After close reading the poem “Enough,” by Suzanne Buffam, our group discussed its voice, content, form, tone, and symbolism, starting with a question about the narrator’s identity: Whom do we visualize? What do we know? A range of interpretations emerged: a (suburban?) female trapped in that role, wanting to start over and not live by convention, and who wants to talk about her suffering because she’s ready to explode. Perhaps the talking is a remedy for what’s bottled up: a legacy of rage, an inherited setback (victimhood or depression?) that challenges her to work it out for herself. We also saw the narrator as a traveled sophisticate, one who employs dark humor and wears dark glasses indoors, like a superpower or shield.
Participants found several cues and clues in the poem that suggest a longing for mobility and departures: an ant drawn home along a destined path, a train in motion, and a powerful juxtaposition of natural elements. The form of the poem was described as a stream of consciousness built by a series of 2-line stanzas that embody both rupture and continuity.
“Write about something passed down through your family” was our prompt, and writers employed a variety of forms, themes, voices and details. Our first response constituted a listing of events or attributes, without verbs, leaving us to imagine more about the identity of the narrator. This raised the idea of how our identity might be constructed through items and events. The events seemed to connect to family like talismans that carried the family into the future.
Another participant described a silver bracelet and from there took us on a spatial and temporal journey imbued with ritual that ended with the hope of revisiting a mountain with children in the future. A third participant described a firewall – or maybe a fire wall – that we could feel viscerally, moving through time.
We also thought about the attributes that we learn from the people with whom we grow up, and how we go back to those lessons when we confront trouble even after we’re grown ourselves. Here and elsewhere, we observed how the prompt asked for “something” that was passed down, but that at least sometimes, a single thing being passed down would not be enough to represent the whole of what we take from those who came before us.
Our final writer raised the question of how we can be tethered to the things we inherit, even if they’re tucked away under a bed. It reminded one participant of the way Jewish Europeans almost always had a violin, no matter how poor they were, so the love of music was handed down from generation to generation.
Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.
Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!
Please join us for our next session Monday, October 26th at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.
Enough By Suzanne Buffam I am wearing dark glasses inside the house To match my dark mood. I have left all the sugar out of the pie. My rage is a kind of domestic rage. I learned it from my mother Who learned it from her mother before her And so on. Surely the Greeks had a word for this. Now surely the Germans do. The more words a person knows To describe her private sufferings The more distantly she can perceive them. I repeat the names of all the cities I’ve known And watch an ant drag its crooked shadow home. What does it mean to love the life we’ve been given? To act well the part that’s been cast for us? Wind. Light. Fire. Time. A train whistles through the far hills. One day I plan to be riding it. Source: The Irrationalist (Canarium Books, 2010)