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Gender Sexuality - Essay Example

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Diane Ackerman’s poem “A Fine, Private Place” (AFPP) and Joan Murray’s poem “Play-by-Play” (PBP) are very different in style. …
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Gender Sexuality
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Download file to see previous pages This is interesting because it reverses the more common poetic tradition of male poets writing about female beauty from a male perspective.
The history of Western love poetry goes back to the Middle Ages, and the tales of courtly knights who admired fair ladies. The lady was idealized in poetry, but in society men had a very much stronger position. Love poetry was therefore artificial, with very little reference to actual sex. In modern times there are more women poets, mainly because access to education, and to publishing facilities, are much more available to women. The two poems mentioned here are examples of a challenge to masculine literary tradition. They suggest there might be a different world order where women can take the initiative and use their power of writing to objectify and idealize men, according to a new set of gender rules which are much more equal.
Ackerman’s poem shows how a meeting between a man and a woman can take place under water, using breathing apparatus. The first section shows how the underwater world is different from the everyday world on land. The fact that the man “had to ask twice” before the woman could interpret his gesture of love, suggests that the new environment requires a new type of body language, and a more subtle way of initiating sex. In fact as the poem progresses, the underwater location provides a whole new set of images and connotations. It is very noticeable that the the male partner is described with in terms of an octopus, sand, sea, kelp, shells etc. His hands are described as being “like tawny starfish”. These are not powerful images. The woman seems to be a part of the whole ocean, while the man is little more than a collection of timid creatures who want to be near her.
It is clear that the woman feels at home in the underwater world, and the only disturbing moment in the scene occurs in the lines “drawing her close as a pirate vessel to let her board: who was this she loved?” (AFPP, lines 47-50). This reference to the pirate ship suggests that the man is an element of danger, but the thought is dismissed and the scene carries on. An important element in the scenery is the way that the underwater world is compared to a very feminine space: “an opium den” (AFPP, line 6) or “blue boudoir” (AFPP, line 90), complete with decor that is “pillow soft” (AFPP, line 91) with “quilted mosaics” (AFPP, line 100) and “twitching spangles” (AFPP, line 102). The ocean caresses the woman and the suggestion is that when a woman makes love, she returns to a previous evolutionary state, in which she is at one with the beautiful surroundings. The man is the pirate, who invades this matriarchal world, and she remembers him fondly, but she eats up the memory like a peach, showing that ultimately it was the union with the ocean that inspired her, and the man was just a small part of that whole experience. The poem by Joan Murray also writes about memories, but this time they are the collective memories of women who have been watching young men playing softball. For centuries men have been discussing women’s bodies, and evaluating them, for their own amusement. In this poem the tables are ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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