Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Watermelon Woman - 2 and a poem and Sarah Orne Jewett

I was thinking about The Watermelon Woman again this morning on my run. As an aside, running is, I think one of the greatest things for the mind. I will complain about it because it is at times incredibly tedious and boring, but at other times, like this morning when it was 68 degrees nearing 70 when I arrived home after 45 minutes, it is incredible. Running gives the body something to do so that the mind can wander. So I was thinking about The Watermelon Woman and how Dunye framed her project and ways to think about the film in a broader Women’s Studies context. Here’s my thought: If I were coming to The Watermelon Woman from the perspective of a historian in which all history comes to me as buttoned-down, well-researched, carefully footnoted and fastidious cited, The Watermelon Woman would be an exciting break from that. A sort of popularized and creatively inspired history. I don’t come from that perspective of a historian, but I can see and appreciate it. From the perspective of someone who studies women’s literature, I see Dunye’s work in an important context in which personal experience and the creative impulse are combined to create new artifacts that are unlike the disciplinary objects of the past. Dunye’s work is I think like Audre Lorde’s work - including the film by Sonali Fernando, The Body of a Poet. Dunye’s work also fits in a context filmicly of many filmmakers from Women Make Movies and other associations. Moreover as a creative or literary venture she fits in with many foremothers. So I appreciate that. I still feel peevish. Tell me the facts about Black women in Hollywood, about lesbians in Hollywood. Give me more information. That’s not necessarily for Dunye, perhaps, but for a larger community.

Meanwhile, a lovely poem by C.K. Williams from The Writer’s Almanac and the note of Sarah Orne Jewett’s Birthday today.

The Clause
by C. K. Williams
This entity I call my mind, this hive of restlessness,

this wedge of want my mind calls self,

this self which doubts so much and which keeps reaching,

keeps referring, keeps aspiring, longing, towards some state

from which ambiguity would be banished, uncertainty expunged;

this implement my mind and self imagine they might make together,

which would have everything accessible to it,

all our doings and undoings all at once before it,

so it would have at last the right to bless, or blame,

for without everything before you, all at once, how bless, how blame?

this capacity imagination, self and mind conceive might be the "soul,"

which would be able to regard such matters as creation and

origin and extinction, of species, peoples, even families, even mine,

of equal consequence, and might finally solve the quandary

of this thing of being, and this other thing of not;

these layers, these divisions, these meanings or the lack thereof,

these fissures and abysses beside which I stumble, over which I reel:

is the place, the space, they constitute,

which I never satisfactorily experience but from which the fear

I might be torn away appalls me, me, or what might most be me?

Even mine, I say, as if I might ever believe such a thing;
bless and blame, I say, as though I could ever not.

This ramshackle, this unwieldy, this jerry-built assemblage,

this unfelt always felt disarray: is this the sum of me,

is this where I'm meant to end, exactly where I started out?

"The Clause" by C.K. Williams from The Singing. © Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of writer Sarah Orne Jewett, (books by this author) born in 1849 in South Berwick, Maine, and renowned for her stories about the ships, fishermen, and coastal villages of 19th-century Maine. In her teens she started writing stories about the traditions of Maine village life. Of her twenty books, the best known is the short novel The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896), which takes place in the fictitious town of Dunnet.

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