~ Filmmaker: Maeyen Bassey ~

My English Victorian Dating Troubles by Analicia Sotelo

This Motionpoems film by Maeyen Bassey expands Analicia Sotelo‘s poem into a sci-fi fable about beauty standards and high-tech body modification in a society where racism and sexism are as strong as ever. Narrative-style poetry films always risk sacrificing the poem to the director’s vision, but this feels like a logical outgrowth of the text. Sotelo wrote about what she was trying to do with the poem, and the collection in which it appears—Virgin—in a post for the Poetry Society of America:

As I was writing the collection that became Virgin, I became obsessed with how female identity is represented in Victorian England. Particularly, how female “innocence” is seen through the eyes of male figures—and how that has or has not changed in the last few centuries. Even Dorothea from Eliot’s Middlemarch entered the poem, bringing her moralistic intelligence and misguided taste in men. In these lines, the male gaze is an orbiting problem—it keeps returning. At the same time, I was thinking about what it means to be a Latinx woman with an English Literature degree – about the volume and weight of the Western canon. In the poem, I conflate timelines and histories, wondering if the power dynamics of gender and culture are all-consuming energies that influence us even in the smallest of moments.

Even as I write this, English rhetoric is present in these sentences. It reminds me of how high school and undergraduate students who do not identify as English often use the word “therefore” to transition the paragraphs of their essays. As a Mexican-American student, it never felt natural to use the word “therefore,” but I’m sure I used it in those first essays, hoping it would bolster the arguments I didn’t yet know how to make. How do we succeed in the language of a conqueror? How do we make the best and finest of arguments? And how do we find our voice in that conflict? Therefore, this poem. A poem for any person who doesn’t identify as this or that, but exists in the in-between, and must be heard.