International Women’s Haiku Festival: Two Senryu by Stella Pierides

Picturepest - Vienna - high heels
Photo: Picturepest/Creative Commons/Flickr

Two laser-sharp senryu by poet Stella Pierides explore women’s age dynamics and the eternal question of women’s dress and sexuality.

dressed to kill
she asks
if I’m retired

Well. Why not just ask about her final wishes? The picture is this senryu is crystal clear: a younger woman, in full heat of professional and/or personal ambition and wearing the clothes to prove it, asks the poetic speaker, whom I read to be an older woman, if she’s retired – read: no longer competition, no longer someone to be concerned with. To be charitable, maybe it’s just an observation: the older woman looks older, looks perhaps comfortable in her own skin, and the younger woman just doesn’t get a) that retired doesn’t equal out to pasture, and b) that remarking, even obliquely, on someone’s age is at best insensitive. And what if the poetic speaker actually is retired? Picasso said it best: “It takes a very long time to become young.”

***

knee-length skirt
the extent
of her rebellion

This little senryu is situated perfectly between the rock and the hard place that, eventually, every woman encounters. Look sexy, be sexy, the world instructs. But not too sexy. In this poem, rebellion against the social expectations that a girl or woman be prim and proper results in a shorter skirt. But rebellion against social expectations doesn’t necessarily eliminate the expectations. There is potentially a price to pay – the demise of one’s reputation – for breaking the rules, hence the “extent of her rebellion” is defined by the knees. It could be fear from social pressure that keeps everything north of the knees covered, or it could just be the poem subject’s authentic assessment of her own comfort.

Stella Pierides was born in Athens, Greece, and now divides her time between Neusäss, Germany, and London, England. She is the author of Of This World (Red Moon Press, 2017); In the Garden of Absence (Fruit Dove Press, 2012), for which she received a Haiku Society of America Merit Book Award; and Feeding the Doves (Fruit Dove Press, 2013), among others. Stella serves on The Haiku Foundation board of directors and project manages the Per Diem: Daily Haiku feature for the Foundation. She enjoys reading, gardening, film, music, food, and working long hours.

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