April 12, 2016

Monday, January 14, 2013

Poetry Postcard 9

I have to admit, I am struggling with this poem. It has already gone out to a friend and fellow writer. She is working on a fantasy set in Ancient Egypt. (Sound familiar, readers?)

I am struggling so much that I have revised the poem multiple times since sending it.

Postcard 9 features this image.
Here it decorates a perfume bottle, 1890.

There were other directions I could have gone with this label -- on my card, it's a soap wrapper. But when I looked up the brand name, "Isiris," I learned this was another name for Osiris, that grand Egyptian god. There had to be a poem in the juxtaposition between over the top Victorian decoration and the God of Death.

The god Osiris often appears with green skin.
Isiris and Osiris are both Ancient Greek mispronunciations of the god's proper Egyptian name. I also found out that the trademark conical crown Osiris wears  is called the Atef. All of this information made its way into the poem, and then, as I revised, out of the poem.

My major problem is, I'm not sure this poem stands alone. Without the illustration, it's nothing.

But I have to let that go. As I told my husband, I had goals with this poetry project, and one of them was to stop listening to my inner perfectionist -- that critic many of us have stomping around in our heads.

By writing 44 poems in quick succession, I wanted to rap this mantra on the knuckles of my soul: I SHALL NOT EXPECT EVERY POEM I WRITE TO BE PERFECT.

To which my husband said, "Then you wouldn't be you." (Did I detect a note of sarcasm?)

Victorian Soap Label

The brand is Isiris,
another name for Egypt’s
god of death, his
pharaoh’s crown traded
for a head of golden curls
and cherub’s wing,
frothy as the filigree
decorating this label.
In its rosy center, the god
kicks up his baby heels,
he knows I will
unwrap his soap, inhale
its perfume and
lather my mortal skin
while he waits, discarded,
among tonics and
moisture-preserving lotions.

by Laura Shovan

Postcard information: “©2003 B B K Paris, From Soap Labels: 40 Collectible Postcards, published by Chronicle Books.”

Soap Labels
You can find the book on the Chronicle website.
I still like the idea of Osiris masquerading as a frolicking putto, wrapped around fragrant soap. I like the idea that we use cosmetics to make believe we are delaying our date with aging and death.

What do you think? Does the poem work without the illustration?


Linda B said...

Interesting that the company used the name Osiris, incorrectly I guess. Yes, it can stand alone, especially helped by the title, leaving much to our imagination if we don't have the card, but interesting. I like that you've connected the cosmetic question with the god of death-think it's perfect, Laura.

Author Amok said...

Thanks for the thumbs up, Linda. Maybe the misuse of Osiris was similar to some of the invented car brand-names out there. They sound slightly like a real world (Nissan Altima = Ultimate?) and so have connotations or a certain exotic flavor.

The perfectionism, I don't know that it can be helped. Lord help my poor husband.

Tabatha said...

Hi Laura, I too, like the mix of vanity and mortality. Maybe you could end it after "lather my mortal skin"? Just a thought. This is a great project!

Author Amok said...

I will think on't, Tabatha. That word "discarded" is going to get the boot, at very least. As I was saying the other day (Poetry Postcard 7?) -- I have to watch that tendency to wrap it all up with a bow.

JenniferDZ said...

How wonderful to get this today as an actual postcard in my mailbox! What a beautiful, delightful surprise! I have to agree with the use of the word mortal. It struck a chord in me. I had never heard the Isiris version of Osiris before, and I've never seen him depicted as a baby. Very strange. However, there are numerous spellings to all of these gods' names, mostly because the original Egyptian hieroglyphs didn't account for vowel sounds (like Hebrew), so we can only imagine how they may have sounded. The same problem attends the Greek (did I mention part of my degree is in Greek?) because there are big differences in how the vowels are pronounced from one age to another in Greek (reading ancient Greek doesn't allow me to speak modern Greek and be understood!). So, there is a lot of room for interpretation in so many ways, and I suspect in this case, there may have been some attempt to merge the Isis and Osiris characters to make that love story more forward in people's minds, rather than just thinking about the god of the dead. Like most love stories, there was a baby involved...and Horus is not quite as fun a name, or as identifiable as mythological as Osiris, Isis, or...Isiris! So, interpret away, and they don't all have to be perfect, but it's your own brand of perfection that makes us all love your poetry! :-) Thanks so much for my postcard, which is already in my mirror!

Author Amok said...

Thanks for the insight, Jen. As I said, I think it was just an advertising standard -- make up a word that sounds vaguely familiar and exotic (e.g. Acura sounds something like accurate). It's only in my imagination that Osiris is masquerading as a cherub on this soap.