The Marriage of Word and Image

The Marriage of Word and Image

And a voice spoke to me,
“the alphabet will be your lodestar”
and I woke from the dream enraged!
Why do his  letters get to be so important?
Why can’t I paint or play music,
why can’t I sculpt clay or knit?
Why do those 26 letters
have to be my guiding star?
“Well,” said the soul,
“you can either come to them
squealing like a noisy pig,
or you can come to them with grace.”

But I don’t want to feed my animus
so he becomes fat again!
Where is the beauty in men’s  letters?
I want to explore dreams,
I want to search for images within,
to imagine a butterfly
alighting on a woman’s head,
to see the Goddess’ hand
descend from the sky.
Not swallow more bullshit
that offers us 26 reasons
to follow the rules of grammar.

The soul contemplated,
“what if the alphabet had a wife?
You could take on his name,
bring word and image together.”
Hell no! I’m not walking back
through the carnage of Hades.
I’ve never heard him  apologise
for breaking the spirit of women
and banishing the Goddess.
Her  image was everywhere,
before his  ruthless desire to crush
the wild feminine, human and divine.

Writing changed the fate of women
by turning his  words against us.
Fancy being dethroned by a man
who pushed his stick into wet clay!
For his  arrow-headed writing
came at a high price for us women.
Once honoured, we gatherers,
we earth mothers were taken apart,
singularly, by those 26 letters.
We lived like hunted animals
until found, caught and drowned
or burnt to death at the stake.

“You always knew that words
would chase you down,” replied the soul.
“You cannot escape them, nor must you.
Dig deep into the alphabet Deborah,
know that following your star
will be no glorious call,
rather a heavy burden.
It’s time for you to stop projecting
your star onto others.
The alphabet is your  living symbol.”
Yes, but my talent isn’t me,
I was just born with a love of words.

The soul shone to witness humility.
“You alone bear the heavy burden
of becoming yourself,
whether you like it or not.
So rearrange his  alphabet,
release into it your  unheard song,
there is no sound as beautiful as love.
You are a woman
who transfers her art into words.
Believe me when I tell you,
you will be left breathless
when you hear your wedding tune.”

“And don’t get tied up with the vows,”
the Goddess joined in,
whilst I tried on my wedding dress
after a night of dreaming metaphors.
“For as soon as words take over
they will take down my image again
and turn you into a witch.
Same shit, different century!
No, it’s time to pull language
into new and interesting shapes.
Remember, according to the strength of the bow,
words can be shot any distance.”

“Aim high, reclaim the alphabet
for the use of all women,
let the Goddess, nature and the feminine
be your sacred witnesses.
Don’t let Sophia’s wisdom change
as he  tries his  pickup lines on you.
For too long we have traded an ear for an eye!
There may be no holy gospels
written to Sophia herself,
yet her image is everywhere.
Paint the Holy Spirit in words,
see her sparkle like a star on the page.”

“Make me this happy promise
to seek out wedded wholeness.
For when his  outer letters peel away
you will sense great soul energy.
Word and image both encase spirit.
“Let each letter awaken you,” guided the Goddess,
“become an ecstatic wanderer.
Write the word, ‘Woman’
and, ‘Goddess’ often,
write a book that tastes of the wild.
Let images fall on the empty page
before the words descend.”

“Make yours a resurrection story,
make use of your soul-voice,
gather your ancestral bones.
Let the soul look out of its windows
upon poetry’s heavenly lines.
Be dazzled by his  alphabet,
look for the lost letters of yourself.
Remember each marriage
will pull the opposites closer.
Be slow of speech, hold a slow tongue,
but fast with a pen in your hand.”

“Your marriage will soften
the hard edges of his  alphabet.
Remember a poetess
armed with a pen,
can bring a nation to its knees.
Strings of written words
have immensely long tentacles,
remember the strength of the bow!”
Where will this marriage
of word and image lead?
Will I lose my capacity to love
I asked the Goddess?

In answer, a healing hand
stretched down from the sky,
while love, light and reverence
were being tattooed
upon my matrimonial hand.
“Come,” she said,
“you cannot be late for your own wedding.
Drink the shaman’s spirit.
The marriage of word and image
is imminent.”
So I reached up
and disappeared.


