Manicddaily, a/k/a Karin Gustafson, here on February 2, a/k/a Groundhog Day! (The above is my dog, Pearl, who is a bit confused about the day.)
And for you who are also confused: Groundhog Day is the day upon which a rather large brown rodent decides the next six weeks’ weather.
The story–I guess you could call it an “old wive’s tale”– is based on the idea that the groundhog tends to stir from his winter’s hibernation right around February 2nd. If, upon drowsily emerging from his den, the groundhog catches sight of his own shadow, he supposedly gets so freaked out that he ducks back down for six more weeks of sleep. Thus, bringing on six more weeks of winter.
If, however, the groundhog emerges and does NOT see his shadow, he will NOT be frightened back into hiding, and the rest of winter will be mercifully short.
When I was a child, what always seemed odd to me about this story (setting aside the question of how a rodent, even a large rodent, controlled weather systems) was its contrariness. Since a groundhog could only see his shadow on a day of bright sunshine, it was a sunny February 2 that foretold an extended winter, while a grey dank day was one that promised spring.
It made no sense to me. Now, that I am both older and married, however, I try to look for inner truths in this type of folklore. I won’t bore you with my machinations about brisk wintry weather as opposed to damp springlike weather. Where the story feels more grounded in meaning to me (and not just hog) is in the landscape of the mind. What supposedly scares the groundhog is not the sun, but his shadow–his fear, in other words, of a looming opponent, or perhaps just of brightly-edged darkness, his delusion, his blinking disorientation.
So, finally, we get to my idea of the Art, the Poetry, of the day. This interplay of bright and shadow, the real and the quasi-real, protective fears and delusional fears, and how the self fits into all of it–are themes artists/poets deal with all the time.
In painting, the drama of light and shadow comes up not just in subject matter, but technique, particularly in “chiaroscuro”–literally bright shadow–which was developed in the Renaissance and beyond as a means of sculpting images through the drama of light and shadow.
In poetry, the exploration of shadow comes up in innumerable different ways – poems that speak of light and dark, delusion and reality, the inferred and the concrete, what one takes and what one leaves behind, one’s caught vision of one’s self, the passage of time and people….
Due to copyright concerns, I won’t post complete poems, but here are very short excerpts of some shadow poems that I found especially striking: from Charles Wright’s, A Short HIstory of Shadow: “Tonight, in the unconditional, what moves in the long-limbed grasses,/ what touches me/As though I didn’t exist?”
Arguing with Something Plato Said,by Jack Collum, which begins:“As ashes are the shadow of smoke,/panic is the shadow of light,/ beef is the shadow of grass,/ love the shadow of attention….”
From “Song of the Barren Orange Tree,” by Federico Garcia Lorca, translated by W.S. Merwin (the first two stanzas only):
Cut my shadow from me.
Free me from the torment
of seeing myself without fruit.
Why was I born among mirrors?
The day walks in circles around me,
and the night copies me
in all its stars.
(I urge you to read each of these poems in their entirety.)
So, Poets, that’s your prompt: “bright shadow.” Take it where you will – focusing on physical light and shadow, metaphorical light and shadow, chiaroscuro if you’ve got a tilt towards Renaissance or Mannerist painting, Bill Murray if your taste runs to fun movies, or, if you absolutely must, big brown rodents. (I am a bit phobic so would prefer you didn’t, but hey, if that’s what floats your poetic boat–)
And after posting – poke your head out of your digital den, and check out your fellow poets!
Here’s the drill for those who are new to this community:
- Write a poem jumping off (or into) bright shadows. Post it to your webpage.
- Click the Mr Linky button below and enter your name and direct URL of your poem
- This is where you will also find the other participants, read, give feedback to the other poets. (Don’t lurk in the shadows, however bright!)
- Promote your own poem and the prompt on the social media of your choice, if you include @dversepoets it will be easier for us to find you.
- Have fun.