Poetry appreciation (was Re: Howl film)

Paul Andinach pandinac at ucc.gu.uwa.edu.au
Tue Jun 28 11:09:21 EDT 2005


On Tue, 28 Jun 2005, Belben, Philip (Energy Wholesale) wrote:

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> Paul, after replying to Judith:
>
> > While we're on the subject of the poem, do people think the third
> > verse ("Even the good woman is untrue") was included in the curse?
> > Obviously it didn't happen during the book (we're all glad for
> > Sophie's sake, I'm sure), but might it be one of the things that
> > had already happened? (And would this explain Howl's attitude to
> > women, or is he just a jerk?)
>
> Don't think so.  The curse is transmitted by the photocopied sheet
> of Neil's homework assignment, which contains only the two verses.

But Neil's homework sheet only contains the first verse, and the curse
gets Howl not when he reads the sheet but while Miss Angorian is
reading the second verse out. (At which point he makes his excuses and
leaves, but it's not clear whether it's because he's realised what's
going on and wants to prevent the third verse being included, or just
because he needs to get away and deal with being encursed.)

Anyway, having done some re-reading, I find that the curse has been
trying to latch on to Howl ever since his run-in with the Witch, and
the business with the lost homework is a set-up to draw him out into
the open so it can get him. So now the question is: did the poem only
become part of the curse on account of being part of the set-up, or
was the curse based on it all along? (Howl seems more than casually
determined to rediscover how the rest of the poem goes even before the
curse gets him, which might be explained if he recognised it as having
been used in the curse.) Another way of putting it: Was the poem used
in the curse because Miss Angorian is an English teacher, or is Miss
Angorian an English teacher because the poem was used in the curse?
Even before Miss Angorian became a teacher, the Witch or her fire
demon might have discovered the poem while looking in Howell's home
world for things to use against him - and going back to what I said in
my previous message about the poem fitting Howl, the fact that it
originated in the same world as him might also give it extra power
that an Ingary-composed poem wouldn't.


> I think that Howl's attitude to women derives from his lack of a
> heart.

I think that's at least partly a red herring; there's an explicit
statement that Howl-with-a-heart isn't really that much different from
Howl-without-a-heart. And notice how his infatuations prefigure the
love he eventually finds: he falls for women who stand up to him, and
loses interest when they give in and let him have his own way; and one
of the things he appreciates about the woman he ends up with is that
he can rely on her never to stop standing up to him.

(Which I suppose means that I think the answer to my question is "No",
too - but if I hadn't asked the question, I wouldn't have given it
enough thought to find my answer.)


Paul
-- 
"Hold fast to the one noble thing."

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