The Ego, The Superego And Kizer’s Bitch: Freud In Poetry

1276 words - 5 pages

Carolyn Ashley Kizer was born on December 10, 1925. Her father was a lawyer and her mother a labor organizer in the Pacific Northwest, although she held a doctorate in biology. Her parents were older than the parents of her friends, but filled the house with a rich intellectual atmosphere that surely influenced the young Kizer (McFarland). Throughout her childhood her parents would read her the works of Whitman and Keats before bed (Schumock), but it wasn’t until she was middle aged that she devoted herself to literary pursuits. It is strange that such a revelation happened so late in life, considering the poet Vachel Lindsay was a houseguest of her parents not to mention the academically freeing ambiance. But Kizer herself references this change of direction to repressed “psychic energy” (O’Conner) after her divorce from her first husband and the tutelage of her mentor and teacher Theodore Roethke. Through this awakening and beyond, Kizer has left a trail of politically, socially and culturally relevant poetry that has won her many awards and accolades, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1985 for her collection Yin.
One of her most well-known works, entitled “Bitch”, was published in 1984 in the collection of poems Mermaids in the Basement. The poem written in a single stanza of 34 lines depicts the scene of a woman meeting an ex-lover in a random encounter. What is later depicted in the poem is an intricate display of contrasting emotions and thoughts. Outwardly, the woman is polite and pleasant to the man, but inwardly her “bitch” fumes at the meeting. Her inner “bitch” remembers the relationship and wants the woman to outwardly display her disdain. The woman’s internal dialogue subdues the wanton wanting of her harsh inner critic, all while remembering the sobering realities of the courtship. And although the meeting ends with a kind word, she drags her “inner-bitch” away. The essence of the poem is wrapped in contrasting elements, from the woman’s dialogue with the man to her inner deep seeded emotions and thoughts. The poem depicts the inner confusion of the woman throughout the encounter, and shows the multi-faceted internal elements that are on display. The use of multiple voices within the poem gives a deeper understanding of a common situation, illustrating not only what is clearly evident but also what is brewing beneath the surface.
“Bitch” shows the dichotomy between the “Ego, Superego and Id.” The word “bitch” in modern conversation is used as a derogatory term for a difficult, ill-tempered woman. Conversely, the conventional definition means female dog. Both of these definitions could be seen in the poem. The dog in the literal sense growls, barks, slobbers and grovels, (Kizer 2,6,16). And in a more metaphysical manner the dog has taken the lead as an assertive, contrary force deep within the narrator. “Give my regards to your wife,” I say. You gag,” (32). Another, more subtle use and definition of the word could be the feminist...

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