Friday, January 30, 2009

Hands, Clenched or Open

I've had hands on the brain for several weeks now. That line of Obama's about how we'll be willing to extend a hand if others unclench their fists has stuck with me.

I had already been thinking about hands because of visiting with my nephew, who is 2 and a half years old, over Christmas. He's not shy about asking to hold hands. One night, he even wanted to hold hands at dinner. I like his ability to ask for what he needs, whether it's hands to hold or someone to play with, or a book to be read.

Last night, after my poetry class, I was thinking of Tennyson's poem, "In Memoriam, A. H. H." I thought of the image of hands stretched out with no one there to hold them, which is so prevalent in the poem (but is it throughout the poem or just in the one chunk that I used to teach? I'll have to look it up later). I've always found that image so devastating.

If I was writing my dissertation today . . .

No, I wouldn't have enough material. Still, I'd love to know how many times the image of hands shows up throughout the history of poetry. It's a powerful image, perhaps more powerful than that tired image of the heart. Or perhaps it's just a more flexible image, since hands can be held, clenched, used in so many ways.

I like Obama for many reasons. I love the pictures I've seen of him, when he's holding a book, and he's got a finger in it to hold his place, as if he was interrupted during his reading, and as soon as the consultation is finished, he'll dive right back into the book. Much has been made over his nonfiction reading habits, but his speeches show that he's got an understanding of the poetic image as well.

1 comment:

Shefali said...

Maybe it might be interesting to analyse all that hands say into, say, 5 categories, and all that they do in another 3. it might be fun to see if these cancel each other out, reinforce each other, or operate in completely diverse dimensions.
we could take a few poems and do this. might be fun, like quilting with opposite colors or complimentary hues.
or something.
of course, one does have other things to do instead of a narcissitic staring at one's hands and thier dialectic.