Friday, 2 November 2012

Sudden Prose Reprints: Susie Campbell's "White Work"

White Work

'A form of embroidery worked with white thread on white fabric.' 

--Royal School of Needlework 

I am invested in plain seams, functional edges bound to prevent fraying, truthfully sewn. The facts. These loose threads hemmed around the commonplace for a purpose. It is pointless you arguing for the stability of satin cross-stitch, their disingenuous little histories. Nobody pays for gold and silver to be conservative.  I sicken at the floss of it, the twist and count, knotted in cerise, gimped in rose. And the slyness of your white stitch on white linen, the innocent excision of threads from the ordinary: here it is, you protest, my honest handiwork simple as your everyday stitches, perhaps just an accent or two in ecru or ivory. 

Susie Campbell

Susie Campbell writes in various forms for performance and for the page. She has a particular interest in cross-genre, collaborative work. Her work has appeared in various online and print journals, most recently Shearsman and Smiths Knoll,  and she has performed at Edinburgh and Brighton Fringe festivals. She has just started the Mst in Creative Writing at Oxford University. 

"White Work" appears in the current issue of Shearsman


Sarah Welch said...

The main reason why I feel this is a successful prose poem is that it encapsulates one idea. The narrator describes how they are invested in the more functional and practical elements of sewing rather than the elaborate, decorative kind. With Campbell having the narrator describe the ‘You’ character as protesting and sly and themselves as innocent this conflict is highlighted. I feel that Campbell is saying that people are generally attracted to the more elaborate, visually appealing option than the seemingly plain yet functional one. ‘Nobody pays for gold and silver to be conservative.’ The language in this piece is particularly poetic when colours and materials are being described, for example, ‘I sicken at the floss of it, the twist and count, knotted in cerise, gimped in rose.’ This adds to the overall poetic nature of the piece and adds to its success as a piece of prose poetry.

Anonymous said...

This was a very enjoyable prose poem to read. It successfully captures the idea of conformity and rebellion, and of the plain, and the extravagant. The poem is held in contrast between the ideas of the practical, plain and almost virginal, and the extravagant and excessive “gold” “satin” and “rose”. I think one of the most successful things about this poem is the last two words “ecru” and “ivory”. They are heavy with meaning: on one hand representing an off-white colour – a small deviation from the norm – and on the other they are representative of great excess, with ivory being an expensive luxury and ecru often being used to describe the colour of raw silk.

cthomas said...

Campbell has looked at the white stitches on white fabric and seen the apparently simple usefulness of the piece without embellishment. By using juxtaposition she has contrasted to great effect the white work as functional, honest and truthful, against the more elaborate and colourful opposite. The words chosen to emphasise the utility of the thread and fabric are practical, plain and straightforward: a recurring thread woven through the poem. But beneath the obvious if you look closely are the variations of colour, the ecru and ivory as tonal shifts that highlight the hidden and the sly.