Making Silence Tactile (Part 2)

Emily's gorgeous weaving.
Emily’s gorgeous weaving.

My student, poet Emily Beyda, built her own loom and wove her final poem using binary code for her final project.  Emily, a fantastic poet and weaver of warp and woof, made a lovely white tapestry. Her poem is based on the sole extant poem by the Greek Erinna, who lived around 300 BCE. Emily also elaborated on this project with a lyrical explanation. My class on silence and women, called The Sounds of Silence: A Biodiversity of Mute and Quiet Women in a World of Brutal Noise,* has been a joy to teach. I’ve learned so much from my amazing students who had the option of writing a traditional research paper for the final grade or of doing a creative project with accompanying 2-page explanation.

The gay, Jewish, Pre-Raphaelite painter, Simeon Solomon, created this lovely painting depicting
The gay, Jewish, Pre-Raphaelite painter, Simeon Solomon, created this lovely painting depicting Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene

As Emily explains, “With my hands, I have been slowly transforming the code into a series of small white tapestries, weaving in places that are important to me….The weavings will go out into the world, each with its own accompanying reflective letter, each to a person to whom there are things I need to say. I want the people who receive them these weavings to hold them in their hands,. To feel the ridges of the fabric. To listen to the messages of silence.”

Thank you for sharing your beautiful work and message with us, Emily!

And more giggles...Emily is on the left.
Giggles…Emily is on the left.

Emily also had us play the game of Telephone (sometimes call Whisper). She whispered each line of her poem into the ear of the person next to her, and the lines went around the room. When they returned to her in a mangled form, she wrote them down. Then she shared each poem to us. Like Penelope unraveling her weaving each night in The Odyssey and Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, Emily’s poem became unraveled through our oral transmission, creating a new artwork.

Here we are whispering around the room. You can tell we are having fun!

Here are some photos of us whispering.


More merriment

* This is the course description:

This course looks at silent women, quiet women, and mute women. Sometimes their hush is self-imposed, other times it is violently forced upon them. Passing, they erase their race and gender orientation. Yet, even with their tongues cut out, women speak. Sexually violated, they insist on their story. Enslaved, they shape their ends. Philomela—raped and mutilated—survives as a mythic emblem of female voicelessness. Some texts we look at are modern novels that tell the stories of women denied their chance at speech—in feminist versions of Homer’s Odyssey, Beowulf, and Jane Eyre. In a variety of texts –from Roman myth, Icelandic saga, and medieval religious sign language texts to a cross-dressed female knight, victimized wife, and deaf nun—we will attempt to hear these quiet voices from the past and rowdily proclaim their vibrancy for their future.



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s