A new poem explores the social impact of mass unemployment on an intimate scale. In the sonnet A Seamstress Considers her Options, I imagine a woman of the 18th century made redundant by the introduction of machines to her trade. But what else does this poem mean? What are the other possible readings? In this poem, no direct clues are given, and it appears very literal. However, there are other messages that could be read into this work.
The 18th-century revolution in technology caused great social upheaval. Hard to comprehend at scale but is realised here as an imagined personal crisis.
I intended this sonnet as an allegory. Allegorical poems are a powerful way to contribute to a dialogue in society about current issues. They are open to interpretation, and moreover, that is the whole point of allegory: to allow a reader the exercise of interpretation. Allegories have both a literal and figurative meaning: what is said may not be what is meant. It is for every reader to interpret the figurative meaning as they wish. The author may place clues in the text. Alternatively, they may not give clues knowing that a specific group of people will get the message anyway.
In this case, those concerned about burgeoning levels of automation in modern society being introduced without proper consideration of its impact may make a connection. So: was the ‘Spinning Jenny,’ the machine that featured in the Industrial Revolution, the first robot? When is a robot not a machine? What was the effect of this automation on working people? They also may wonder why so many references are made to toxins, although at that time these would not have been recognised as such? I will let the reader enjoy the poem in their own way.
In general, with any other poem, some readers may find a figurative meaning even though none was intended by the author. This is a process known as “allegoresis”.
In your writing, try something like this; taking a break perhaps from those usual poems about autumn leaves, or relationship break-ups, even if it’s just as an exercise. Try to include personal details, such as gestures, that will help the reader identify with the situation described. In the underlying meaning, you do not need to propose a solution, just illustrating the issue may be enough. The purpose is to get the reader to exercise their imagination searching for whatever truth they find in the poem.
Other allegorical poems of mine include The Arrow of Time, published in The Cannon’s Mouth Quarterly, Cannon Poets, Issue 71, March 2019, ISSN 1745-663003. Where one disaster stands in for a much wider message on the fragility of modern civilisation.
You can read this sonnet now: A Seamstress Considers her Options was published in London Grip at www.londongrip.co.uk , March 2020, at: https://londongrip.co.uk/2020/02/london-grip-new-poetry-spring-2020/ .