|Japanese paper fan image from memory.loc.gov.|
Ezra Pound, "The Encounter"
All the while they were talking the new morality
Her eyes explored me.
And when I rose to go
Her fingers were like the tissue
Of a Japanese paper napkin.
What struck me most about the video discussion, more than the dislike of most of the participants of speaker's objectification of the woman in the poem, was the term "the far east." The far east is in the imagination of those in the far west. It is a matter of perspective.
This made me reflect further on the imagist manifesto. There are never any "hard and clear" words or poetry, not when there is a perspective to be considered. All words are subject to the blurred and the indefinite due to history, due to perspective. Language is always in flux.
I also look at this from my 2013, Philippine eyes. What new morality? Over here we are still stuck in the morality of the Catholic church, well the ninety percent anyway who are Catholic. So it makes me laugh to see new morality. The times are also a-changing in the Philippines with the introduction of the reproductive health bill, finally approved by the upper and lower houses only in 2013. And even then, the powerful Catholic bloc has managed to get it stuck in the department of justice.
I also look at this from how a Japanese paper napkin might feel like. It is brittle, dry. Could the woman in the poem be an old woman...perhaps too old to be putting "the new morality" in practice? I can understand how the imagist form of the poem indeed objectifies the woman in the poem.
Overall, I keep in mind that any work of art is coming from a perspective. Just like journalism, there is no real objectivity despite the attempt to ensure that all sides are represented. The artist leaves his hand in the work of art whether he wants to or not. It is up to the reader, later on, to engage. The result will always be from a certain perspective.