Sunday, April 12, 2015

Satin Stitching


Satin Stitching


The magnificent cause of being,
The imagination, the one reality
In this imagined world

 Leaves you
With him for whom no phantasy moves,
And you are pierced by a death.

~from Another Weeping Woman, by Wallace Stevens

 ~*~


If it was a knife
it was a knife of satin;
if there was blood
it came in embroidered knots
placed cunningly among
the blue-veined flowers
that vined along his cloth
from edge to top

covering the innocence of white
with busy decoration's mutilation
flower handfuls of needled pink
back-stitches, yellow hearts
worked in slippery-strong smooth flosses
in viridian braids, 
a pliant rope neatly crafted,
tied off like night by

the needlwoman's hands;
if there were a rope
or a knife, or any blood
at all, red or blue
still stitched upon that face
before which all life had passed
the unseen flap of its cotton parades,
and then moved on.




~April 2015








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 Sunday Mini-Challenge: The Poetry of Wallace Stevens
Grace turns our eye to one of the poets I have lived with longest, Wallace Stevens. This poem shows his influence, if not his genius.











Images: Portrait of Madame Arthur Fontaine, 1901, by Odilon Redon
La Blancheria, 1910, by John Singer Sargent
Public domain via wikiart.org

25 comments:

  1. This brings to mind my grandmother's embroidery which I admired because it was equally neat on both sides of the fabric (hard to tell which was the right side up). I still have a few of her pieces. It is a craft which has long since fallen from popularity, but I often think of the worth of something made by hand these days, when mass production equals quality.

    Of course, you suggest much more in your poem, as each careful stitch hides the blood and blade of what it is to be a woman in any age.

    This is exceptional writing in my eyes.

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    1. Thank you Kerry. I did a lot of embroidery when I was young, but I'm afraid I would never have wanted anyone to look at the mess on the underside!

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  2. The tightness of embroidery is such a beautiful metaphor for the controlled emotions.. the subtle ways you sometimes need to move (especially if you are a woman). My grandmother had another thing that occupied her life, and that was painting porcelain.. and I have been blessed with many unique pieces of her art..each having its individually selected pattern...

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  3. A knife of satin and embroidered knots.....I think you have some of his genius as well, Joy. Beautifully done.

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  4. The acceptance of a life chosen for you, not by you. I feel it...deeply.

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  5. Agreed with Kerry.. such a beautiful poem :) My mother still does stitching & embroidery even in these times :D You have described with such vibrant imagery..!!
    xoxo

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  6. I specially admire the details of the second stanza- needled pink
    back-stitches, yellow hearts, worked in slippery-strong smooth flosses
    in viridian braids ~ My grandma had a needlewoman's hands, so your poem made me recall how strong yet fluid her fingers were ~

    Each line is exquisite to read ~
    Thanks for crafting a lovely response to Wallace's amazing poem ~ Wishing you Happy Sunday ~

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  7. I've always loved embroidery, but right now I feel kind of put off! *smile* That doesn't mean it's a bad poem, it's just disturbing to have something you enjoy doing take such (in my mind) dark and twisted turn. Truly moving!

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  8. Beautifully imagined, putting yourself in her place. Your embroiderer may be fictional, but I feel the poem contains much truth.

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  9. if there was blood
    it came in embroidered knots
    placed cunningly among
    the blue-veined flowers.... placed cunningly (stunning)

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  10. Victorian Gothic. It's the first thing that came to mind. The superficial beauty of the Victorian Era: strict, radiant and elaborate... covering the hurts, the "mutilations". So beautifully terrifying, certainly Sublime.

    Your first two are magnificent.

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  11. Hey Joy, I could not help thinking of Middlemarch reading this, George Eliot, and Dorothea, her heroine and Dr. Chasuben? I don't have the spelling right, but it was certainly a death to be married to him! (And a man of the cloth.) I agree with Kerry--it is exception writing, in the authority of your voice, which is really necessary here to make the sharp points that you do, and to let the spaces rest white between them--very well done, chilling, sad. k.

