Wednesday, 21 April 2010

National Poetry Writing Month, Day Twentyone

On RWP today they say:

Today’s prompt is from Read Write Poem member Kristen McHenry: “In ancient times, Persian rug makers were deeply religious and believed that only God could make something perfect. They would deliberately drop in a small faulty stitch, a flaw, into each Persian rug. In doing so, a ‘Persian Flaw’ revealed the rug maker’s devotion to God.” — Karel Weijand Like many of us, I often struggle with the gremlin of perfectionism. The above quote reminds me that achieving perfection is not my prime directive in life, and that in fact, striving for perfection can be a form of hubris. Write a poem about flaws and perfection in yourself or in nature or write about how you feel about being imperfect or perfect. Here are some things you may want to reflect on as you write: Do flaws add beauty to the world? What does it feel like to experience perfection? What is it like to encounter flaws — in our selves, in others, in systems or in objects? As imperfect beings, are we able to adequately judge perfection? If you’d like, you can try contrasting both these concepts in one poem or just choose the one that you feel most drawn to. There is potential for both perfection and flaws in everything on earth, so there’s no limit to the subject you use to frame your poems.

Interesting: I’m not sure that I agree that striving for perfection is a form of hubris (hubris being excessive pride or self-confidence, and/or arrogance, according to my dictionary). I think it’s the very opposite, in fact: striving for perfection surely comes from fear of not being good enough. It seems pretty arrogant to deliberately insert a flaw in one’s work: ‘my work is so perfect it looks like the work of God, better fuck it up a little.’ If it were true that only God can make something perfect human’s wouldn’t need to deliberately insert flaws, would they?

I certainly don’t need to, I have to strive and strive and strive to make something good enough, and even then I never know if I’ve achieved that. The problem of course is that these terms: perfect, good, good enough, are all abstract and therefore different for each of us. So, what would perfect entail, and for whom?

Anyway, here’s the poem. It’s a narrative poem with a weak ending, just to prove how ungod-like I am.

Perfect Wife: Cover Version

She wove herself a shroud
in your image, with finest silk.
Inserted herself into it
from the head down
and wore it like a skin.

She fooled everyone
including herself, grew
more like you by the second
until it appeared you
and she were as one.
A perfect coupling.

Movement made the silk
wear thin and fray,
but she kept up a vigil,
remained as still
as possible, and patched
with ever growing ease.

But noticing a loose thread
one day, you couldn’t help
but tug. She winced
at your game and tucked
the end away.

The sport went on:
you pulled
she patched
until you found the master
thread and pulling it
undid the whole conceit.

She stood before you then
nakedly herself. Cold,
and feeble. Clearly
not like you at all:
you felt yourself a fool.

You pressed the pickled web
of threads upon her:
cover yourself up.
Inch by inch she tried
to separate each loop
but hadn’t even managed
half before she died.

Image found at: http://www.marlamallett.com/w-7395.htm where you can buy the rug for about $2,000 should you wish.


Philip said...

The end is a shock which sort of works and not works all at once, I very much like the poem. Quite different to other stuff you've done on here. I like the word "thread" and its meanings. I think your poetry gets better each time. I like it when it seems like it flowed easier for you. This one seems like it did - that right or am I just reading that into it after hours of hard work on your part?

Eryl Shields said...

You're absolutely spot on, Philip, this one virtually wrote itself, I just reordered some of the words and generally fooled about with it for a while. Interesting that it shows, I wonder how/why?

I think the problem with the end is it's too abrupt. I'll give it a rest for a while and then see if I can draw it out a bit later.

Titus said...

Oh, now I'm going to be contrary and say I liked it because of its feeling of dis-ease - jarring rhythm and line breaks. It didn't read "easy" to me. It's painful, as it should be.

The singularity of the voice is very strong, and these lines
"The sport went on:
you pulled
she patched
until you found the master
thread and pulling it"
I absolutely loved.

I think you're right that it ends too quickly. Really interesting piece, and the drawn-out image that threads through the whole poem (get it!) is explored beautifully - with all those resonances of other female weavers.

flaubert said...

I particularly love the last stanza. Powerful!

Golden West said...

Hi Eryl, Your take on the flaw in the rug had me laughing out loud - I love irreverence! I, too, thought this was one of your best - thought it was snappy and smart - I thoroughly enjoyed it!

BTW, how fares your son on the Big Island?

Wayne Pitchko said...

nice one Eryl...its hard to follow all the poets...some pull me in more than others...and you are pulling me in more and more...with your flawed poetry....isnt ALL poetry flawed?..IMO all poetry is flawed....some just grabs you more than others....like paintings...like everything...anyways I have rambled with flaws .....thanks for sharing yhour poem

one more believer said...

i agree with... like the idea of pulling the thread the movement of live wearing thin.... tonight's tide

Alesa Warcan said...

As much as I this piece strikes me, it's the ending makes it. It feels like the thread has been suddenly snipped and that's perfect for the story.

But then again, it feels like midsummer thunder and lightning with no downpour.

I guess I agree with Philip, it works and doesn't.

As I see it, the idea for the ending works very well, the articulation a bit less.

Pat said...

My motto is do your best and live with your flaws.
I like this - it reminds me of my favourite poem - well one of them - The Lady of Shallot.

Eryl Shields said...

Titus ~ not contrary at all: expressing dis-ease comes much more easily to me than expressing ease.

Thank you for your very useful (as usual) feedback.

Pamela ~ thank you.

Golden ~ the more I think about it the more I conclude that a person would have to be pretty damned confident to feel he (and let's face it it's much more likely to be a he) needs to deliberately insert a flaw in his work.

Bob seems to be having a ball on the Big Island. On my sidebar there is a link to his blog: the adventuring bobcat, should you wish to have a look. I am slightly anxious about some of the things he is getting up to while at the same time put at my ease by the very fact he is happy to tell me about it.

Wayne ~ thank you for this lovely endorsement. It is very difficult to keep up with everyone and I find myself clicking rather randomly on the links throughout the day until my eyes begin to rebel.

Believer ~ glad you agree and like, thanks.

Alesa ~ exactly! I'm usually pretty good at ideas and pretty bad at executing them. The ending here is a classic case of telling rather than showing, it needs to show her dying. Currently I have no idea how to do that.

Pat ~ high praise indeed, I'm blushing. Now I must rush off and dig out my Tennyson (it is Tennyson isn't it?).

newjenny said...

The hubris of perfection is not top of my list of worries, either.

Good poem, intriguing relationship; it's interesting that the narrator addresses the husband, rather than the wife. A refreshingly abrupt ending, yes. I like a strong resolution, no loose ends, so to speak. In terms of resolution (only) it reminded me of the Pam Ayres one which ends 'they were struck by lightning'. No point beating around the bush!

Jimmy Bastard said...

Hmmmm, poetry and an interesting theory to boot. I'm impressed hen.

Eryl Shields said...

Jenny ~ I dunno, Tennyson and Pam Ayres in one day, I must be doing something right!

Jimmy ~ poetry, I find, tends to engender interesting theories.