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19 October 2020

Posted by Matt L T Smith

The Shark, the Rind, the Slug Ooze and the Stag's Leap

Today we’re looking at imagery. We start by reading from Paul Takes the Form of A Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor, paying close attention to how Lawlor characterises Paul as a shark, how he “had to keep moving.” We reflect on Paul’s shark-ness and remark about the scariness of sharks, the predatoriness, when we realise that actually “we’re being pretty mean to sharks.” “Sharks just do what they have to do.”


We look at the poem alleyway by Aziza Barnes and how their images hold both a softness and a visceral quality in juxtaposition, from “Sometimes I want to eat my breasts down to their bitter rind and spit them out” to “the pair of heels darting from us in dull claps sharpening against the concrete as teeth against a stone.” We look at the way Rainie Oet’s poem  I Miss the Slug Ooze of That Summer You Died unfurls itself from the potent oozy image of the title and starting line “I put a slug on my knee and watched it crawl down my leg.” How the image of the  “ooze” hangs over the entire poem, even though it is discarded immediately and not revisited, bestowing an oozy quality on each stanza.  


Next we look at the title poem from Sharon Old’s collections Stag’s Leap, which chronicles Old’s divorce from her husband coalescing around the central image of a stag leaping on the label of their favourite bottle of wine. We muse on our associations of stags, how it conjures to mind a “Stag’s head on a hunter’s wall,” which warps the stag from a symbol of freedom to a trophy. “A stag can mean either a lot of company or no company, stag night vs going stag.” 


Pulling from our reading, for exercise to conclude the session, Antosh tasks us with writing about a person by drawing from something that is coded in nature, first finding the image and then writing our associations around it. Perhaps you could give it a whirl? Think about a person in your life, what in nature would you use to characterise them?

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