This Tongue Wagger comes from this week’s Word Slinger, Simon Travers. I fear that my poetry critiquing may be fearfully lacking so I will stick solely to the content of Simon’s poetry collection. It’s been fifteen years since I took my poetry course at Penn State University. Mr. Perrone taught me a great deal about poetry as well as writing it– along with writing for business, creative, technical and journalism. He told me to remember a lot of things and the only points that stick out from the many courses I took with him are: how to write a business letter, that knowing Shakespeare might be the difference in getting a job and not getting one, the proper methods of critiquing beyond preference and that when interviewing anyone it is better for both parties if you talk about things that the interviewee feel invested in and that they love. All that other stuff… it went on mental dump. I do remember often wondering if he spent a lot of time in the morning getting his hair to look like it did each day too, but he didn’t teach me that. Sadly, for Simon… my memory of stylistics in poetry fails me. But I do know what I like.
Anatomy is a collection of poems inspired by the Songs of Solomon, the book of the bible which celebrates carnal love and affection between a man and his wife. The Songs of Solomon, or the Song of Songs, tells the story of two people who love, desire, yearn and invite one another to share in the most intimate relations two lovers can share. Simon has given a contemporary facelift to this biblical tale and placed it in a modern context and with a modern glossary while staying true to the traditional message of the passages. He’s created a unique and graceful love story told in snapshots of inner dialogue and emotions of the two lovers from the dawn of their romance into the twilight of their devotion.
There are so many quotes from Anatomy that I would love to pick out and share that were I to start posting them all I’m pretty sure Simon would be suing me for copyright infringement. I’ll choose a few small verses so that you can get an idea of some of the beautiful expression of passion and quiet adoration that he illustrates between the husband and wife throughout their story. This first one is the wife’s perspective and one of the first poems. It is very sensuous, the early burning one has at the first awakening of passionate love.
“So come deeper in me
than is respectable; far
enough to know a breath
when you wear my breasts
and see with my eyes,
and comprehend that all
I see is you, and these
breasts are peach ripe
and fragrant with you.”
Simon’s ability to use both the female and the males voice so successfully is something he touches upon later in the essay, “The to A” which comes halfway in the book. It deals with gender identity, specifically the concept of feminine and masculine identity and the hierarchy that exists in society and within relationships. He argues that though there are distinctions between genders that there should not be inequality that allows for dominance. That recognizing femininity in masculinity doesn’t emasculate a man but rather empowers his relationship with a woman. It allows him to defy the traditions that have been accepted through religion and culture that demands submission from the woman and and through this allows them a greater intimacy. He has an incredible quote:
“Many of the characteristics, traditions and symbols we assimilate into clichés of masculinity are actually non-femininity. This stereotype is less about conforming men to an image of strength, but rather training them to reject what is perceived as womanly, that which is weak and emotional. It is not that men wear trousers, it is that they do not wear dresses.”
Having read this essay it helps understand how he successfully handles the voices of the husband and wife so effortlessly throughout the collection throughout their complete emotional range without betraying their character. Getting toward the end of the collection is a poem from the husband’s point of view and the wife has fallen asleep with him on the couch at night. It’s one of those quiet moments that a either could have looking at the other, with the knowledge that one’s love is infinitely sacrosanct.
“The stillness wonders could this couch
be called sacred? Touched by her
otherness, her womanly, spirit-kissed
resting frame; you whisper her name.”
Anatomy is full of small moments between lovers when it comes home to you, who you are or who you aren’t. Why you love. What things are important. How much you could possibly lose if you were to lose that love. This is a short and quick read but stunningly powerful.
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