Monday, 27 July 2020

Poem: Fragility

By Jeremy Dyer

Shattered Glass Shoots, by Claus Bellers.

Fragility is a foolish thing
I don’t believe you're made of glass
Stop wallowing in your suffering
It’s just a pose, now move your arse.

Your sensitivity is a sham
You’re hard as nails so drop the scam
Just pull yourself together now
You're not a sacred Indian cow.

Fragility is a hard tiara
With metal thorns to make you bleed
I don't want your psycho-drama
Just tell me what the hell you need.

Fragility is here to stay
First blowing up then tearing down
To get the child her selfish way
Bipolar like a circus clown.

Fragility, the role you wear
Spewing out your evil wrath
Mercenary, the cross you bear
Exploiting all who cross your path.

Fragility, the cruellest mask
Deceiving all with poison smile
Killing the ones you take to task
Victimising all the while.

Editors' note: In recent weeks, fragility as a social term has been covered, among others, by The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Atlantic. Where an issue becomes all too familiar, poetry may infuse fresh vigour. 'The function of poetry,' wrote the linguist and literary theorist Roman Jakobson, 'is to point out that the sign is not identical to the referent.'


Keith said...

I assume, Jeremy, that your poem’s title, and the poem itself, refers to what’s more commonly dubbed ‘white fragility’. Especially since the links that your footnote provides — links to articles in The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Atlantic — are entirely about ‘white fragility’. Not about some other variety of fragility. So, if that’s in fact the case, was there a reason you chose not to title the poem ‘White Fragility’ or use the expression ‘white fragility’ in the body of the poem? Or are you intentionally allowing readers to fill in the blank with whatever political-identity group (of which there’s a long list) they want the word ‘fragility’ to apply to?

Jayman said...

I didn't post any links so dunno where those come from. Just topical, added by admin? My poem - all of them in fact - are about the human condition, as I am very interested and involved in psychology, in particular Existential Anxiety, which is high right now. ( is my site) So fragility is a universal human condition, like any other. If you HAVE to find a political meaning, then you are welcome to, as that is the nice thing about poetry - it is capable of multiple interpretations.

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

Thank you Keith and Jeremy. I would think that, in the context of this post, white fragility is a subset of fragility. An interesting and unsettling aspect of the poem is that fragility itself may be deceptive. As the editors note, poetry reveals that the sign is not identical to the referent.

Saranti said...

Wow. Just wow. Well done my friend. And to Keith.....really? Political comment on a poem about a common human condition? Just enjoy the poetry....keep politics where it belongs:in the dustbin.

Keith said...

You’ve raised an intriguing point, Thomas. So, to be sure I’m clear, let’s apply the quote by Roman Jakobson to the case of Jeremy’s poem: If one may assume the ‘sign’ is the word ‘fragility’, what would you venture to be the ‘referent’, assuming it’s not, as Jacobson said, identical? Do you see, in this case, the referent as something abstract or concrete? And, widening the lens a little, would it not be true that one might apply such semantic devices as signs and referents not just to poetry, but equally to prose, too?

Jayman said...

No need to reinvent the wheel. In English literature the term is "metaphor." The idea is that the chair or butterfly in the poem may symbolically represent whatever the author intends, and is open to even wider interpretation. This opens up the delightful fields of imagination and beauty, and universal truth.

Keith said...

I courteously refer you, Saranti, to Jeremy’s own words in his first comment here: ‘[Poetry] is capable of multiple interpretations’. It is surely both the blessing and curse of poetry to be ascribed many meanings. Poetry’s rich allusions, abstractions, obscure references, connotations — plus readers’ own rightful predispositions — are the intellectual tinder for fueling free discussion.

In this case, the three footnoted references to articles, which bore on ‘white fragility’, foundationally prompted interpretation of a political nature, especially matters of group identity. But that’s okay. As Thomas said above, it’s a ‘subset of fragility’. All that should encourage, not dampen, curiosity and unabridged, spirited conversation.

I’ll close with a portion of Jeremy’s poignant comment immediately above, regarding his sense of the role of ‘metaphor’: ‘The idea is that the chair or butterfly in the poem may symbolically represent whatever the author intends, and is open to even wider interpretation. This opens up the delightful fields of imagination and beauty, and universal truth’. Indeed it does — as exemplified, I would observe, in Jeremy’s poem.

Keith said...

I’m curious, Thomas, about a matter of poetic technique, language, and semantics. Your quote, by the literary theorist Roman Jakobson, raised my interest: ‘The function of poetry is to point out that the sign is not identical to the referent’. I queried the quote in a comment above, to make sure justice is done here to Jakobson’s point, in its fullest. Jeremy suggests above that the quote reduces simply to ‘metaphor’. Perhaps he’s right. However, in light of your background in semiotics, do you agree with Jeremy that Jakobson’s statement was, perhaps, another (arguably more abstruse?) way of just referring to metaphor? Is metaphor all there is to Jacobson’s point, or is there subtly more to his point than that?

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

Thank you, Keith. 'The function of poetry,' wrote Jakobson, 'is to point out that the sign is not identical to the referent.'

It's been a while since I've read Jakobson, and he was an innovative thinker. Normally, fragility the sign (in this case the word on the page) would refer to fragility the referent (the thing which it stands for).

In this poem, the sign undermines, even subverts the referent, and in unexpected ways. Fragility in the social sense means an inability to tolerate race-based stress. If we interpret Jeremy's poem as referring to this kind of fragility, it says no, the fragility is deceptive.

So he would seem not only to poke at what fragility is, but at those who define it naively and treat it superficially. There is clearly a lot more than that going on in the poem, but I am not a poet!

Post a Comment