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    1. Thanks, k. This is indeed about a (terrifying as they can too often be) marriage. I appreciate your reference to Middlemarch ( I believe the fusty old bastard was named Casaubon) which I really need to reread--a book that knocked me flat in my thirties when I found it after a long love affair with Hardy. Stevens' style is a bit insidious, and enigmatic--I used to resent that but with age, it seems so much easier to understand and follow--this is just a rather pale shadow of his way of setting up a very particular metaphor and then twisting it home.

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  12. I'm also put in mind of a Victorian woman--not that there aren't right now many beautiful ways to pursue a living death, it's just that the image of a woman embroidering moves the mind that way. That's a powerful poem by Stevens. You take that "pierced by a death" and construct an equally compelling movement of pain and intricate ornamentation with your stitching device.

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    1. Thanks Mark--I think my choice of that Redon picture may have been a bit too saccharine, but you have looked under the graceful pose with great perception. Yes, a powerful poem by Stevens--shorter than his usual presentation, and also a bit more forthright. FYI:The poem I am about to put on the sidebar is one of his gentler ones about Florida that I ran across while looking for inspiration here.)

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  13. "covering the innocence of white / with busy decoration's mutilation"...this reminds me of the poor superficial souls hell bent on enhancing their physical beauty...love the last stanza...

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  14. I used to do embroidery. Your words bring it all back to me. Goodness this is full of so much, and so beautifully written. I wonder if it is a metaphor for all we put ourselves through to fit in when the original self should be enough.

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  15. if you admire Stevens, I wonder if it's because you share the keen eye, the supple wrist needed to gut the earth to make room for new growth. I am flummoxed how you can turn such a finely tuned piece in this whirl-a-gig month - but not surprised, really. ~

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    1. Well, to a certain extent, I do cheat, Michael--I have tons and tons of poems written but unpublished, because I have to read and reread and rework them exhaustively before I am happy with them. This one was in the files, though of course, rather in the form of incomprehensible shorthand, which then became Clifff Notes, which then became, hopefully, poem. Thanks for reading, M--I admire Stevens for many qualities, most of all his ability to have such a keen and soaring intellect yet dip his pen in both blood and tenderness as well as logic and order.

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  16. I was curious to see if you'd respond to this challenge -- so happy you did -- influence is something we bear and hide because we want our work to stand on its own, yet still flaunt for the exuberance we affirm our sources. This has a precise Stevens weave to it -- his voice and poetic the metronome of his poetic (I'm sure it's a loud in your ear as someone like Jack Gilbert is in mine), yet what surprises (even then Stevens bow) is not of Stevens at all, not drench in old Norse atheist godlaughter-- the "needlewoman's hands" who sews with a blood thread, adding a separate register and tenor -- a wholly different pathos (which I'm not sure Stevens ever indulged) that makes this a different bird of prey altogether. I'm sure you had fun with this -- at least, the result sure has wings. Great stuff.

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    1. I agree, I feel Stevens was too impatient with humanity to feel much pathos for its foibles--his lean is if anything, more to the satiric when he strikes that vein in something. And I can't see him putting destiny over will and reason, as I have here. Nice catch on the Norns parallel, which is under the hood pretty far for most. Thanks, B. for seeing both the lockstep with influence, and the divergence.

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  17. I love your use of color and texture...especially viridian. Great writing Hedge...and interesting conversation above...thank you for your poem and visit, too.

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  18. Not sure, not sure, but it reads to my Monday mind like someone prettifying everything beyond all recognition, taking the blood and the edge that life presents, and blunting it all by making a sampler of it. I'm probably way off, but the opening quote makes me think this may be it. Plus, satin is smooth, things slide off of it so easily.

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  19. So many ifs, so many possibilities, the discontent that runs through this tapestry of words reveals a greater truth beneath those flowers.

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'Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance' ~Carl Sandburg