In  "Poems By Women" (Dacia Maraini), can “my green-eyed friend" really be considered a metaphor? Please explain.It may be true, I reply. But you don't know what being a woman means. You ought...

In  "Poems By Women" (Dacia Maraini), can “my green-eyed friend" really be considered a metaphor? Please explain.

It may be true, I reply. But you don't know
what being a woman means. You ought to
try it sometime, please, even if
it's forbidden by your bread-and-iron sex.
He laughs. He rolls his eyes. "I don't care
whether or not I'm a woman. I want to see the poetic
results. There are those who can make donuts
with holes: Does it matter whether they're men or women?"

It matters, my green-eyed friend, it matters;
because a woman is unable to pretend
that she's not a woman. And to be a woman
means to know her own state of subjection,
it means to live and breathe the humiliation
and self-contempt that can be overcome
only by painful toil with black tears.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In the context of the entire poem entitled "Poems By Women," by Dacia Maraini, "my green-eyed friend" can indeed be considered a metaphor.

It may seem to literally mean that the man she is speaking to has green eyes, for the author does briefly describe the man...

...a kindly round-eyed critic tells me.

However, there are several things that prompt me to perceive that there is more to the poem that what is read if one looks for the figurative—what is implied. "Round-eyed" is often associated with a child—sometimes one with look of wonder or surprise, perhaps with a sense of innocence or hope. For example, poet Ujoo Noguchi, in his poem "Seven Baby Crows," writes "Iiko da yo" which translates to "round-eyed, good children." As another example, Rabindranath Tagore's poem, "Stray Birds 77" refers to hope, and it is presented with a picture of such a child:

"Every child," he writes, "comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man." Below the poem is a photo of a round-eyed baby, a charmingly gaudy bow on her head and an ambiguous smile on her lips.

In Maraini's poem, we can infer that the critic's round eyes might refer to his naivete or his childish perception of women's poetry, in general. Foolishly, he criticizes women's poetry with a completely archaic sense of womanhood: that women are weak, gentle and unsophisticated creatures, with little talent—presented even as lacking "artifice." He says:

They lack lightness, vapor, frivolity...

...they have no grace, fluency, or inspiration;

they are devoid of the mischievous wit

of artifice, in short they don't achieve

that air of a shining afternoon after rain.

The point of the author's poem is that women are anything but the epitome of "that air of a shining afternoon after rain." Women have been subjugated, controlled—and they discredit any sense of personal power.

With this understanding of Dacia Maraini's poem, we look back to the poem's beginning with two things in mind: first, the critic is unrealistic in his expectations of poetry from women—largely, he is insulting, inferring that their work should be frivolous, for he perceives them as such—as the weaker sex.

The second aspect of the poem we have after reading it in its entirety is that the woman writing the poem has a deep and troubling knowledge of the true experience of being a woman. The speaker responds to the critic's words with:

It may be true, I reply. But you don't know

what being a woman means. You ought to

try it sometime, please, even if

it's forbidden by your bread-and-iron sex.

He laughs. He rolls his eyes. "I don't care

whether or not I'm a woman. I want to see the poetic

results. There are those who can make donuts

with holes: Does it matter whether they're men or women?"

Here we find also a sense of contradiction, for now the critic believes that the gender of the poet is not important to him at all—only "poetic results," which he infers is beyond the capability of women.

The speaker seems to have the critic's "number;" she is aware of his inadequacy to judge poetry by women for he doesn't understand the truth of their daily struggles.

Perhaps, then, the speaker refers to the critic as a "green-eyed friend" as one who exhibits a certain amount of jealousy, for green symbolizes jealousy. In wanting to understand the work—and unable to do so—he brushes it aside. However, the speaker may believe he wants to know, but cannot for he is unable to walk the path of a woman (jealousy).

 

 

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