Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Queen Anne's Lace

I just finished reading Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson for Dr. Taylor's class that meets in like two hours. Throughout the book, the narrator, Ruth, mentions walking through the town and seeing this particular flower, Queen Anne's Lace. I am not all that hip as to what certain flowers look like, but I do remember this particular name because of a reading in my Survey of American Lit II reading. We covered William Carlos Williams that semester, and I distinctly remember reading this poem and want to talk about it. We never got around to thought because every liked the one about ice cream and we had to cover the "13 ways of looking at a blackbird" a poem by Stevens that we had read that day.
Her body is not so white as
anemone petals nor so smooth--
so remote a thing. It is a field
of wild carrot taking
the field by force; the grass
does not raise above it.
Here is no question of whiteness,
white as can be, with a purple mole
at the center of each flower.
Each flower is a hand's span
of her whiteness. Wherever
his hand has lain there is
a tiny purple blemish. Each part
is a blossom under his touch
to which the fibres of her being
stem one by one, each to its end,
until the whole field is a
white desire, empty, a single stem,
a cluster, flower by flower,
a pious wish to whiteness gone over--
or nothing.

Flowers and sex. I found this incredibly awesome quote about the poem, "Williams shows us how the stem splits into a cluster of stems radiating upward, each supporting a white flowerette which, edging the others, composes the flower's lacy head. When Williams personifies the plant, his rhetoric carefully preserves its unique structure. The sun becomes an ardent male who creates a lover for himself touch by touch [...]" (from "Some Versions of Modernist Pastoral: Williams and the Precisionists." Contemporary Literature 21:3 (1980), 383-406.) My notes certainly reflect this pull of reading the poetry sexually. I annotated lines: "he touches and creates" and the label "sexual" remains above the poem. But there is also some sort of tint in the poem upon rereading of contamination and destruction from "his" touch as well. What is this purple blemish but a bruise that man creates when he touches flowers, alters their shape.

Flowers seem to attract sex poetry, or is it the other way around? By that way, is it me or is this blog becoming like a flower poem blog. Haha. Well maybe this is be the last one for a while. Although, Lawrence's poem, "Snap Dragon" is pretty awesome, and I am sure my boss would get a great big kick out of a blog about the saxifrage. Oh! Mighty Saxifrage!


[Tara] said...

I tagged you on my blog -- come check it out if you're interested ;)

Anonymous said...

Don't ya just love HOUSEKEEPING?!?!?!? I of my favorite book of all time.