discussed ideas of "space" in poetry--the landscape of the poem. I had the students write really large for ten minutes. Their reactions were remarkable! The movement and size of their words seemed to have an effect on their content, their emotional state, the way they thought about language. The materiality of the words took over and most of us just enjoyed the shapes and sounds while others had near panic attacks and felt uneasy and vulnerable! What good poet sports, wouldn't you say?



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