News Facts Spirit Plato's Cave Red Virgin

There Comes

If you do not fight it---if you look, just
look, steadily,
upon it,

there comes
a moment when you cannot do it,
if it is evil;

if good, a moment
when you cannot

Gustave Thibon, How Simone Weil Appeared to Me/3

Kisses and embraces disgusted her.
I never saw her cry.
She loved tobacco.
Of all the things belonging

to material life, tobacco
was the only one
she was almost certain
to accept. This smoke

has been transformed into pages
covered with writing
in my copybooks, she said.
She was counting out one time

the money she had earned
harvesting grapes. I told her
I had no illusions about
the destination

of this sum, whereupon
she replied with disarming
spontaneity, But
I shall certainly also buy a few books.

Before concluding these excerpts, and my Simone Weil site, with the poem with which The Red Virgin: A Poem of Simone Weil itself concludes I will quote a couple of paragraphs from Stephanie Strickland's evocative prose introduction to Simone Weil.

"Weil came to her philosophical and religious ideas by a path that included elite university training, factory work, potato digging, harvest in the vineyards, teaching philosophy to adolescent women, partisanship in trade unions, anarchistic Socialism, pacifism, rejection of pacifism, a conversion experience that did not lead her to joining ... a religion, exile in New York City, and employment by De Gaulle's government-in-exile in London.

Weil used her body as a tool as well as a weapon. She threw herself under the wheels of the same issues women are starving for answers to today: issues of hunger, violence, exclusion, betrayl of the the body, inability to be heard, and self-hate. ...

"Weil, our shrewdest political observer since Machiavelli, was never deceived by the glamor of power, and she committed herself to resisting force in whatever guise. More 'prophet' than 'saint,' more 'wise woman' than either, she bore a particular kind of bodily knowledge that the Western tradition cannot absorb. Simone Weil belongs to a world culture, still to be formed, where the voices of multiple classes, castes, races, genders, ethnicities, nationalities, and religions, can be respected. To achieve this culture is an impossible task, but, as Weil would remind us, not on that account to be forsaken.

Today we look to Weil for hope, for meditation, for the bridge a body makes. She knew that the truth had been 'taken captive,' and that we must 'seek at greater depth our own source,' because power destroys the past, the past with its treasures of alternative ideals that stand in judgment on the present."

She said,

when from the depth
of our being,
we need, we seek a sound

which does mean
something: when we cry out
for an answer

and it is not granted, then,
we touch the silence of God---

Some begin to talk,
to themselves, as do the mad;
some give

their hearts to silence.

© 1993, Stephanie Strickland
All Rights Reserved

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"We shall send the Red Virgin as far away as possible so that we shall never hear of her again."

-- C. Bouglé, Director of Career Placement
Ecole normale supérieure
[as quoted at the beginning of Strickland's book of poems]

The Red Virgin: A Poem of Simone Weil by Stephanie Strickland won the Brittingham Prize in Poetry in 1993. Three of its shorter poems are reproduced here.

Losing L'una
Stephanie Strickland

The Penquin Poets series has
published a new book of Strickland poems inspired by writings of SimoneWeil

"V's muse is Simone Weil... in V, Strickland's
elegy for Weil
is widened to include
a longline of known
and conjured women:
prehistoric skywatchers
& cave inscribers,
accused witches,
upper class 18th century women
trying to gain access to
Newtonian knowledge,
and women like Weil who
thought about
technology and economics
and justice
in the same breath"



for more of about Stephanie Strickland:


© Brian Thomas, 2009
All Rights Reserved

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