Friday, March 29, 2013


What moves at the margins of our lives?

What lurks at the edges, the fringes?

What are we carelessly or unintentionally not seeing?

What are we deliberately ignoring and trying not to see?

When we invite the telling of our margins, when we intentionally see and share, and invite others to do the same, we are, in the words of Toni Morrison, making a "gesture toward  possibility."
She says we are inviting others to tell about their "lives and particularized worlds."

Tell us, Toni says What moves at the margin?

I love the painting, The Scream, by Edvard Munch-- so much so that it is my Facebook icon, instead of the traditional photo or avatar of me. Gunter Kunert's ekphrastic poem inspired by this painting, and translated by Gerald Chapple, begs us to notice what moves in  the margin,  pleads with us to see and hear the thoughts of the two people walking over the bridge behind the screamer in the foreground.  

Edvard Munch [Public domain ],
 via Wikimedia Commons

(For more information about ekphrastic poetry, along with samples click here.)

There are four versions of the painting, all painted or done in pastels by Munch between 1893 and 1910. 

Look closely and you will notice a couple walking over the bridge.

I had viewed this painting a number of times and never noticed these two people.  Most people don't see them either.  In fact, if you search Google images for this well-known painting, you will notice that many of them have cropped the people out of the picture entirely. 

This notion of looking at margins also reminds me of the previous post in which we considered Ally Condie's artist mother showing her a painting of a woman looking out over the water. At the edge of the painting,  there was a white image reflected in the water.  What is that?her mother asked. Just as most of us would have answered, Ally quickly said A boat.  Her mother's response was Are you sure?

What is reflected at the edge of your life? What moves in the margin?

One way to consider our margins is to think about the central stories, events, and 
relationships in our lives.  Which stories have you told over and over--   the stories that have choruses or refrains that your family and friends can recite in unison .?

We might also think about what people have always been there as part of the fabric of your life?  
When did these folks enter and what is their purpose and  plot  trajectory in your personal story?

And finally, what historical, national, cultural, and popular events have shaped your identity and made you you?

These all might be placed in the center of your life circle. 

What is near the perimeter, the edge of the circle of your life?  As well as tapping the center of your circle, tap those margins for writing ideas.

As we mine the margins, looking for the liminal,  we find the wonders that we have ignored, the ashes of stories previously pushed back  and under the center stories.  We find the afterclap of stories forgotten.  We, find, as did Tupac, The Rose That Grew From Concrete.  

His poem encourages us to consider even the smallest blink of an idea from the edge of our circle.

What is growing in the concrete of your life?  
What stories are near the edge of your circle? 
What moves at the margin?

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

To help you consider the margins of your own life, you may want to draw a large circle and then list the major stories of your life in the center.  

As you move away from the center,  begin to list those stories less told, less often remembered and rarely considered. 

As you near the very edge, you may find yourself remembering things long forgotten--pushed back or under the center stories, those pushed out to the edges.  You may find people, relationships, and events that begin to surface. List those at the perimeter or just outside your circle.

Write about these marginal stories and memories.  You may choose to write a poem, narrative, personal essay or what ever form the stories suggest.

What did you discover moving at the margin of your circle, of your life?

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