The article entitled “A Mode of Self-Portrayal in Lesley Saunders’ Volume of Poems ‘No Doves’ Approached via Jung, Bachelard and Lakoff”, written by Clementina Mihăilescu and edited in Transylvania Review, is a bright and inspiring contribution. It is an interdisciplinary approach to Lesley Saunders’ poetry accomplished with rigour and insight into the basic issues that characterize the type of modern poetry practised by a British poetess concerned with the self and its striving to surpass inner and outer barriers. For such a topic to be best illustrated, Jung, Bachelard and Lakoff have been considered valuable entries by the author of this contribution.

Jung has been turned to good account by the author of the article for his approach to archetypes, regarded as the individual’s “inborn conscious and unconscious psychic structures”. Damaris Wehr has tackled archetypes as the individual’s capacity and predisposition “to form images”, the archetypal images being a result of the unfathomed unconscious. Bachelard has been mentioned in the article with respect to his opinion that the archetypes emphasize the “dialectics of the self“. Minulescu has been regarded as being equally relevant due to her conviction that the characteristic “phenomenology” of the self expresses itself through symbolic images which stand for the individual’s desire for accomplishing perfection. Such a rich palette of approaches to the issue of archetypes have provided the author of the article with various entries to the issue of the psychological barrier faced by the individual and with possible ways of harmonizing opposed conscious and unconscious tendencies.

Equal relevance has been attributed to the process of individuation by Mihăilescu. She has enlarged upon this topic referring to Jung and his suggestion that the dynamics of the relation between the ego and the self can be well explained and tackled in relation to the process of individuation. Since the two poles of the conscious and the unconscious metaphorically symbolize the “original human characteristics”, the author of the article has also resorted to Lakoff’s conceptual metaphor. Lakoff’s assumption that reason has a bodily basis has been associated in the article with Bachelard’s claim that the metaphor deals with “the truth of the image”. Surprisingly, the truth is well rendered by Lakoff through the word “bodily’, which has been turned into account through the fact that, on the level of the image and on the psychological level, “bodily” stands for both “body” and “soul”, our undivided personality.

Further grounds for confidence regarding the relevance of Mihăilescu’s interdisciplinary approach to Saunders’ poetry have arisen from Jung’s assumption that when the conscious and the unconscious fail to enter a harmonious relation, the individual might experience unpleasant and frustrated states of mind, driving him to the condition of terrible alienation.

In keeping with Jung’s psychology, it has been assumed that the poetic space depicted in Saunders’ poems can be best commented upon in relation with the archetypes of animus and anima, the latter being associated with the psychological values of intimacy present in her poetry. Close considerations have been given to various poems written by Saunders, the first poem being simply entitled “Disguised as Myself”. Various poetic images have been associated with the archetype of intimacy and the most significant ones are related to the room and to various symbolic structures such as: ”a small flock of grief ghosts”, “a pack of ghosts”, “a blurred moth on the screen”, “scissors handed the wrong way”, “a missed clue in the film with only this ending”, “a postcard winged from the brim of her life”, “a trick of light like a last wave of her glove” and “the empty sleeve”.

The author of the article claims that, although all the images present in the poem “attest to the destruction of the archetypal unity”, the poetess actually passes through the “a process of recovering herself” precisely through surfacing the dark contents of her troubled self in a symbolic manner. Surprisingly and inspiringly, Mihăilescu Clementina invests the poem with deep and provocative expectations.

The noun “doves” apparently associated with what Bachelard calls “closed symbolism”, due to its being preceded by the negative signifier “no”, has acquired positive connotations, in the author’s opinion. This is due to her close reading of Bachelard’s aesthetics in terms of the dialectical opposition between the real and the imaginary. Bachelard claims that negatively charged structures must be read resorting to the positive condition of day-dreaming, the dreams being a means of teaching us “how to live a dual existence at the palpable frontier between the real and the imaginary”.

An attentive reading of Bachelard has facilitated to Mihăilescu Clementina the acquisition of a more profound understanding of Saunders’ dreaming condition. Saunders appears to be engrossed in “the dream of reason, the dream of unity” because anima is “the archetype of life”. The author considers that doves should be regarded as “instances of this archetype”. Consequently, she states that ‘no doves’ should be read as “only doves because only doves can save us from loneliness and existential fears”. Argumentation reaches a climax when the author claims that “this is possible because human beings are concerned with accomplishing his or her aspirations in terms of the dual relation both with the inner world (heart, soul) and with the outer one”.

