Words Chosen Out of Desires: Sara Henning speaks on the alterable landscape

*******************that my bones swallowed her death

It is not just a book by Helen Vendler on the brand of melancholic desire Wallace Stevens brings to Modernism. Words much be chosen, and that impetus revealed.

Language is its own destitution, its own failed attempt at existence beyond the trenches of experience. “Desire” is itself different incarnations of void and fulfillment, but it is all we have besides our bodies to reach with and be reached for, and therefore, it is its own emotion and spiritual “discourse.” It is the active choice to create, in relative deviation, a self-imposed silence, or to serve by speaking. It is easily a sieve to the soul, its own seizing, ability to both medicate and cause rapture against every grain of the quotidian.

Why all of these musings about language, though? We have been conditioned by it since we have been alive. Our native language is our best flesh, our best failing. Merely being born and conditioned by a social function is taking hot brand to the flesh of cattle, warming then incensing their bodies to a kind of burning that gets at the heart.

As a woman, my slant concerning discourse has required me, by way of rebellion or intent, to adopt the requirements of my engendered body and make it a part of my social reality. Much of my writing has been the liminal phase between identification and objectification of words that desire. As a poet, I have chosen the stance of exposure, validation and reification as redefinition of current dislocation. These, by definition, present a chance at rebirth that always requires a crashing into spirit, the consistent juxtaposition of gravity and light. Being a woman in a world that has attempted to eclipse engenderment for its own reversed sexual racism has asked women not to depart from the patriarchal power system, but to evolve within its confines in ways that neither fair nor comfortable.

“Tether” is a poem in which the male influence of power is questioned as a catalyst for fracture and reconstruction. The female subject is viewed as indistinct from the environment surrounding her, which emphasizes void. This poem itself is ultimate persona, the building to un-build, apply the failings of language previously mentioned to the failings of the body and the masculine ability to destroy without leaving the effect of the destruction to chance. Connie Culp’s husband shot her in the face in a suicide/homicide in which he took from her a literal face and a literal beauty, in many ways a woman’s most costly social possession. Her life, from that point, became discourse, material. Connie lived, but her body became a process of masculine rage instead of her own. Her reconstructions were an unraveling and uniting of tensions to find the beauty and the inconsolable parts of not just being alive, but staying alive.

My poetry serves as anchor and mirror to some of these exigent feminine crises. My poems do not shy from subject such as love, violence, exploitation, and preservation. Nature and the feminine form have presented themselves as ineffectual binaries through which my poems treat flesh as a material and thus alterable landscape, its own polemic indecipherable from identity. When words chosen out of desire are their own flesh, then writing is breathing as much as it is burning.

Sara Henning, “Tether” Pg. 29

So to Speak Summer 2011 Online Issue featuring poetry and art

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