11 July 2011
Comparisons between ‘Localism or T/here’ and ‘Post Feminism’
There are a number of comparisons that can be drawn between Juliana Spahr’s Localism or T/here and Brenda Shaughnessy’s Post Feminism – two poems concerned with the idea of togetherness in the face of adversity. Shaughnessy uses an exaggerated example of post-feminist society to demonstrate how in spite of trying not to fulfil social expectations of womanhood (the poem refers to prostitutes and mothers), togetherness is important in some context. Spahr prefers to demonstrate how ultimately, togetherness is something that you can share regardless of whether you’re “lost there and here.” In short, these are two poems concerned with the modern retelling of relationships and how, in a post-feminist world or in a world industriously reinforced by globalisation, togetherness is still achievable. Both poems are ballads and tell the story of two couples who are attempting to maintain their relationship in the face of adversity.
Localism or T/here is a poem that directly addresses the difference in space between couples. It is a post-modern poem in the sense that it address contemporary culture in which, the idea of ‘locality’ is one which no longer holds any prevalence in society. Globalisation and the like have caused the world to become smaller but equally, it has led to people living further away from their home towns and their loved ones. The poem reflects this through its choice of language: Spahr consistently uses words which demonstrate movement and more specifically, movement apart from one another. Phrases such as “gliding, gliding, off, and off, and off” giving the impression that the people in question are persistently moving away from one another. The image which immediately comes to mind is that they are a couple who hold important professional roles which demand a lot from them. However, the use of the word “gliding” adds a smooth, calm effect to the poem – indicating that the couple are comfortable with their situation. Equally, Shaughnessy’s poem, Post Feminism makes a similar comment: the lovers in her poem are attempting equality under adverse circumstances. The poem repeats that there are two types of people and indicates that these are two opposites: “soldiers and women” and “You and me.” The implications of these statements are clearly suggesting that this couple, who as man and woman are two distinct opposites, are still together despite this. In this sense, the two poems both share common ground in their discussion of relationship successes in spite of the odds.
The two poems are contrasted by their individual forms, however. In Locality or T/here, Spahr has deliberately created a poem whose structure is chaotic and disenfranchised from a defined state in order to demonstrate the erratic and incoherent nature of the relationship it discusses. The couple are constantly and quite literally, all over the place, and the poem’s form reflects this. In Post Feminism, the poet repeatedly discusses the duality of human nature and the sense that there are two types of people and the poem is structured into a number of couplets to further enhance this idea. Furthermore, the couplets are non-rhyming which the poet has deliberately done to demonstrate the contrast in nature between these two opposites – if the couplets rhymed then it would suggest a sense of easy coherence, whereas in this instance, Shaughnessy has shown that the two do not live in an easy co-existence with one another. In this sense, their forms do contrast one another but they are also comparable in their non-conformist approach and in the poet’s intention to physically manifest their poem’s meaning.
Spahr uses a significant amount of repetition through her poem and, in particular, she uses assonance through the use of words such as “and,” “there,” “here” and “we.” These are words whose pronunciation places the emphasis on vowel sounds and the effect of which is to manipulate the reader into performing the poem as an almost ‘tongue twister’ which forces the reader to really focus on what they are saying. Overall, the poem relies heavily upon repetition as a form of demonstration as to why the couple are constantly moving apart whilst actually still moving in the same direction. The whole effect of this is that the poem is confusing and difficult – allegorically representative of human relationships, en masse. However, one of the poem’s final lines indicates the true nature of the relationship: “And you are as accepting of the refrigerator as you are of the bough loaded with fruit.” This line clearly demonstrates that the couple are equally as happy in the conventional aspects of their love (i.e. the refrigerator as a conventional form of food storage) as they are in the less contemporary aspects (the bough). By comparison, Shaughnessy discusses how the two types of people who are involved in relationships are capable of both extremes: love and hate, good and bad, “blank and loose.” The poem builds its ideas on the back of juxtapositions which demonstrate that these two awkward measures can live in harmony with one another: “metallic lingerie” is a phrase which demonstrates this aptly as it manages to be both hard and soft all at once.
“Post Feminism.” PoetryFoundation.org. Brenda Shaughnessy. 1999. Web. 12 July 2011.
Spahr, Julianna. “Localism or T/here.” Fuck You, Aloha, I Love You. Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2001. Print.