Copyright © Deborah Gregory 2018

30 thoughts on “The Marriage of Word and Image

  1. This is such a great poem, dear Deborah.
    Writing certainly changed the Fate of Women. I fully agree with that statement.
    Curiously even in misogynist accounts, such as many myths…. women are masters of words. And Persuasion is one of their most well know attribute.
    But there is also a positive “use of words”. No wonder why Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and associated with Arts in general, was one of the most important Goddesses in Ancient Greece.
    I like that you mention Sophia in your post. I was reading about Anima and Animus earlier today. And Sophia seems to be the archetype of perfect union between these two principles, according to Carl Jung. So… great reference over there.
    Thanks for sharing! Sending love & best wishes <3

    1. Thank you so much Aquileana for your wonderful gift of words! Until I read Shlain’s book I had no idea how the alphabet had been created let alone the high price women paid. What a revelation his book was to me! I agree, there are other myths from other cultures that tell other stories about women and words. Yes, to see the Goddess, Great Mother, Sophia as the perfect union of feminine and masculine is so apt for me today as I’m working on the final part of my Animus Diet. Carl Jung and the Jungians woke me up from a very deep sleep! Sending love and light back across the oceans to you, Deborah.

  2. A pleasure to read and digest. You have taken the epic work of Shlain and made it your own. A poem that brings history to life.

    1. Thank you so much Green Knight for your kind-hearted and generous words! I’m delighted that you know the ancient story behind my poem. It has only been since reading Shlain’s book that I’ve learnt the high price women paid for the invention of those 26 letters. Warm wishes, Deborah.

  3. There is nothing alive in the Logos. We’ve been sold Logos for thousands of years, but it is only when we put life into words that life emerges in its messy reality. We can go to schools, colleges & universities, but when we get all the degrees, there is no life there. It is only when we take the forms into experience that life emerges. The Logos is not alive. There is no stack of Bibles, Qu’rans, Or sacred texts that are Life. Only experience is life; all Logos is form. Let’s stop letting the conversation be masculine v feminine, Logos v Eros, etc. The issue is Logos vs. Life. Logos is only a form. Even a beautiful Cathedral in Europe, which brought life when it was being built, is just a form unless it is filled with people giving them an experience of God, not when it just sits there with the lights out on Wednesday. Then it is only a form, without life. We must distinguish Logos as compared to life. Then we will start properly weighting these issues. The days of saying Logos is God are over. Yes, “God is dead,” if God is defined as Logos, but God lives in all of us, whether we admit it or not.

    1. Dear Skip thank you so much for visiting my poetry blog and gifting me rich reflections to this poem’s ongoing conversation. Logos versus Life, I like that a lot! Instead of only seeing the masculine and feminine being expressed. You present your case with word and image wonderfully, for your words read like prose, filled with images.

      Shlain’s book is phenomenal! He posits his theory well, however it was written 40 years ago so speaks an older language … thankfully things have moved on! I’m so delighted my poem has fired your imagination! The dream of the Goddess’ hand descending from the clouds above came at Easter, a truly epic time I felt. In soul, Deborah.

  4. A gift for the soul. Very easy to dip in and out of. Magnificent poetry, written simply, that can inspire any reader – I adored it! Will your new poems be added to the next volume?

    1. Wow! Thank you so much gwendolynfish for your generous and kind-hearted review of my poetry book. I’m absolutely delighted that you’re enjoying it! Whenever I receive a notification re: book sale, I’m always hopeful that I’ll hear back from my reader and your feedback is more than any poet could EVER hope for! Yes to your question, followed by however, as my next volume will not be out until I start (and finish!) another new project waiting in the wings … just need to finish off something else first. Poets eh?! Warm and wild blessings, Deborah.

  5. Dear Deborah, you have indeed released his alphabet into your unheard song with your words in this poem. This is truly epic, beautifully penned! Oh to have seen that dream, the Goddess’s hand coming down, yet you have woven words in such a way that images immediately spring into my head of the story you tell and I feel I am in the dream itself.

    Your written imagery shows that you have already created wedded bliss between word and image without a doubt!! And now a hint of a new chapter in your Animus Diet – I can’t wait to read that! Warmest wishes, Sophia.

    1. Thank you so much Sophia for your beautiful gift of poetic words! My Easter dream was incredible, one that will stay with me throughout my life for sure. So many words and poetry lines I’ve written since my teenage years are coming to mind in this moment, long tentacles indeed!

      “Written imagery” I like that! You are most generous with your praise. Yes, the closing part of my Animus essay will hopefully be written next month, when I can find a few days to sit down and read through my Animus notebook. It’s a bit like “lambing season” at work these days, with most days full of activity! In soul, Deborah.

  6. Wonderful! I can’t help adding a beloved historical fact. The first known and preserved poetry was written by a woman. I’m sure you know about Enhuduanna, a priestess of Inanna who wrote in Sumeria in 2300 BCE. I learned about her from the book ‘Inanna, Lady of the Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Endeduanna by Betty De Shong Meador. Enhuduanna’s words praise were expressly written in praise of the Goddess and her Powers–and they were found and translated.

