April 12, 2016

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Goodbye to Barbie

Our daughter is a collector. When she was little, there were always pebbles, coins and bits of things in her pockets. She is an avid American Doll kid (even making food and knitting scarves for her dolls) and has more Littlest Pet Shop figures than I care to count. She even has -- against my better judgment -- Barbies.

I wasn't a Barbie person. When my friends brought their dolls out, I always wanted the doll who was a little different, with dark or red hair. Barbie made her way into my daughter's life via birthday gifts and Nana time. Nana is an expert at doing Barbie hair.

I was not sad, a few weeks back, when we said goodbye to Barbie. She and her friends were in plastic supermarket bags, naked or partially dressed, their hair entwined as only plastic hair can be. My sister-in-law said "no" to Barbie enjoying a second life with her daughter, age 4. I can't blame her.

Many women have mixed feelings about the fashion doll, especially as a play thing for our daughters.

Here is what Debra Kaufman, one of the North Carolina poets visiting this coming weekend, had to say about Barbie.

"There are good prompts and poor ones--the best ones work as talismans to stir some memory, fresh observation, or unexpected imagery or narrative and are in no way proscriptive. In this case the teacher laid out varied objects (a skeleton key, decorative cufflinks, a small glazed imperfect bowl, a nest, and so on) and asked us to take one and write about it. I chose a naked, disheveled-haired Barbie doll, and this poem came pretty much just as it is."

To a Barbie
by Debra Kaufman

She dresses you in evening gowns,
pushes shoes onto your
achingly arched feet,
bends you at the waist
and forces you into Ken’s car,
Ken’s boat, Ken always
whisking you away.
She moves your arms:
wave hello, better wear your windbreaker.
How tiring to have a pink
smile painted on
over a smear of white teeth,
your eyes, the blue of a chlorine pool,
always open.
Would you be happier alone
in the kitchen with your miniature
stove and tiny, unbreakable cups?
Mmm, this coffee sure tastes good,
she says for you, then strips
you again, rakes the comb
through your coarse, bleached hair,
then drops you in hot sand
under a killer sun;
grit gets in your cracks
while she eats an ice cream cone.
Naked, you wait—pert, expectant—
fated never to be loved for yourself,
but only as the plaything
of this moody little girl
now coming at you
with scissors in her hand.

You have a few chances to meet Debra and check out her award-winning book this weekend.

Friday, March 2, Little Patuxent Review is sponsoring a reading. Debra will be one of the featured poets. It runs 6:30pm until 9:30pm (reading begins at 7, open mic at 8) with light food, wine and maybe even music. The reading is hosted by Wisdom Well, 8955 Guilford Road, Suite 240, in Columbia.

Saturday, March 3, Debra, Richard Krawiec and Stephanie Levin -- our other two visiting poets -- offer a workshop at the Bethesda Writers Center, "Crafting Images." This runs 12-3 PM and will cover all writing genres. Registration information is here -- the price was recently reduced!

Saturday evening is Little Patuxent Review's Social Justice reading at The Writers Center. Debra will be a reader and panelist. The reading begins at 7:30 PM. We'll have copies of the ground-breaking issue and posters of the amazing cover, art by Theaster Gates, for sale.

I like the writing exercise that Debra shared. For a high school, or even middle school class, writing produced from this grab bag of junk might produce an interesting group project. If you're working alone, try raiding the junk drawer, or write about something that should have -- like my daughter's Barbies -- gone out with the trash long ago.


Fran Dorf said...

Hi, I don't know how I got to your blog, but I really like Debra's exercise, and plan to steal it for use in my own writing workshop. I love the Barbie piece. Oh how I loved and abused my own Barbies and Kens. Maybe I'll write my own ode to Barbie. Wow. Haven't thought about that in years. Thanks.

Fran Dorf

Author Amok said...

Fran, I'm so glad you visited. There's no such thing as stealing at Author Amok. I post poetry lessons and exercises with the hope that more teachers will incorporate them into their classrooms and workshops. If you get a Barbie ode out of this, great! I'd love to see it.