What is a close reading of the first four pages (the poems) in Silko's Ceremony?

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Leslie Marmon Silko’s use of poetry in the opening pages of her novel Ceremony serves to accentuate the genre boundaries in Western literature and to prompt the reader to examine the falsity of such rigid lines. The content of the poems is concerned with the fundamental nature of creativity,...

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Leslie Marmon Silko’s use of poetry in the opening pages of her novel Ceremony serves to accentuate the genre boundaries in Western literature and to prompt the reader to examine the falsity of such rigid lines. The content of the poems is concerned with the fundamental nature of creativity, as the speaker invokes the generative power of thought and femaleness: “whatever she thinks about appears.” The female aspect of creativity is emphasized through the mention of the two sisters who created not just this world, but the whole universe.

Creativity is rendered metaphorically through different forms, the web and the story. Weaving becomes the implicit metaphor for the processes that the spider/Thought Woman and author share. By asserting immediately that Thought Woman is a spider, Silko suggests the web as a basic creative structure, which influences the complexities of the structural organization of the novel that follows. Simultaneity is equally important as chronology in relating events and characters to each other. At the same time, she encourages the reader to identify not only with the spidery webmaker but with her prey—as readers, we will be caught in the web, or tale, that Silko spins.

The speaker in the second poem is identified as “he,” but we do not learn if that is the same speaker as in the first one. The subject of stories is extended and amplified, much as a strand of silk becomes a web, through the speaker’s assurance that he will tell us about the power of stories. His assertion amplifies the importance of stories established in the first poem:

You don’t have anything

If you don’t have the stories.

The belly of the creative person—here rendered as male, but with a clear implication of female fertility—is also likened to the reservoirs of culture contained in ceremonies.

The third poem may be a response to the male speaker, as it begins, “What She Said,” or it may jump back to connect with the first poem as part of the speaker’s promise. This singular statement encapsulates not only the generative but the restorative power of culture and creativity: “The only cure / I know / is a good ceremony….”

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