The analysis continues with poem “Birch Moon”. The poetess is fascinated by the mirage of the moon, claims the author and continues her well individualized approach to Saunders’ idealistic picture of it. Anima-like values are this time associated with the personified image of the moon, compared with a “traveler shut from/ warmth and cornerless rooms/ of the heart for stark nights on end”.

Bachelard is read in a different key, due to the poetic argument that ‘cyclic beings’ fail to notice “the value of dematerialization, associated with poetic symbolism”. Conversely, the author has identified another poetic path to follow through the psychological rather than spatial vision depicted in the lines: ”When you are this far north/ the only thing to be had on earth / is love, leafless, wintering”.

The potential of Mihăilescu to grasp the transforming potential of Saunders’ imagination has led her to assert that “due to the process of becoming suggested by the participial structure ‘wintering’, the poem reads as an instance of surpassing suffering”. She has also depicted the significance and the strength of the moon-love axis to transmit to us in a symbolic manner “the dynamics of awakening”, “of enlightening ourselves by inspiring us to face our destiny”.

The vocation of the author of this article to positively inspire us with the glory of believing in the power of empathy that art always emanates on condition that we are sensitive to it can be further identified in the poem “Casablanca”. The poetic space charged with genuine emotions rendered through strong chromatic symbols is activated by the colour red, interpreted as standing for a two-fold experience: the material betrayal doubled by the emotional one.

The comments related to the human betrayal are, in our opinion, a hint at the powerful insight into the complex human heart, depicted in the lines:’ a talented and / irreplaceable/ red, a class act/ the last thing/ you gave me/ a final red then/ mineral, definitive/ a scene without a sequel”. We highlight the fact that she is confident in her potential of identifying light in the shadow, and that her comment on the last two lines is impressive. She claims that ”a trail of tail-light/ off the far red of the sky” opens a different reading perspective through the suggestion that Saunders has actually projected us into some sort of “quasi-light” of a universe populated by individuals endowed with a heart filled with intense suffering and disappointments that prove that we possess a human soul where all memories are precious”.

“Psychic lyricism”, regarded by the author of the article as a means of surpassing “suffering and disappointments”, is turned into account in her comment on the poem “Face”. The poem is actually focused on the lover’s face, an image charged with both positive and negative connotations. It is also the “expression of intimacy – an anima-like representation”, inspiringly claims Mihăilescu.

The poem symbolically titled “Vessel” is focused on “the vessel of poetry”, filled up with images meant to suggest “the superlative of the beginning, and, why not, of the end”, as poetry is a new beginning itself, asserts the author, who adds that poetry is also a form of motion, suggested by the line ‘the engine of rivers where all starts and ends.”

The multiplicity of the images depicted and brightly commented by the author of the article bear proof to the fact the poem is also focused on the dialectic relation between the sacred and the profane, the former being present in the syntagm” the font of chaste beginnings”, whereas the latter, in “boastful trumpets of flood”.

The identification of the real and the unreal significances of Saunders’ poetry reaches some sort of emotional climax with Mihăilescu’s comment on the contribution entitled “Arhitect”. Associated with a “series of unimaginative verbs”, the noun “architect” is first approached in terms of the “function of the real”. The mental images within the next stanzas gradually acquire spiritual connotations and are put in relation with “the function of the unreal”. Bachelard is quoted again in connection with his opinion that “in order to become imaginatively productive the function of the real and of the unreal should intermingle”. The subsequent argument taken from Bachelard and significantly interrelated by the author with the poem “Architect” refers to the fact that language is stimulated by the merging of the real and the unreal in terms of “the double function of significance and of poetry”.

The symbol of the circle associated in the poem with a “flying bird” and “a plate of glass” is considered a means of identifying and attaching human values to the images depicted so far to such an extent that the architect (the artist) could finally find his “ideal home, his place in the world”. The two archetypes, of anima and animus, are regarded by the author of the article as having played the parts of valuable instruments of analyzing the human soul, because the ”human soul is our home and we have make peace with ourselves where ‘no doves’ stand for only doves, because Saunders has taught us that even if we cannot touch the thing (doves) we can dream the element”, asserts Mihăilescu, at the end of inspiring article full of insights into our fragile human nature. Her interpretative lesson has taught us that the world of imagination is structured and always gravitates around values and that it is our duty to discover and decode them.


Dave Trotman, Newmann University, UK

Recenzie publicată în revista Demersuri Creative nr. 27/ iulie 2018



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