Tuesday, March 06, 2007

and sex tons

Participated in the Reader's Day Festival held at the local library here. The subject was canonicity, with an academic down from Dublin giving a talk on Lit Theory and the idea that Literature with a capital 'L' don't exist no more never did--is just a made up category used to elevate the wealthy and all that jazz. Wasn't a bad lecture. Her main point was that Irish Crime Noir and Irish Chic Lit are taking up contemporary changes in Irish culture (big new dose of crime and women working while also in the work force) that Literary writing hasn't. So she's arguing to include the most well-done writing in two genres in the Irish literary canon.

For my part, I led a workshop on Anne Sexton's work. We read some poems and talked about her subjects, mostly. How the body, specifically the female body, in its bodiness rather than baudiness, has been a subject outside the literary canon for a good few hundred years. Not news for English major feminists, but most people haven't really thought about it. Talked about "The Abortion" as a woman's war poem--the ambivalence, regret, feeling of responsbility for a death. I had a longing for a canon as old as the traditional canon, chronicling those female losses (abortion, misscarriage, infanticide), as old as "The Seafarer". But alas, women did be kept illiterate. We also read poems from the Sexton series "The Jesus Papers"--which include references to Jesus's penis, followed by "The Pope's Penis" by Sharon Olds.

The Pope's Penis by Sharon Olds

It hangs deep in his robes, a delicate
clapper at the center of a bell.
It moves when he moves, a ghostly fish in a
halo of silver sweaweed, the hair
swaying in the dark and the heat -- and at night
while his eyes sleep, it stands up
in praise of God.

All this in Catholic Ireland, 'yo! The women were a wee scandalized by "The Pope's Penis," but then one of them made a comment about the poem and/or about the subject of the poem--"It's quite short isn't it?" And everyone cracked up.