Sixteen participants got up close and personal with Ted Kooser’s arachnid poem Daddy Long Legs. After listening closely to two readings, we discussed our overall impression of the work by noting words, lines and images that stood out. Some questions that were asked: What is a spider’s simple obsession—to find food and live? How does it relate to our obsessions? Can steel be springy? What is the poem really about, beyond an insect? One reader, drawing on a kinship with the book Charlotte’s Web, noted the paradox of the relative size/strength relationship of an ant, fly or spider: fragile/crushable yet so very strong. In the spirit of narrative medicine, it was also noted that close looking at insects (outside a poem) reveals their beauty and identity beyond pest status.
Several participants identified an affiliation with the spider and themselves (an easy grace, with our movement controlled by the center of ourself providing a calming balance) and also distinctions: what if we were unflustered by superficiality and could home in on being content with ourselves with love at the center?
The description of the spider reminded one listener-reader of another bug: a drawing of a virus that looks spider-like. This raised questions of vulnerability, mobility and motility: : are we more like a fly caught in a spider’s web, or when there is no web, what sustains us in addition to our thoughts? We came full circle by recognizing that the poem’s colloquial title was not universally accessible. The words “Daddy Long Legs” evoked thoughts of an ill father for one participant while for others it reminded them of an epistolary novel, a movie, and a stage musical.
Our reflective writing was to the prompt: Write about a thought…caught
We had five writers share their reflections. One writing considered the moment we are now living in with COVID as a time that has caught us in a continued exploration of internal and external thoughts. Another writer saw the act of meditation challenging us to let go of our thoughts and breath. Following on this theme a writer likened a thought as “hooking a fat fish”, and considering whether to keep it or toss it back to “swim with our other random thoughts”. Another writer offered the idea of seeing in the eye of a beloved the depth of their love and wanting to be caught in the center of that loved one’s thoughts. And one writing took us into a dream of violence, where the killing of another provokes the question “am I perpetrator or victim?” and resolving with having been caught in this troubled thought until just now.
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Please join us for our next session Monday, September 28th at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.
Daddy Long Legs by Ted Kooser Here, on fine long legs springy as steel, a life rides, sealed in a small brown pill that skims along over the basement floor wrapped up in a simple obsession. Eight legs reach out like the master ribs of a web in which some thought is caught dead center in its own small world, a thought so far from the touch of things that we can only guess at it. If mine, it would be the secret dream of walking alone across the floor of my life with an easy grace, and with love enough to live on at the center of myself. “Daddy Long Legs” from Flying at Night: Poems 1965-1985, by Ted Kooser, © 2005. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260.