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Featured Guest Poet Elizabeth Warren

To a Girl Becoming a Woman

Here, witness,
in houses of religion,
the many veils of
the many bodies of
And here, worship.
Conjure a mirror.
Put your hand through.
Pull out your expression,
your countenance.
I give you a dream
that I made of
oh, dream it!
Virgin, remember,
your body a sacrament,
a host, broken
cradle of man,
oh, save it!
You have a blessing
to finger on your rosary,
a sin to desire
an idol, a charm
to name.
Here, pray, I beg you,
to be set upon
my clear path.
A needy animal
like you
July, 1999

Elizabeth Warren's Questions:

My aim is to be direct and clear, smart but not intellectual, and to draw from images that will be vivid for a wide audience. Do I achieve that?

I'm having trouble with the title ("To a Girl..." is just what I'm calling it for now).

Comments on the structure? I'm not a fan of "rigid" form, but I like a poem that has some shape to it.

Hi Elizabeth, This poem speaks of coming-of-age issues within a religious context. The resonance with the Virgin Mary is clear, but the reference to the speaker's dream is not (Eve's dream?). Perahps the speaker is being a bit too sanctimonious when she asks the girl to be "set on my clear path." Why is the speaker's path "clear?" The animal metaphor of the final lines could refer to some future "animal" which the girl may herself some day encounter -- and perhaps offer her own adivce. It also stands in contrast to the overall theme of abasement within the church, since, so far as we know, God is a construct particular only to humans. Hang on to the title for now; it's important we know that the speaker is addressing a young girl.
Scott Reid
USA - Mon Jul 19 12:55:20 1999

Elizabeth: I find this a a coming out of sorts, for those who stand at the gates between girlish dreams and releasing their latent sexual power. Specially tempting to me is fingering the Rosary. What a sexually explicit yet hidden remark, it is simply divine. Syyd Raven
Syyd Raven
USA - Mon Jul 19 19:23:43 1999
My aim is to be direct and clear, smart but not intellectual, and to draw from images that will be vivid for a wide audience. Do I achieve that? This is an interesting question. Depending on what you mean by intellectual, there aren't many outside references that would prevent understanding of the poem (save being Catholic.) But whether one can say that this poem is geared for a wide audience, I'm not sure, because the audience for poetry seems to be growing smaller. The poem is clear and direct, for the most part. This you do achieve. The voice is very direct, commanding, very authoritative. The subject matter is poignant and interesting and it is something that I am not so sure can be readily resolved by the reader on just one pass. The way you construct the building of a woman's self image is an interesting and charged one. But there are questions that I have about a few lines. "broken cradle of man" What do you mean by this? I assume to some degree that you are referring to the Judeo-Christian myth of Eve being created from Adam's rib. But the choice of language is charged with other meanings as well; i.e. broken cradle on its own is very image inspiring - everything from thoughts of Lilith to the idea that this girl is the former caretaker/giver of man. But the actual phrase seems to lend weakness to the strength of character, of message. I still wonder about this strength this path that you (or the voice) are carving for this girl. Something created out of humility and servitude? Or do you mean that after serving and gaining humility you were given a dream to pass on? Also what is meant by "You have a blessing / to finger on your rosary, / a sin to desire / an idol, a charm / to name." I understand the idea of praying with the rosary but is she praying for an idol or avoiding praying for one. Or can she not name her sin? These are all good questions I can ask myself. It keeps me thinking about the poem and the various meanings I can derive from it. But from your question it seems that you are looking for a specific answer. And, for me, it seems one can not be given. I think the title is appropriate unless you have someone more specific in mind. I have no complaints or specific observations on the structure of the poem. The poem flows and that is enough for me. b. m. cox
b. m. cox
USA - Tue Jul 20 15:26:54 1999
Greetings; the poet here. To all questions of meaning, the answer is, there is no answer. I meant for this to be a highly ambiguous poem from an older, religious-but-jaded, woman...perhaps a survivor of abuse at the hands of a man who claimed religion as his cause. The speaker wants to pass on as much warning about womanhood as wisdom. There should be distinct sexual over (or under) tones- such as 'fingering the rosary.' The sin, the idol could be desire itself . The "needy animal like you" could be describing the girl, or in a different read, someone like her who she will meet and who is "in wait" for her. Ambiguous is exactly how I want it! I wonder, though, if I could come up with a more "clever" title that would indicate the ambiguity of the rest of the poem. Thank you for your comments.
Elizabeth Warren
USA - Tue Jul 20 21:58:11 1999
Dear Elizabeth, if you remove the title, the poem loses an intended(?) meaning. I can find a title anywhere in your work, but find myself focused on "Oh, dream it". Is this Alice through a looking glass? The religious context can be directed at "genuflexion", worshipping an ideal - dreaming of being "set on my clear path"...what is the confusion? Who is the needy animal? I think it is the person that you seek, that you dream of? The needy animal is waiting for "you" to find the "clear path", the "sin to desire". I am not seeing an "older, religious-but-jaded woman". I am seeing (without the title)either a man or woman who dreams of finding a clear path to their dreams. A more "clever" title? "Coming Together". Here, hear, poems - Cheers...Ken

USA - Fri Jul 23 01:37:04 1999
The focus seems to shift in this poem, which I like a lot. I have a picture of two people looking into a mirror - perhaps a mother standing behind her daughter offering words of love, advice, guidance, warning. The animal I see as the older person's vision of sexual desire - which will make the young girl a woman, and is a good thing, but which will also make her more of the earth, more animal. Between innocence and wisdom lies a path filled with heaven and earth - dreams and animals. I love the symbolism of the poem. I like the title, too, but I might shorten it. Maybe call it "To a woman becoming"
Donna W.
USA - Sun Jul 25 19:17:09 1999
Elizabeth, I echo Donna about the title; I like her suggestion " A woman becoming". The poem is direct and clear. I like the symbolism, the two women, the mother who sees herself at the age of her daughter, the sacrality of the body and instinct. To me, the poem works either for contents and form. Good job. Thank you for the read. Paula
Paula Grenside
Italy - Wed Jul 28 22:35:25 1999
Elizabeth, I like your ambiguity about what the advice truly contains - somehow it makes it seem a more viceral, unplanned communication from the speaker. I also like the references to an adolescent's self-image - putting one's hand through a conjured mirror to pull out your own face is a powerful notion, and definitely conjures for me the idea of a woman who has been abused in someway trying to save a young girl from similar hurt. My only question regards the line "my clear path" - if this is a woman who has suffered somehow, which comes across nicely in the rest of the work, is she pointing the girl to the path she has been on that led to the pain, or to the path that hindsight has pointed out to her?
Cate Kulak
USA - Sun Aug 1 13:22:46 1999
I like the sense of the line better adding a comma after "desire": "You have a blessing to finger on your rosary, a sin to desire, an idol, a charm to name." "a sin to desire" says more to me than "a sin to desire an idol" Then, "an idol" stands alone. In this culture of teenage idols, I think it speaks well alone. The ending is powerful and very strong. Can you add an adjective to "animal" Something daring! I like it very much. -Pete
Peter Frengel
USA - Tue Aug 3 18:25:51 1999

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