Monday, April 15, 2013

Women as Mythmakers: Lucille Clifton's "Leda"

Lucille Clifton's response to the story of Leda's rape by the swan-formed Zeus, I cannot help but compare to William Butler Yeats' "Leda and the Swan:"

"How can those terrified vague fingers push / The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?"

Honestly, I think "Leda 1" is a direct response:

"there is nothing luminous/ about this."

Clifton gives voices to other Ledas, less victimized than Leda 1. But all of them are attempts to give voice to women's perspective, not that of the swan-god or the onlooker.

My reading of this poem is hardly original--for some interesting criticism that suggests that Leda 2 and 3 are Mary and Eve, visit Shara McCallum’s “The Volta, the Vulva, Leda, and Lucille” at Voltage Poetry. Note: It was disturbingly difficult to find an image of Leda where she isn't smiling or kissing the swan on the beak. Gross.

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