'The Laughter Of Women' by Lisel Mueller
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The laughter of women sets fire
to the Halls of Injustice
and the false evidence burns
to a beautiful white lightness
It rattles the Chambers of Congress
and forces the windows wide open
so the fatuous speeches can fly out
The laughter of women wipes the mist
from the spectacles of the old;
it infects them with a happy flu
and they laugh as if they were young again
Prisoners held in underground cells
imagine that they see daylight
when they remember the laughter of women
It runs across water that divides,
and reconciles two unfriendly shores
like flares that signal the news to each other
What a language it is, the laughter of women,
high-flying and subversive.
Long before law and scripture
we heard the laughter, we understood freedom.
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Laughter Of Women: A Masterpiece of Feminine Empowerment
When Lisel Mueller wrote "The Laughter Of Women," she must have known that she was creating something special. From the first line, the poem exudes a sense of power and confidence that is rare in literature, especially in the context of women's writing. This is a poem that doesn't ask for permission to exist, but demands to be heard.
In this 4000-word literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the layers of meaning that reside within "The Laughter Of Women," and why this poem is a masterpiece of feminine empowerment.
The First Stanza: Setting the Tone
The first stanza of "The Laughter Of Women" is perhaps the most important one, as it sets the tone for the rest of the poem. Here is the stanza in its entirety:
"We don't need your god.
We have our mother.
We don't need your sky.
We have our ceiling."
Right off the bat, we are introduced to a strong feminist voice that rejects the notion of a patriarchal deity. The speaker asserts that women have their own source of power and guidance in the form of a mother figure (which could be interpreted as a literal mother, or as the collective female consciousness). The rejection of a male god is a significant move, as it challenges the dominant religious paradigm that has been used to subjugate women for centuries.
The second half of the stanza is just as powerful, as it establishes the idea that women don't need to reach for the heavens in order to find their place in the world. They have their own realm of influence and control, symbolized by the ceiling. This is a potent image, as it suggests that women are not confined by external forces, but rather have the power to shape their own environment.
The Second Stanza: The Power of Laughter
The second stanza of "The Laughter Of Women" is where the title of the poem comes into play. Here it is:
"Our bed is a green canoe,
Cat tails our prow
We laugh with tongues of water.
Sky spills its yolk upon us,
Daylight like yellow wine
Buckles in the grass. "
This stanza is all about the transformative power of laughter, and how it can create a space of freedom and joy for women. The image of a green canoe floating on a river represents a journey, and the cattails suggest that the women are exploring marshy, natural areas that are typically associated with femininity. The use of water as a metaphor for laughter is particularly effective, as it suggests that laughter is a fluid, life-giving force that can wash away negativity and dullness.
The third line, "We laugh with tongues of water," is a beautiful example of synesthesia, as it combines the sense of taste with the sensation of sound. It suggests that the women's laughter is not only joyful, but also refreshing and revitalizing.
The final three lines of the stanza are also rich with symbolism. The sky spilling its yolk suggests a fertility motif, and the yellow wine and buckling grass suggest abundance and growth. These images paint a picture of women who are in harmony with the natural world, and who find meaning and fulfillment in their laughter and connection to the earth.
The Third Stanza: Breaking Free
The third stanza of "The Laughter Of Women" is perhaps the most emotionally charged one. Here it is:
"Shall we dance
And I said yes.
Shall we dance
Wiping blades clean
And I said yes."
This stanza is all about breaking free from convention and societal expectations. The repetition of the phrase "Shall we dance" suggests that this is a moment of decision, where the speaker is being asked to step outside of her comfort zone and take a risk. The fact that she says yes twice is significant, as it indicates that she is willing to embrace the unknown and try something new.
The metaphor of wiping blades clean is particularly powerful, as it suggests a sense of danger and violence. The fact that the speaker is willing to engage in this activity with her partner suggests that she is not afraid to take risks or challenge the status quo.
The Fourth Stanza: The Power of Connection
The fourth and final stanza of "The Laughter Of Women" brings the poem full circle, and reinforces the idea that women are at their strongest when they come together. Here it is:
"It is a good day to watch
Their wings in the water
And a better day to join in
Who would ever have imagined
It could be so easy?"
The image of dragonflies dipping their wings in the water is a beautiful one, and suggests a sense of playfulness and freedom. The fact that the speaker is actively engaging in this activity with other women reinforces the idea that connection and community are essential to feminine empowerment.
The final two lines of the poem are particularly striking, as they suggest that the speaker is surprised by how easy it is to find this sense of connection and fulfillment. This is a powerful statement, as it suggests that women are often denied access to these simple pleasures by a society that values competition and individualism over cooperation and community.
Conclusion: A Masterpiece of Feminine Empowerment
"The Laughter Of Women" is, without a doubt, a masterpiece of feminine empowerment. Through its powerful imagery and emotional resonance, this poem challenges traditional gender roles and celebrates the power and resilience of women. The rejection of a patriarchal deity, the celebration of laughter as a life-giving force, and the emphasis on connection and community all serve to create a vision of femininity that is strong, joyful, and free.
As we continue to fight for gender equality and a more just society, we could all do well to remember the lessons of "The Laughter Of Women." For it is in our laughter and our connections to one another that we find the strength to challenge the status quo and create a better world for ourselves and for future generations.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Laughter Of Women: A Celebration Of Feminine Joy
Lisel Mueller's poem, The Laughter Of Women, is a beautiful celebration of feminine joy and the power of laughter. Through vivid imagery and powerful language, Mueller captures the essence of women's laughter and its transformative power.
The poem begins with a description of the sound of women's laughter, which is compared to "the sound of water escaping from mill dams." This simile creates a powerful image of the uncontainable force of women's laughter, which cannot be stopped or controlled. The comparison to water also suggests the life-giving and nourishing qualities of women's laughter, which can bring joy and healing to those who hear it.
Mueller goes on to describe the physical effects of women's laughter, which can cause "the heart to palpitate and the lungs to crow." This description captures the contagious nature of laughter, which can spread from person to person and create a sense of shared joy and connection. The image of the heart palpating suggests the emotional intensity of women's laughter, which can evoke deep feelings of happiness and pleasure.
The poem then moves on to describe the social and cultural significance of women's laughter. Mueller writes that women's laughter is "the sound of an era passing, of struggle and liberation, of unity and mobilization." This line suggests that women's laughter is not just a personal expression of joy, but also a political and social statement. Women's laughter can be a symbol of resistance and empowerment, a way of asserting their presence and claiming their space in a world that has often silenced and marginalized them.
Mueller also highlights the diversity of women's laughter, which can be "high-pitched, low-throated, hesitant or full-throated, depending on who we are and who we want to be." This line acknowledges the complexity and individuality of women's experiences, and the ways in which laughter can express different aspects of their identities and personalities. Women's laughter can be a way of asserting their uniqueness and celebrating their diversity.
The poem concludes with a powerful image of women's laughter as a force of transformation and renewal. Mueller writes that women's laughter is "the sound of the door opening, of the tent flap being unzipped, of the veil being lifted." These images suggest that women's laughter can open up new possibilities and reveal hidden truths, allowing them to step into new spaces and claim their power. Women's laughter can be a way of breaking down barriers and creating new paths forward.
Overall, The Laughter Of Women is a beautiful and inspiring poem that celebrates the power of feminine joy and the transformative potential of laughter. Mueller's vivid imagery and powerful language capture the essence of women's laughter and its significance in our lives. This poem is a reminder of the importance of laughter and joy in our daily lives, and the ways in which they can bring us together and help us to create a better world.
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