The Motif of Dance in the Poetry of Halina Poświatowska

Anna Gasienica-Byrcyn, University of Illinois, Chicago

The core of Halina Poświatowska’s poetry is the myth of the Great Goddess and the Dying/Reviving God. The poet enacts the myth by applying an array of archetypal patterns, which intertwine the opposite forces of love and death, sacred and profane, good and evil, flesh and spirit, fleeting and eternal. The myth expresses a woman’s psychology and sexuality, crystallizing Poświatowska’s views, emotions, and life (Mircea Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return, Robert Graves, The White Goddess, and Erich Neumann, The Great Mother).

Music, the rhythm of the soul and dance the symbol of élan vital, the force of life, defined by Heraclitus as panta rhei, the universal movement, and conveyed by Friedrich Nietzsche (The Birth of Tragedy) as the Dionysian concept of life, possess a sacred and mythical aspect for the poet. Poświatowska understands dance as a magical ritual that has a power to heal one’s soul and body. Music and dance create kátharsis, purifying and renewing joy and energy. They denote celebration of life. Dance embodies the living and regenerative force. It symbolizes the movement of self-realization and self-knowledge.

The lyrical subject/the dancing goddess/the poet often proves her existence in the frenzied dance, overflowed with energy and hunger for life. Dance is a flirtation, a game, a form of courtship, and an invitation to love, leading toward sexual intercourse, the sacred act, which produces life, offers ecstatic pleasures, and knowledge of the other. Moreover, the poet turns dance into a metaphor of her poetic creativity. Poświatowska “writes herself” in the dance of her verses.

In the sacred dance of life, the dancing goddess, presented in manifold configurations as Gaea/Nekhbet/Mary, Aphrodite/Eve/Madonna, Isis/Cleopatra/Demeter, Rose/Ophelia/Marzanna, or Psyche/Hypatia/Héloïse, unveils her body, casting away rainbow veils of gold/green, red/gold, green/red, violet/gold, silver/red, white/green, and green/brown. The colors reecho different sounds of musical instruments, for instance green and yellow invoke the music of violins, violoncellos, and bass; red and gold recall horns and trombones; while violet suggests the music of flutes, clarinets, and oboes (André Gide, La symphonie pastorale). In addition, the colors evoke the fragrance of the grass, trees, flowers, wild strawberries, and raspberries, resonating with Baudelaire’s Correspondances.

Psyche/Salome/the poet reveals her body in a wide spectrum ranging from a turpis image (turpis in Latin means ‘ugly’) to kalokaghatii, the Greek representation of good and beautiful. The poet “writes herself” by using “primordial script” (Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess) such as breasts, hands, eyes, belly, and hair, the symbols of the Eternal Feminine. In that respect, Poświatowska’s poems, like Frida Kahlo’s paintings and Camille Claudel’s sculptures, depict a woman’s body in the primordial archetypes.

Moreover, Salome/John the Baptist uncovers her inner body, offering her heart, the symbol of her love, suffering, and poetic wisdom on the golden tray. She metamorphoses into Daphne/Christ by presenting her vascular system as branches and roots. Her inner self turns into a tree, the symbol of knowledge of good and evil, the metaphor of her poetics and her poetical tradition. The poet/the dancing goddess becomes the Dying/Reviving God who in her dance of life searches for the golden bough, or the fern blossom, the symbol of the poetic wisdom and creativity. Knowledge illuminates the poet, gives her joy, strength, and meaning to her struggle in daily existence.

Poświatowska’s poems have been compared to the Psalms of David and Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński’s erotic poetry. Tadeusz Baird, captivated by Poświatowska’s verses wrote music to five of her poems. Her poetry has been praised by such poets and literary critics as Stanisłw Grochowiak, Jerzy Kwiatkowski, Anna Nasiłowska, and Tadeusz Nowak. They have lauded her poetry as authentic, delicate, beautiful,and original. For poets like Jerzy Harasymowicz, Stanisław Grochowiak, and Tadeusz &346;liwiak, and many others (Mariola Pryzwan, O Halinie Poświatowskiej), Poświatowska became the subject of their poems; she turned into their Muse, arising in their poetry as a regenerative myth.