What I’ve learned about Literary Movements from my Daughters
In this post GrubStreet Instructor, Ben Berman, uses his daughters’ relationship with the moon to discuss the ideals of Romanticism and Modernism.
My older daughter has always been transfixed by the moon.
When she was a baby we would sit on the back porch and watch it rise over our neighbor’s house. She would clap her hands wildly and rub her chest please, begging me to climb into the night sky and retrieve it for her.
And although it’s been seven years since those enchanting evenings, she still finds so much delight, say, in spotting a faded crescent among the morning clouds.
There is something about her relationship to the moon that reminds me of the great Romantic poets – the way she believes in our transcendent connection to nature, stares up at the sky with a never-ending sense of fascination.
My younger daughter, on the other hand, is obsessed with a different kind of moon – why wait for the waxing and waning of some faraway thing when you can walk into any room, drop your pants, and let the world know: I got your moon right here.
For while my older daughter might be a firm subscriber to the ideals of Romanticism, my younger daughter has aligned herself with the Modernists and their grand, sweeping rejection of decorum.
Not that she is necessarily trying to evoke the moral decay and wasteland of the Western world every time she hitches her thumbs into her waistband and launches into the old yank and bend.
Nor do I think that she’s interested in reminding us of Freud’s notion that we all long for more authentic ways to express our hidden selves.
And while there is something about my daughter’s fanatic love of butts that always seems to invoke The Theatre of the Absurd, I’m not sure if she’s read enough Ionesco to be consciously trying to remind us of the roots of irrationality in this seemingly rational world.
Mostly, I think she just loves the power of being able to shift the mood in the room whenever she hears adults speaking in hushed tones, say, or senses something solemn in the air.
Literary movements come and go and isms wax and wane, but watching my daughters reminds me that we must always make room for both reverence and irreverence in whatever we write, find ways to accept that life is simultaneously ridiculous and filled with so much splendor.
Ben Berman’s first book, Strange Borderlands, won the 2014 Peace Corps Award for Best Book of Poetry and was a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Awards. His second collection, Figuring in the Figure, came out last year from Able Muse Press. And his new book, Then Again, is due out in November. He has received awards from the New England Poetry Club and fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Somerville Arts Council. He teaches at Brookline High School and lives in the Boston area with his wife and two daughters. www.ben-berman.comSee other articles by Ben Berman