Friday, February 11, 2011

The Honey Month, Day 11 (2/11/2011)

eta: note link.

"Day 11 - Blackberry Honey

Colour: dark amber, almost identical to a Betty Stog's bitter*, ascertained by the fact that I held my imp up to a glass of the latter. Let it not be said that I am less than rigorous in my booze-inspired descriptions.

Smell: Faint and mellow; grass and earth, but not cut grass, not that mown-lawn smell, but a scent that's clean and warm and sweet. Caramel 'round its edges.

Taste: This tastes like a mouthful of ripe blueberries. Not so much black; there isn't that tart juiciness of the blackberry. It's much more the fleshy freshness of blueberries. That texture, in fact."

A longer blank verse poem today. I must confess that I do not get all of the references - Alexander and David vs Goliath the Philistine, and a strong sense of loss and desertion - but it is perhaps metaphorically about the removal of the Palestinians? Amal has asserted in the past that the Biblical Philistines are the modern Palestinians, and I have no reason to disagree with her - certainly, the poem places the sympathy with Goliath's Philistines and not David's Israelites.**

For all that I'm not entirely sure what the poem is about (so I'm waiting, eagerly, for Amal's DVD extras today), it is deeply affective; there is a strong sense of loss and displacement, and it makes me feel sad and uncomfortable. That, I think, is one of the marks of a good poem - it cuts through the images to make a direct impact upon the reader.

* It's beer, a Cornish microbrew. Bitters are traditionally quite dark in colour.

** I've been discussing cultural assumptions with my students for the past couple of weeks; the way in which an author assumes that she shares a set of cultural references with her audience that will make the metaphors work in her writing.  We've been looking at poetry and prose from the late 1700's, where the authors assume a level of familiarity with Christian scripture and the Greek and Roman classics - a familiarity that my students do not have; that most modern readers do not have. This poem is an excellent example of twisting those assumptions - most of us in Western societies know the David and Goliath story, but we instinctively associate and sympathize with David. Amal asks us to reconsider those assumptions, as a good poet must, if she is doing her job.