September 26, 2006

Oxford Poetry Conference: Deryn Rees–Jones on Apparitionality

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Rees-Jones’ talk is entitled ’ “Not a Ghost at All”: lineage and apparitionality in the poetry of Carol Ann Duffy and Colette Bryce’. Using Terry Castle’s model of apparitionality in The Apparitional Lesbian , Rees-Jones extends this and wants it to become a model of poetic lineage. In TAL, Castle states that, ‘the archetypal lesbian fiction decanonizes, so to speak, the canonical structure of desire itself’. Castle continues:

It is an assault on the banal: a retriangulation of triangles. As a consequence, it often looks odd, fantastical, implausible, ‘not there’ – utopian in aspiration if not design. It is, in a word, imaginary.

Castle’s book was, of course, first written to show the failure to recognize lesbian desire, but it could signify something further according to Rees-Jones: a poetic model of inclusivity.

Jessica Benjamin’s The Bonds of Love is useful for Rees-Jones here. Benjamin states: ‘The focus on pre-Oedipal life has created a growing awareness of the force and validity of another striving, that for unity, symbiosis, fusion, merging, identification’. Benjamin seeks an alternative to an Oedipal model of human relations and she wants to find ‘bodily continuity with an other’. Rees-Jones believes that without stepping beyond the Oedipal in one’s mental life, one cannot really care for an other.

Rees-Jones believes that certain poems are going beyond the Oedipal using apparitionality to communicate with others. She uses a number of examples: Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Steam’, Colette Bryce’s ‘Tense’ and another poem by Bryce, ‘The Negatives’.

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