Reflections/poem biography for Still the Apple

Snapshot 2 (01-08-2015 19-16)a4

“His mouth moon-craters my flesh,
curves tiny ribbons in flushed skin.”

Once upon a time, I put a definition of ‘feminism’ through a computerised Oulipo N+? generator.* What this automatic replacement of certain words did to the definition sums up how much the word has been used, abused and confused over time – to the point of become almost meaningless.

Defining the/your/definitely-not-our Problem

“feminism: The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.” Oxford Dictionaries online

Femme in ism – each woman lost
between the gaps in mass generalisation.
A term so m(i)sunderstood and manhandled
that it’s worn like a misshapen sweater.
Not her choice, but the interpretation
picked out by those around her.
Fighting for women’s rights:
on the ground of the equality of the sexes;
on the groundnut of the equalizer of;
on the groundsheet of the equation of;
on the groundsman of the equerry of;
on the group of the equilibrium of;
on the groupie of the equinox of;
on the grouping of the equipment of;
on the grouse of the equity of;
on the grove of the equivalent of;
on the grower of the era of:
on the growl of the eraser of
the sexes…. The machine suggests;
do we accept these emptied tokens,
or question and reform?
Snapshot 1 (01-08-2015 19-017Because ‘feminism’ and ‘feminist’ are words that have been stretched, appropriated and endowed with meanings that may or may not be the same for the writer as the reader, I’m reluctant to use them to describe ‘Still the Apple’.

What I will say is that this poem was written at a time when I was feeling frustrated with the different values and expectations still sometimes placed on woman compared to men, even in twenty-first century ‘civilised’ society. The traditional tree of knowledge and Adam and Eve binary provided a wonderfully concise skeleton for this seed of frustration. (As Jean-Baptise Alphonse Karr said, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”/”the more things change, the more they are the same,” Les Guêpes satirical journal, 1849.)

* The N+7 procedure (constraint), invented by the Oulipo literary group’s Jean Lescure, involves replacing each noun in a text with the seventh one following it in a dictionary. This technique has been adapted, using computerised generators, to allow substitutions of the next noun in the dictionary (N + 1) up to N+15, which substitutes the 15th noun following the original noun. A computer generator may be found here.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Points

1) How does the language we use reinforce potential stereotypes and how can word choice be used to challenge or subvert unthinking prejudice?
2) Does this poem assume, or over-assume, a shared cultural background (knowledge of the story of Adam and Eve/Garden of Eden) that may not be a given in contemporary society? What does the poem lose without such knowledge – and does it matter?
3) Does the placing of this poem next to ‘Journey of the Fruit’ allow the two poems to add depth/perspective to each other?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Take an object and describe it as it is. Try contrasting this with what it might be/have been given a different setting, history or cultural context. What wider aspect of human experience might it work as an example, symbol or metaphor for?

plentyfish cover (1)At poetry readings, I often enjoy hearing about the background to a particular poem. ‘Wednesday Reflections/Sometimes I smile’ is my attempt to share the inspiration, frustrations, pain, philosophies and thoughts that lie behind my poetry collection ‘plenty-fish’. Each Wednesday, this blog will contain one of these ‘poem biographies’, as well as points for potential reader discussion and also writers’ prompts. My collection ‘plenty-fish’ may be bought from Nine Arches Press, here, or my website, here. More Wednesday Reflections on other poems in the collection can also be found here.