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1 Feb 2022

Sharon
Phillips

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Moon

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Feb 16th

Inspiration

Jan 17th

After Käthe Kollwitz's Inspiration (1904/05)

and Sharpening the Scythe (1908)

               perhaps this one’s

               her muse

               crouched at her back

               his black wings outspread

               her arms crushed

               by his legs he grasps

               her shoulder he grips

               the scythe and growls

               take it now take it

               take your blade

               and kill


               *


               or this charmer snuggling close

               while she gazes into the distance,

               her broad hands on her knees

               and her shoulders set foursquare:


               after her day at work in the fields

               what wouldn’t she give to nod off

               were it not for his thrilling whisper

               yes oh yes this is the hour


               *


               alone in her hut

               intent on the scour

               of whetstone on iron


               blade propped

               against her face

               her eyes half-shut

               as she works


               for the sake of

               hungry children

               raped women

               men harnessed

               like beasts


               she tests her scythe

               for keenness

Behind the poem...

This poem was initially inspired by Sharpening the Scythe, an image from Käthe Kollwitz’s Peasants’ War cycle. But as I got deeper into Kollwitz’s work, I realised this image was in turn the culmination of an earlier, rejected folio called Inspiration. Together, this tremendous sequence of images show Kollwitz’s increasing assertion of women’s power and agency: she first proposes a male muse, then rejects that notion for self-determination, in a way that reflects not only on the women depicted, but also on Kollwitz’s own trajectory as a woman, and as an artist.