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The Poetry Jab

The Poetry Jab

I’m annotating only one of my Dressing Up pamphlet poems this week, because next week is the longest poem in the pamphlet. This week we are looking at the second poem that uses a story from Greek myth as its inspiration. The first one, Wandering Eyes, was discussed in my first of this series of posts on 4th of December, 2022.

Four Walls

Pandora is here again
facing more deceptions
more lousy choices
a biscuit tin containing only crumbs
in a room full of noises;
Pandora’s boxing
throwing left jab
counter punch
fighting for the championship

of the world between the ropes;
the crowd,
a lazy metaphor for hopes,
point and cheer;
a swollen lip
the ring, an irony —
the constraints of what we know
are where we feel secure.

This poem takes the story of Pandora and her infamous box, or jar, on a modern outing. Most people think of it as Pandora’s box, though the ancient Greek poet, Hesiod, called it a jar, so I tend to as well. However, in this poem, the box is transformed into a boxing ring; girl power 🙂

The inspiration I had for this poem was Nicola Adams (now an OBE) who won the first Olympic women’s boxing gold medal at the Summer Olympics in 2012. I remember listening to that fight, and the numerous interviews with Nicola afterwards.

In the first stanza I try to maintain that I am writing about Pandora’s well-known box. Pandora was the first woman, and her box was full of evils. When men opened the box, all of the evils got out into the world, except for hope which remained in the box. That is usually interpreted as hope being in the box by some accident, but Hesiod says that hope is indeed an evil, because it makes men lazy and saps their industriousness. I admit, I’ve never attended (or been in) a boxing match, but I tend to think of it being an audience mostly comprised of noisy men. That was the kind of setting I imagined for my poem. The biscuit tin containing only crumbs was Pandora’s box with only hope remaining.

I knew a girl at school called Pandora … Never got to see her box though.
Rhys Ifans, playing the character of Spike in the film, Notting Hill

In stanza two comes the reveal — that Pandora is a boxer fighting for the world championship! Her box is the square ring she is fighting in.

In stanza three the crowd are shouting encouragement to whichever fighter they are hoping will win. The connection between the crowd’s lazy hope metaphor and the suggestion that hope is an evil because it makes men lazy could be considered as the act of betting to try and win money on the result of a sporting event, rather than going out to work. Talking of which, I heard last week that a man in America, on hearing that the Los Angeles Chargers American Football team were ahead 27-0 bet $1.4 million on
them to win the game to net $11,200. Jacksonville came back and won 31-30. How about that for a blow that would produce a swollen lip! Pre-empting the short final stanza, this stanza ends with the observation that the ring is an irony …

The ring is an irony because, the boxing ring being possibly one of the most dangerous places in which to meet another person, it is possibly a place that a boxer feels most confident in their own abilities. Think about this in non-boxing terms. We might stay in a job we don’t particularly like because it offers the security of the money we need to afford a roof over our heads and food on our table. Inside the home we may remain in relationships that are unstimulating, possibly even violent, because the fear of stepping away from them is just as daunting as remaining in them. The walls in our lives can be security as well as a constraint.

Published inPoetry

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