16 November 2009

Because It Is Painful, and Because It Is My Hip

I have pain in my right hip. I've always been very concerned about my knees and hips, because one of the long-term difficulties of a lot of ballet dancers is hip and knee pain. I haven't done enough ballet to have earned that pain, but I've always been worried that I'd wind up with it by freak -- largely I'm worried because I'd be devastated if I couldn't use my legs easily, and this worry makes me keep an eye out in this area. However, when I took ballet in college I couldn't pass my leg from arabesque to a la seconde

without a quick sharp pain in the thigh and hip, and when I asked my teacher she checked and told me I had a muscle that didn't flip over when I circled my leg (although my a la seconde was certainly not as high as the one pictured here). I had no reason to doubt her, and I think it's probably this muscle (which I now see is called my tensor fasciae latae - at least, that's the one that hurts) that's getting irritated, and probably because I don't stretch it as much as I used to. So tonight at the gym I took care to stretch on the floor afterward, which had the double benefit of loosening my thigh (as it were) and feeling really goooood.

Earlier today I had PracCrit supervisions. I've now managed to cluster all my PracCrit supervisions into a single morning and early afternoon, which nicely leaves the afternoon free for other things (in this case, writing supervisions). Even more pleasurable today was the fact that we again did one of my favourite poems (which makes it sound as if these poems just happen to come up. What I mean is, I chose one of my favourite poems), a haunting brief piece, part of Black Riders and Other Lines, by Stephen Crane:

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter - bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."

Of course, I've always liked the last three lines of this poem most. I interpret them as a kind of metaphor for the revelling in sorrow that people often do. It's curious to me that we seem to like lingering over emotional pain more than emotional pleasure, but it seems we do, and those lines capture that: I am eating my own heart, yes, but I like it precisely because it causes me pain and because it is mine to eat - because it is my right. There's also a relish in self-destruction there - a kind of auto-masochism - that I find both familiar and fascinating.

The smalls liked the poem too (Hurrah!). But they came up with all sorts of other interesting observations. Probably my favourite was that the description of the way the creature holds his heart makes it vividly physical, so that there's a visceral sense of the repulsiveness of the act (I had felt this repulsion, but never thought about what in the text produced it), so that the heart is simultaneously an object and a symbol (this simultaneity is quite hard to produce in your head, and is thus quite fascinating). But I also liked one student's point that the two "bitter"s, separated by the dash, give a sense of two divided halves meeting each other, thus reflecting (or suggesting) that the meeting between the speaker and the creature is a similar such meeting, and another student's observation that whereas the instinctive reading encourages us to give the creature an ugly (in fact, bitter) tone, it is possible to read it as simply thoughtful or accepting, reflecting or simply commenting, rather than relishing.

Way to go, students!

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