Metamorphoses by Elana Wolff

by Steven McCabe

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Some are born human, most have to humanize slowly.

I want to say I’m on my way > at this point: pelican;

in time, perhaps: writer. It seems every act of writing

is compensation for a shortfall of some sort; that to become

a writer one not only has to work hard at the part, but also

be a little less than human. Ideas like these weighed heavily

on Franz K. much of his truncated life. In fact, under their

anvil, he forged one of the few perfect works of poetic

imagination of the 20th century—according to Elias

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Canetti. I don’t wish to create the impression my mind

is turned wholly toward becoming other. I also peck at my

breast and reproach myself for succumbing, now and then,

to nihilistic piety. Mostly I’ve stayed upbeat in dark times—

satisfied to fish and fly. If, on occasion, I’ve felt the pull

of despair for having been bequeathed such an insignificant

tail, I’m grateful to have been compensated with a large

mouth-pouch and useful bill. Also with the vision to see:

my feathers molting, over the open sea.

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Elana Wolff is a Toronto-based poet, editor, essayist, and designer and facilitator of therapeutic community art courses. Her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies in Canada, the US, the UK, and France. Her bilingual collection of selected poems Helleborus & Alchémille, (Noroît, 2013; translation by Stéphanie Roesler) was awarded the 2014 John Glassco Prize for First Translation. Her essay “Paging Kafka’s Elegist” won The New Quarterly’s 2015 Edna Staebler Personal Essay Award, and Everything Reminds You of Something Else, her fifth solo collection of poems, is forthcoming with Guernica Editions.


Notes on the images: I thought of the poem as reflective, as an alchemical & silvery process, like a moon above the light (and darkness) of Kafka & the transformative, the animal/human, & the becoming a writer theme. I wanted to create a parallel narrative that ‘set off’ the poem as opposed to a more literal depiction. The spoons seem soft and malleable while being alert and individualized. Also silver is an excellent conductor of electricity. If they were to touch each other… a reaction would occur. I included the contrast of darkness & coloured light as a suggestion of Creation parable. I wanted to catch something of the spiritual and psychological realities of metamorphosis in visualizing this poem. I see the spoons not so much as actual spoons. More like ‘markers’ or ‘signifiers’ of the poetic thoughts.

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