Hey, Why’d You Do That, Deborah Guzzi?
Writers are asked many general questions about their craft.
…”What is your overarching philosophy regarding the inherent power of fiction?”…”What IS–character–to you?”…”What is the position of place in your work?”…
These are great and important questions, but I’m really curious about the little things. In the “Hey, Why’d You Do That” series, I ask accomplished writers about some of the very small choices they made during the process of composition.
Deborah Guzzi is a Connecticuter whose poetry has been published in markets all over the world. Some of that work appears in 2015’s The Hurricane, a collection published by Prolific Press. Please consider purchasing the book directly from them, but you can also get the book from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Ms. Guzzi was kind enough to suggest we discuss her poem, “The Sowing.” The poem is available here for free. I was touched by how much she clearly loves her poem and feels that the piece is doing good with respect to domestic violence and rape: issues that are near and dear to the hearts of many of us. As my Ohio State MFA colleague Laurel Gilbert is also greatly interested in these problems, I thought it would be interesting to see what she would ask Ms. Guzzi about her poem. (I was right.)
The poet included an introductory comment about the intended meaning of her poem and I include it here:
In the verse The Sowing, we are presented with idyllic high pastures overlooking the sea covered with poppies [symbolic of remembrance of the dead, beauty, magic, consolation, fertility and eternal life], and rape in spring. It is Mother Earth who is remembering, grieving, marking her fallen daughters in the age-old war of man against woman. The remembrance is not created by society, as Flanders’ Field was for the victims of that war. There is no place where the death of women at the hands of men is marked for all to see and count the numbers, as they continue to roll in even in the 21st century. Women and their product children have always been used as cheap labor and still are. What is being sown is a continued acceptance, of the need for, and rightness of, the second class status of women.
1) Line 8 has perhaps the most surprising turn of phrase in the poem:
“They bleed by the moon, and son, upon the fields.”
The interplay between “son” and “sun” has a lot of potential meanings, sometimes religious, sometimes familial….why’d you use the “son” there, when “sun” is implied?
The moon blood is menstrual, normal, shows their fertility. The blood which comes from their sons comes with the birth of each male child who then perpetuates the concept of ‘original sin’ and the rightness of male dominance, ‘dominion of man’. Sun does not make the woman bleed.
2) And…why “sun” in line 15?
In this line I am merely indicating the heat of the sun caused the flower to bloom. Son could not be used in anyway in this context. Though they would like to believe, God is a man; men do not make the sun rise.
3) There’s also a double-meaning for “rape” in this poem: both rapeseed, as a plant, which seems implied by lines 4 and 10, but then of course, in line 13, the women “birth the fields by consent or rape,” implying usage of rape as the terrible verb it is.
The flower rape is used for two reasons a.) it is a crop which is yellow: the color of cowardice; b.) both the women and the field are ploughed under, seeded and harvested. Often, through the centuries, this ploughing and seeding-sowing was done without conscent. Consent or no consent, the crop for society is the cheap or free labor of women and children. I repeat, this still goes on in the 21st century.
How do you see the two meanings of “rape,” one as a life-giving crop and one as a violent crime, interplaying in this poem? How do you envision the reader experiencing the play in meaning and implication between the two uses of the word “rape?”
Some readers will get it and some won’t; in many ways, I’m preaching to the choir. The first layer of the verse is most simply a beautiful scene. Women in the Third World would understand life without means can certainly mean death and life brought about by rape is most certainly a double-edged sword. Some men will never acknowledge the concept of rape at all because they think taking a woman is their right.
4) In line 16, why did you write “soul” instead of “sole?”
The field is full to the brim with blood-red poppies, many women have died, not a sole heroine. Many female souls.
5) Why a “Flanders field” of “poppies?” Who are the wounded warriors in this poem? Why is it “no Flanders Field” for these particular warriors?
Refer to the top of the page-but simply put, there is no such place because patriarchal societies do not acknowledge by count how many women they batter, rape, enslave or kill. They are in charge they make known what they wish us to believe.