BeSpeak! The Deformational Image an essay by stephanie pope for
myth and poetry

Day Log 2-1-08


Cat Speech

the catbee that can be
is a matter for a myth

-stephanie pope, The CatBee

Be(e)Speak! The Deformational Image

Wow! A new year and another January come and gone! It’s been a tough month, particularly on the home front and I can imagine the kind of things belonging to my ‘personal’ January like a boundary marker. The month of January opening this year (2008) and coming to a close with the publishing of this essay, marks a new way, a new turn, a sign, a symptom, a token. January has bespoken this; it has booked somehow in advance and set aside some sense that will sustain for me what is of utmost importance in the year to come. It may teach it, preach it, judge it—but it also will contradict itself to bespeak this new self that is a-buzz.
I like that word “bespeak.” It means to indicate as if you are marking out the boundaries of something well in advance of anything showing up. You might testify, attest, witness or even argue in bespeaking. Such verbs give our ground its warm, soft inference for supposing the existence or the presence of something that’s not quite a thing or not quite “there” even as it is.  
......................................................Dikē, Justice

When you think “bespeak” think of a forefinger pointing. It’s pointing to something obvious directing images and words to be used in funny ways so you will “get it.” Bespeaking is a kind of signpost or an indicator. Its Greek root is deik, meaning digit, like the forefinger. The root shares lineage with deiknunai (to show) and the noun, deigma (a sample, pattern). Bespeaking partakes in words like dikein (direct an object or throw it). The god in the word is Dikaeosyne, a daemon or spirit of justice that gives to things (like words) a right order. Thusly, Dikē, Justice, gives us such a word as theodicy, that notion that somehow God’s good logos lives within social justice and prevails (even today) in the face of evil.

Now, I like that last notion most of all. It suggests to me how that which will bespeak images does so to keep a goodness at work in life and this to show how something is just or unjust or perhaps, even both at once. What is good is goodness at work bespeaking justly assisted by injustice. A bespoken thing will never violate its law in words in the sense that bespeaking reverses the rule in the law in words at any given moment during the reading to lead something or “throw it” into its deep and true order. To bespeak is to be present to and ‘come’ here to presence as invisible existences within poetic mind.

But, this also seems to say there is a deep desire in words themselves to express a right order. This may be Derrida’s point when he bespeaks the mad desire in deconstruction for the just word.  A word in this sense uses us.  A word’s daemon may overtake me in such moments and fill me with an image that does not represent ‘me’. Thusly, in words and images, I begin to represent it. Poetic mind seems a kind of madness in such moments, as if it were a grin hanging in a tree without a cat.

Soul, aware of the dreadful nature within situation’s reason and reasoning’s intelligences, understands there is no use trying to account for the grinning existences hiding in words. And, O! The uses in such enchantments! One could imagine the way a deconstruction in hyper-rationalism our words and their subjects might bespeak …

Alice: But I don't want to go among mad people.
The Cat: Oh, you can't help that. We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.
Alice: How do you know I'm mad?
The Cat: You must be. Or you wouldn't have come here.
Alice: And how do you know that you're mad?
The Cat: To begin with, a dog's not mad. You grant that?
Alice: I suppose so.
The Cat: Well, then, you see, a dog growls when it's angry, and wags its
tail when it's pleased. Now I growl when I'm pleased, and wag my tail when
I'm angry. Therefore I'm mad.

                                 ...     ....         -”Alice in Wonderland”, Lewis Carroll

Poetic life falls open like this. All its animals are equally both orderly and disorderly at once. Like Alice in Wonderland, Stephanie, in January and just at its close, has suddenly discovered she’ll have to walk away from her familiar situations to reach them.


I was visiting with friends at a catered luncheon about mid month this past month. The dining table was full so I remained in my chair next to another very beautiful woman (co-incidentally with the same name as mine.) Next to her was a third very lovely lady who spoke about a recent dream…

…There in the field lay a human-sized queen bee. “She is dead,” she said. The lovely lady imitated the queen’s posture and, as she said this, she placed her hands in front of her like two cat paws then rolled over onto her back in a playful manner…

Why, this is no queen bee, I thought! This is a cat bee! And what is that, I silently quizzed myself? THAT is an example of a deformational image! It has brought to us here and suddenly an enervating and new liveliness. The three of us are sitting in the next room of the lovely woman’s dream like in a teaparty. Take away her name! Take away her material hold! Neti, neti, the queen’s deadness has brought her catness to life so that even knowledge of her tragic experience will have been swallowed up. This kind of poetic humor will sustain our spirit even in a time of terror and horrors.

bee omphalos stoneYes, I thought. It is the presence of the catbee in the new
way it marks in turn, sign, symptom and token that makes itself known to me. The poetic and temporized making occurs in an instantaneous deconstruction of the dream image presented and re-embodied in perception and sensation. The deformational image remakes the dead queen in a way that dreams the dream of the lovely woman in a new space. This new space is poetry’s space. Here, the catbee is neither dead nor undead. Psyche’s bee queen, deep in her dreaming hive, has an acute sense for timing.  Or so it would seem!
bee-stone omphallos

The time-memory of bees is well known. They appear to use their internal cicadian clocks in conjunction with the Sun's position in the sky to navigate and to appear at certain times of the day for feedings. Their habits within the hive can communicate the location and richness of a newly discovered food source by dancing and drumming with their wings. Psyche's artistry has remembered this and incorporated it into the story in a way the dreamer telling the tale of the dream does not intend.

In mythopoetics, it is not a far-stretch through the dream fragment to the temporized portal in material imagination. In such a moment I will continue the story without breach and be(e) psyche's dream as mirror to its representational self. Even the humor is not mine nor have I existence should the humor not have existence.

Because humor is tied so closely with everything that is important in life it carries a religious or divine dimension and challenges what is real. Likewise then, awareness of the catbee allows something new (in) beyond the tragic reality of the dream's dead queen...something new expressing interiority without having interiority or exteriority, for that matter. It is imaginal mind at work in a creative act of fictioning. An act of fantasy, I note, supposes a holy action that sustains our spirit in the presence of horrorcat and terror. Fantasy’s humor is a language of imagination and possibility and such imaginings suppose opportunities exist that would otherwise not be undertaken. What if a catbee can be, the world is round and you will go east by way of west? What if timing were everything that mattered in a knot of reasons no twist will help?

If you dig further into mythology and lore, you will continue to discover the many birth, death and reincarnation stories bee images inspire…grinning, notwithstanding.

additional links

Poetry/ The Alice Series
retired May, 2010

Cat Rubbings
Alice Under Glass

The Case of Humpty Dumpty:
Part One & Part Two

Looking Glass Alice
Once You Go Through The Looking

Down The Rabbit Hole
Down The Rabbit Hole (Again)

The Alice Poetry Series is published in "Like A Woman Falling: Selected Poems", ©2004
For a copy of the Alice Series Poems visit Mythic Artist Press

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