Do you spook easily, Starling?

Last month I experienced a flash of poetic clarity that delivered itself signed and sealed care of one of my favorite horror movie classics: The Silence of the Lambs. During my probably twenty-seventh viewing, that steady refrain of "Starling" throughout the script just lit up all over the dialogue for me, her name/species bouncing from the mouths of male mentor/villain Hannibal Lecter to male mentor/hero Jack Crawford. These lines addressing "Starling" over and over seemed to me the perfect jumping-off points for a new mini-series of poems, addressing Agent Clarice Starling as both young woman in a male-dominated world chasing a killer of women and small bird eluding threats both wild and domestic. These lines will become my poem titles and these poems will be nested inside the Catechesis manuscript as a different variation on the same themes I've already been writing toward.

Here are the movie lines I have gleaned so far to use for these poem titles:

  • Do you spook easily, Starling?
  • That is rather slippery of you, Agent Starling.
  • Why do you think removes their skins, Agent Starling?
  • Look at him, Starling. Tell me what you see.
  • It was just smoke, Starling. I had to get rid of him.
  • How do we begin to covet, Clarice?

This last doesn't end in "Starling" as the others do, but it is still so evocative; and touches on the subverted Biblical/Catholicism theme at the center of Catechesis. I just had to pick up that one, too.

And because I had only ever watched the movie, I decided I finally needed to read the book: The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris. This is not the usual fiction I read (I admit to being a bit of a literary snob, but it comes with the territory!), but this was now research for the poems to be written. I just finished the book today. And although I can't say that the writing style was completely to my taste, there were certainly a lot of details to be absorbed to use for poem fodder. One passage in particular (from Chapter 25) really helped me to be certain that I am heading down the right path with this new direction:
"A caterpillar becomes a pupa in a chrysalis. Then it emerges, comes out of its secret changing room as the beautiful imago. Do you know what an imago is, Clarice?"
"An adult winged insect."
"But what else?"
She shook her head.
"It's a term from the dead religion of psychoanalysis. An imago is an image of the parent buried in the unconscious from infancy and bound with infantile affect. The word comes from the wax portrait busts of their ancestors the ancient Romans carried in funeral processions... Even the phlegmatic Crawford must see some significance in the insect chrysalis." 
How serendipitous to find my word-friend here! So far I have written the first poem and made significant progress in drafting the second. I can't wait to see what else there is to discover as these new poems unfold themselves and emerge.

This has got to be one of my favorite poetry prompts. Feel free to try it yourself, if it appeals to your tastes, too!


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