Look at #3: images and symbols in Ai’s poems. What is the latent content of this poem? What are the narrator’s core issues? What are the author’s core issues?
You raise the ax, [CN1]
the block of wood screams in half, [CN2]
while I lift the sack of flour [CN3]
and carry it into the house.
I'm not afraid of the blade
you've just pointed at my head. [CN4]
If I were dead, you could take the boy, [CN5]
hunt, kiss gnats, instead of my moist lips.
Take it easy, squabs are roasting,
corn, still in husks, crackles,
as the boy dances around the table:
old guest at a wedding party for two sad-faced clowns, [CN6]
who together, never won a round of anything but hard times.
Come in, sheets are clean,
fall down on me for one more year
and we can blast another hole in ourselves without a sound.[CN7]
[CN1]Well, duh. phallic image.
[CN2]Sex act as very violent, destructive. Phallus as violent. Rent wood = castration image? Castration images throughout Ai’s poems suggest problems with the Oedipal/Electra or genital/phallic phase of her psychosexual development?
[CN3]sack & house = yonic symbols.
[CN4]Personal violence threat is here less displaced; more direct. The violence isn’t directed at a block of wood but at the speaker herself. Still very phallic.
Note that, when someone goes out of their way to say, “I’m not afraid,” chances are: they ARE afraid. Some fear of sex here? Repressed memory of domestic violence? Or just some hurtful memory related to sex—seeing others in sex act before one is ready to understand? (Note that small children who have witnessed a couple having sex often interpret the event as one person hurting another.
[CN5]Very obvious Oedipal suggestions here. Competition for son.
Speaker claims not to be afraid of death, which of course suggest precisely the opposite: she IS afraid of death.
[CN6]These lines suggest a lighter attitude; though the “crackling” corn image is still somewhat violently phallic.
Also, the “hard times” line suggests social, not psychological, causes of the violence and unhappiness in this cast of characters, but classic Psych Crit doesn’t go there—sees human behavior as biologically determined, not socially determined.
Later revisions to Freud by Lacan, Kristiva et al would work to include the social factor in human behavior and dysfunction. For instance, “penis envy” in girls is probably not actual envy for a male dong but rather for the social privileges which girls continually see accorded to boys.
[CN7]Sex as self-harming; sado-masochistic tendencies throughout the poem.
Speaker is also defiant again; seems to have no way out of the pain, and so tries to defy it by openly inviting it, bearing it—even silently.
If I were to investigate this writer further from a Pscyh Crit point of view, I’d research what classic psychology says about sado-masochistic behavior.