Wild Men and Wild Women
The collection of writings for The Poetry Porch this year is inspired by the figure of the wild man and woman as they appear in the art and literature of the Middle Ages. We were interested in the literary association of the term “wild man” as he has often been depicted as a primitive figure who lived outside civilization, could survive with untamed animals on a diet of uncultivated berries and grasses, was not restricted in his desires by social inhibitions, was a giant and fearful, covered with hair, who abducted maidens and babies. Enkidu grew up as a wild man in the forest before he joined the ruler Gilgamesh in court and in battle. John the Baptist wore a camel’s skin and subsisted on a diet of locusts and wild honey in the desert before he baptized Jesus. Wild women in poems and tapestries often share dual disguises as beautiful maidens who turn into withered crones once their sexual conquest was made. Some are shown with a unicorn. Artists have found connections between the wild personality and mental illness; others suggest that at the root of the mythology, there exists a wild man who is divine.
The term “wild” stimulated a variety of responses in poetry and prose selected for this issue. Frederick Turner researches intersecting mythologies across cultures in his essay “The Wild Child.” In his short story “The Sacred Man,” Ted Richer covers the extremes of behavior in a man with a violin and the way he was feared, hated, and embraced by his community. Poems inspired by biblical figures, as well as those relying on lore of the forests and lives of plants, contrast with verse about extreme situations in academic settings. An embodiment of freedom comes in J. M. Hall’s poem “Doing Without,” which accumulates circles of movement around literary allusions, containing and resisting them. It is interesting to note that in poems about behavior outside society’s accepted norms, one might expect to find a majority of examples of free verse, and there are those, yet examples of attention to form came in as well: two poems arrived in blank verse, three resemble sonnets with fourteen lines in unrhymed iambic pentameter, Chris Wallace-Crabbe contributed a sestina, and Antoinette Treadway a villanelle.
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