Icons & Action Figures

crane38

Every once in a while, I remember what this blog was supposed to be about: poetry. How to make it, how to fix it, how to think about words and lines and tropes and all that stuff. Somewhere along the way, my recent obsession with American popular culture has kicked in, in part because, duh, Joss Whedon, but also because I am fascinated with how we construct identity and community through interacting with symbols, whether the symbols be our clothes, as my friends Meredith and Amy have recently discussed in their blogs, or music, interior decoration, or their particular fandom.

It’s not just the Greek Orthodox Church that uses icons. We all carry around in our heads the picture of a grandparent, a teacher, a college friend, a movie star, and in different ways we refer back to them at different times. Whenever I write a long piece of nonfiction, I remember my high school English teacher, Sr. Kevin White, talking about conciseness.

In my first book, which is coming along eventually, I have poems about Barbie and Ken, Raggedy Ann and Dapper Dan, Amelia Earhart, Wonder Woman, Lucy Lawless, Sam Spade, and my friends at GreenFaith. In our modern world icons and action figures are increasingly interchangeable, for better or for worse. So I don’t have to write my poetry about some incredibly high culture narrative like Paradise Lost or the Ancient Mariner. Shakespeare was popular culture once; hence all the bawdy jokes even in the tragedies. And I’m not alone in writing about women warriors: Edmund Spencer’s The Faerie Queene uses the character of Britomart, the virgin knight, to stand in for Queen Elizabeth I and British might (painting by Walter Crane). This reminds me of a folk singer who came to Middlebury College a million years ago. I still remember one of her original songs (in addition to the one about the Shrewsbury Moose):

A doll is someone who loves you,

Someone who hugs you when you cry.

I know a doll when I see one

And Rambo could be one

If he would only try!

So tell me peoples, who are your icons and action figures?CIMG1675

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