    “Write a book that tastes of the wild…” Yes! Zip up that wedding dress and hold on to the flowers. You, my Lady Poet, use “his” letters better than he. When you do, thinking in terms of opposites disappears. Thank you, Deborah. You make me love my own words and give me patience for the times when they’re shy.

    1. Thank you so much Elaine for your wonderful review of my poem and sharing stories of Endeduanna! No, I haven’t heard about her, however, you’ve set my imagination on fire … so I will be onto google in a flash! Loving the sound of Betty’s book (hmm, another trip to Amazon needed!).

      Ha-ha! Yes, zipping up my dress and holding onto the word-flowers as we speak! I love words and since I’m married to the alphabet (all us writers are I guess!) it’ll soon be time to dance a little more next month when I sit down and finish my Animus Diet. Warm and wild blessings, Deborah.

  7. It’s all been said! Epic poem Deborah!! I doff my cap to you fair poetess. I’ve ordered Shlain’s book. Love to you both, HF.

    1. Thank you so much Henry for your great review! I’m so pleased you enjoyed this poem, they’re getting longer! Hmm, time to sharpen my quill and write the final part of “The Animus Diet” before I move onto my next adventure. Warm and wild blessings, Deborah.

        1. All will be (hopefully) revealed in the final part of the Animus Diet. Yes, a new book is waiting in the wings … although not in form, my imagination is on fire!

    1. Oh my Goddess, I love this explanation! I will look into Her mythology more, especially around reclaiming the alphabet. It was an amazing dream! Many thanks Viv, lovely to see you here. Blessings always, Deborah.

  8. Deborah, where did you get this idea from? Bloody fantastic!!! I’m speechless!! Really ………

    1. Thank you so much Anna for your kind-hearted comment! It all started last week when I had this remarkable dream in which (quite literally out of the clouds!) the Goddess’ hand descended and offered me a way up to heaven, as a wedding (she said) was taking place there … apparently it was my own and the groom was waiting! She told me on waking “the alphabet will be my lodestar” so I scribbled the unfinished dream down. Dreams and books (word and image) are a divine source for this poet’s imagination!

      Also, if you’d like to read more on this subject please look up this fab book, “The Goddess Versus the Alphabet: The Conflict between Word and Image” by Leonard Shlain. It’s so inspirational and one that influenced this poem in a thousand ways! Essentially it’s a great study on women and the (shadowy) effects literary had on society, most especially women. Blessings always, Deborah.

      1. What an amazing dream and book!!! Thank you Deborah. We look to words daily yet struggle to understand why we are first drawn. Perhaps there’s more than meets the eye or ear?? I shall be musing on your poem for a long time. All the best, Anna.

        1. Thank you so much Anna. Yes, lots to muse on for this poet too, in fact I think I could be here for some time myself!

      2. Wow – I found this book in a second hand book shop last year – but then didn’t read it. I felt a bit conflicted because I love written language so much – how could I love something that had done us so much harm. But now – you’ve prompted me to actually sit myself down and read it!! And thank you for your poem – it’s magnificent ❤️

        1. Thank you so much for your wonderful comment Claire and a warm welcome to my poetry blog! Yes, do read the book, in fact devour it! I had no previous idea of how those 26 letters evolved and the high cost us women paid for them. I was just born with a love or words I used to tell myself but now I think there’s something more as Viv suggests going on. Warm and wild blessings, Deborah.

    1. I get it Jeanie, I really do! From one poetess to another, thank you so much for imbibing my wedded words and poetic images. In soul and in sisterhood, Deborah.

  9. Your pen is your sword Deborah, slicing and cutting, revealing ever more into deeper layers. Keep looking for the lost letters of yourself – though they’re clearly found and bound into a marriage of image and words -and unbounded into your beautiful words, threaded and woven with magic.

    Thank you dear poet, this is beyond beautiful.

    1. Thank you so much Susan for your beautiful, poetic gift of words and amazing review! Wow, that’s so very generous of you! I’m blaming this poem all on “Lilith” you know … as the words just flew out of me over the past few days! I had a feeling something was brewing below, after an extraordinary dream I had last week!

      In many ways the marriage of word and image embody my own (outer) marriage as this poetess married her photographer. The black and white image above is a photograph of my hand, taken after a bit of a scribbling session a few years back. I keep following poetry’s thread, it’s all I can do. Warm and wild blessings, Deborah.

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