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in praise of “beauty”

May 13, 2012

I don’t usually read much in the way of poetry, and rarely seek to analyze the pieces that I do; but I read a poem that really caught my attention yesterday while looking through some of the things posted at The Decapitated Muse Poetry Group of Detroit. It’s a rather poignant poem called “beauty” by Aeva Sokeri:

beauty

almost got me kidnapped as a child
gave me at stalker at adelesence
found me preganant in highschool..
Wed me a year later
filmed me in bed
sold my image
an when beauty becomes your image
they will buy you
or be offended if you dont have a price
beauty is always trying to be captured and held at ransom..
i told you to leave me alone
and you just dont understand that i dont need your validation
no matter how many beautiful words, bills or jewels
i just do not need you
as much as you need me….

It’s quite short, yet full of meaning; and the implications of each line (purposely meant or not) are strikingly conveyed almost effortlessly. I don’t know what the author consciously wanted to say when she wrote it, but what I make of/take from it is:

“Beauty” begins by slicing through the common, idealistic conception of beauty by confronting the reader with some of the [presumably autobiographical] dangers and consequences of being ‘beautiful,’ of how beauty can be like a curse even though it’s often assumed to be a gift by most.

Then it speaks of how others covet and seek to exploit that beauty, taking something which is considered almost divine by many (e.g., Plato’s conception of the Form of Beauty) and debasing it, turning it into a burden for the one possessing it by transforming it into a commodity to be bought and sold by those who objectify and fetishize it in the abstract (i.e., those who drunkenly lust after beauty and attempt to make it into a material object to own and control rather than something to be admired on its own terms).

It ends by hinting at the power of beauty for the one who has become conscious of its effect on others and at the same time hasn’t allowed themselves to become simply an object of beauty in spite of the advances of others constantly trying in their lustful ignorance to make them into just that.

One of the things I appreciate about this piece is that it has a lot more depth in its simplicity than many of the poems I’ve read recently. I like that it’s saying something more than it says, and does so in a way that’s not pretentious. It’s raw, powerful, and straightforward, yet each line unfolds into a complex critique of how women are often viewed and treated in our society. It’s the kind of thing I read and don’t just think ‘That’s good,’ but actually find myself analyzing my life and the world from a whole new perspective because of it.

Whether it’s meant as one or not, I find it a piercing indictment of how women are objectified in its seeming condemnation of beauty. With the line, “beauty is always trying to be captured and held at ransom,” I think it also raises the potentially unanswerable question of whether it’s beauty that corrupts the hearts of men, or whether it’s the hearts of men that ultimately corrupts beauty.

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One Comment
  1. Coincidentally, a recent study published in the journal Psychological Science finds that “both men and women see images of sexy women’s bodies as objects, while they see sexy-looking men as people” (http://bit.ly/Ksvbgf). It’s an interesting study, and the conclusion further reinforces my belief that the objectification of women is a broader symptom of a society that’s practiced patriarchy for centuries, and that patriarchal ideology has become so ingrained into our collective psyche that even women are conditioned to objectify women in the same way as men.

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