Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Burning your art=burning your self

(Please refer to the post "Lucille Clifton's "fury" to read the poem.)

Whe I was a kid and I got angry, I would tear up or destoy things I had created. When I was mad or sad or depressed or overwhelmed with any emotion I could not release, everything I had made would suddenly appear ugly and worthless to me. In retrospect, I believe I was sacrificing little pieces of myself whenever I sacrificed a piece of art. At the time, it was a survival mechanism in a very dysfuntional household.

The good news is, as I have learned, these pieces of self can be reclaimed and given new life. But in Lucille Clifton's "fury," we see a woman who sacrifices her art--"they burn / jewels into jewels"--but never experiences a reclamation--"she will never recover." I get the feeling that this woman is burning her poems not out of self-hatred or anger, but because she has been forced to--"each hank of her hair / is a serpent's obedient / wife." It seems someone else--a husband?--has forced her to burn these poems, and she has done so to survive in that house. But her survival comes at the cost of having burned a part of her self as well; she is alive, but incomplete, and always will be without her poetry. The speaker, her daughter, feels a tremendous responsibilty to live and perservere and survive, and, I believe, to create and claim her own art, as a way of completing the work her mother could not.

Are we, as artists, incomplete without our art? Do we have to do it to be fully human and alive?

1 comment:

archer said...

I read the Fury with a sense of identification. I too have destroyed precious things that I have created and felt first savage self-loathing, a white hot hatred of what I had allowed myself to become. I had allowed myself to become vulnerable, left my heart and soul bared and resolved not to do so again. The sense of loss was keenly felt and like mama, I too felt that I would never recover what I had destroyed.
You're very right, I believe in the analogy of destroying little pieces of ourselves....am I less of a man for having done so? I believe I am.