Friday, February 17, 2006

The Friday Poetry Blog Thing

I've never done the Friday poetry blog thing, but here goes.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

I, being born a woman and distressed
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body's weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, the poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn with pity, - let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.

I love teaching this poem. I love the way that it understands female sexual desire and other desires, and plays with the blood/mind imagery and contrasts. I love the word "propinquity" in there, and "zest." I think "undone, possessed" says a lot about one kind (some kinds?) of female orgasm and sexual experience, and leaves room for other experiences. The idea that she won't "season" her "scorn" with "pity" just blows me away. And the volta's about as amazing as any could be.

I love the way careless readers think she's (well, actually, most inexperienced student readers imagine the speaker's a he, perhaps because all poets are automatically "he"?) all romantic and goofy because they "know" all poetry is about the "one twue love." This poem challenges preconceptions about poetry, love, sexuality, all with a most beautifully structured, old-fashionedly structured, even, sonnet. Of all the potential forms to bring into play, the sonnetness here just makes me think of Sidney biting his trewand pen, Wyatt worrying about collared deer, Sidney and the shore, Samuel Daniel's wit, and Shakespeare's own wonderful complexity in approaching love and sexuality.

15 comments:

  1. Ooooh, I lovelovelove that poem. But then I'm one of those frigid whore feminists, so ...

    Re student readings: It has to be an "all poets are he" bias. That poem really stresses that it's a woman's voice.

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  2. Heocwaeth,

    I KNOW. This is just the best poem! And yeah, frigid, yeah, like that! /nod

    You make me laugh.

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