Friday, February 20, 2009

Marechera's Love Sonnets. (6).


At the close of his 1984 interview with Flora Veit-Wild, Marechera reflects on his image of women and the ambiguity of the Amelia Sonnets. His exact remarks are:

“This is also what silences me sometimes, usually when I feel that I love somebody. I then remember all the things that I have been brought up with. This is also the reason why some of the poems are about Amelia are ambiguous. In one poem I treat her as if she is dead, in another as if she is a ghost …as a prostitute…[.]” (p.217).

This is what strikes so oddly in the sonnets. Traditionally, the Beloved is perfect. She is immaculate and unitary. She is the One. She is an integral integer. There can be no diversion from a single point-of-view when viewing her. Psychologically, she is the whole, often the Platonic Form, before the fragmented mind of the poet. She is the organising factor. Typically, within his art, Marechera’s Amelia is uneven, inseparable from the discontinuities within the poet. Sonnet IV and VIII are polar opposites. “Primal Vision” unveils Amelia as a succubus. She fornicates with angels in Heaven. The poet, adopting Plath’s vampiric language in Ariel, bares his dripping fangs” at the nightmare. “Cemetery of Mind” laments that the angelic Amelia has died rather than “diseased city whores”. Once more, the language of Plath enters, her “Bright as a Nazi lampshade” is echoed in “Silence wrapped in the bright human skin lampshade”.

There is a wish within the Amelia Sonnets to create a shifting reality. As Marechera allows the fragmentation of the Beloved to exist, a feeling of posturing and artifice enters the sonnet sequence. Sonnet V, “Th’Anniversary”, acknowledges this by referring to Donne’s poem and his love of love and the language of love. Marechera’s sonnet, however, debunks any thoughts of love beyond the grave except as a vile dance of death:

We dined on worms as fat as pickhandles
And she danced on my arm as I led her onto the dance floor;

And in “The Visitor”, Marechera compares the poet-lover to Pygmalion whose unnatural desire brought dead matter to life— who abandoned a real prostituted world for one of unreal idealism. Creativity is a willed act: it is a “terrible pact”, as Marechera says, a Faustian act of denial.

The Amelia Sonnets are interesting, experimental works, but ultimately they lack expressiveness. To judge them in terms of coherence is a mistake. They stand against coherence. They do not achieve a language, however, that convinces a reader of their emotional integrity.

3 comments:

Id it is said...

"They do not achieve a language, however, that convinces a reader of their emotional integrity." I have been pondering over this now for a while, and I still don't know whether I have a view on this...
Is it language that provides emotional integrity to a piece? If so isn't that manipulation and wouldn't that make it suspect...

Just thinking aloud; can't get a handle on this one

Eshuneutics said...

I am still pondering this too. I find the language, to use your apposite word, "manipulative". Consequently, the sonnets feel like a game. The cracks show. But that is typical of Marechera-- to leave the cracks to expose the artifice of art. I want to find some clever purpose behind the uneven results, but am unhappy to do so because my emotional gauge says, "This is just second-rate poetry". I keep coming back to Marechera's attack on the objective correlative: emotion seeks expression through objects and the objectification transmits emotion to the reader. The love sonnet rests upon this. I suspect that he has short-circuited this to create a shock, to reveal emotions that have no objective correlative. But what kind of amorous language exists outside the historical image repertoire of love? I go in circles (like you), asking "Am I being duped here?"

Id it is said...

That's exactly how I feel...unwilling to rest my disbelief for an art form that so obviously wants to seduce...