Saturday, March 03, 2007

A Vain Head and Double Heart

As I find myself unable to rub two thoughts together yesterday or today, mostly due to small child interference, I'm wondering if creativity of the mind and creativity of the body are indeed antithetical. Sometimes I see my children as these small, made creatures. They are assembled beings that now run wild. Sometimes their otherness, their externality is more apparent. They flicker and flash in my mind between something quite integral to myself, and something utterly divergent and foreign from me.

The same could be said of poems, and the childbirth metaphor has a long history in Western literature (let alone other literatures). But--can the creativity of the mind and body co-exist in a happy fashion? My own experience would suggest, sure!, but I don't know if it's co-existence or a sustained battle, a symbiotic or parasitic relationship.

There's a particular theme in early modern literature, a dialogue of self & soul, or dialogue of body & mind--Marvell's poem is one of many--that might more accurately represent the tension between these two types of creativity: a wild creativity tapped for what can be made and moulded of it, and fabrications of flesh, blood, and bone that ultimately elude and escape the shaping impulse. That this tension should drive all art! I sometimes think, although I feel I would ultimately stand corrected, that the work of male writers and artists is sometimes too much made, that is, driven by a sensibility that wants a finished product. I am thinking of Ed Hirsch and Shakespeare, and why this odd couple comes into my mind, I do not know.

Pleasure in the imprecise, the unbound, the unresolved, the unfinished--"doth more delight me than when Art is too precise in every part" (Herrick).

Does motherhood provide some floor space for this sort of acknowledgement? Or does motherhood argue for the perfection of the shaping impulse? And, I suppose it depends what you mean by "motherhood": the accumulation of lived experience, or the many-headed hydra of the cultural construct?

The first stanza of Marvell's "A Dialogue between the Soul and the Body" is meant to be comic--but, today, it expresses for me what it means to try to be a parent and write (with all the comic inference):

O who shall, from this Dungeon, raise
A Soul inslav'd so many wayes?
With bolts of Bones, that fetter'd stands
In Feet; and manacled in Hands.
Here blinded with an Eye; and there
Deaf with the drumming of an Ear.
A Soul hung up, as 'twere, in Chains
Of Nerves, and Arteries, and Veins.
Tortur'd, besides each other part,
In a vain Head, and double Heart.

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