Editor’s Note: This article was originally posted on MSA’s literary arts blog, curated by junior and senior literary arts students.
Looking at my class schedule for junior year, I am terrified by the idea of taking poetry. I have never done well with abstract concepts, nor am I quite sure how my writer’s voice will translate from paragraphs to stanzas. Unexpectedly, a specific type of poetry becomes my favorite genre to write; the form is narrative poetry and tells a complete tale through developed characters and evolving situations. In “Inscriptions of an Illusory Inamorato, a sestina”, I explore the narrative of a lonely, naïve woman coming to terms with her lover and correspondent’s deception. As I analyze this piece and consider how it can translate into fashion, I examine the imagery and word choice that coat the poem in a warm tone, the intensity of the metaphors, the rigidness of the structure, and the time period in which the story takes place.
This is a time where letter writing is the primary form of communication and distance between companions is a feat to close. The narrator would wear her hair down, in braided or twisted sections, because she craves the feeling of being desired that comes from presenting femininely but needs something practical that will not physically distract her from her activities. The structure of this poem is very formal and this is because I want to illustrate that this affair nor the characters are casual; the clothing is expensive, elegant, and bridal because for a time, the narrator is attached to a sophisticated person whom she believes is the love of her life. I incorporated the use of warm tones in the dress, shoes, accessories, and makeup because the recurring words burned, heatwave, and warmth and lines such as “…your expressions struck and burned the pale skin of my cheeks with shameful blotches of flushed warmth” all spark red and orange imagery. The makeup look is bold and intense because, like the metaphor of a heatwave implies, this relationship is intense, passionate, and suffocating; the inspiration for dark lip and eyeshadow shades came from the line, “…I inhaled the ashes of us and required no solace.”
The outfit reflects the changed nature of the narrator. She still bears the polished outlook the pen-pal instilled in her through their exchanges, as well as the trauma from their toxic relationship. The dress is a reminder of both the past and her personal worth; she no longer wears it for her partner but for herself. She has immeasurable endurance and assuredness in herself and her decision to seek revenge by torturously refusing to read the love interest’s letters, as shown by the striking cosmetic application. Overall, she has a strong, confident energy surrounding her despite being scorned by the relationship.