Hawthorne, Susan. THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT. 2005. Spinifex Press. Melbourne, Australia.

From the physical sciences comes the theory that all life is interconnected, that even the gentle movement of a butterfly’s wing can connect to vast and distant changes and consequences. The pages of this book are like those frail wings; marks on delicate paper that connect and relate.

In Wild Politics Hawthorne explored the growth of wisdom and strength in a world of biodiversity and cultural diversity; a world where everything is connected and politics are best nurtured in their own home environment. She showed how disconnection is vital for the irresponsibility and immorality of growth-based capitalism.

The Butterfly Effect is the artistic complement to Wild Politics. In poems that range through history and space, Hawthorne makes the same connections. She gathers with Indian women in the feminist organization of Jagori where…we could not share a language, but we could share lunch…but as they read, listen to the / rhythms of their voices. It’s / not only words we read.

Words are important for poets but feelings are also important.  Hawthorne re-iterates in Greek – about Virginia Woolf…this girl who would change the shape of English literature… could not learn Greek –she was a too young and she was a girl …she listened to the birds singing in Greek/ but she could not understand them…the connection to life was stronger than language and Woolf…returned to the song of birds / to their healing sounds…

Woven into her beautiful lines about discovery and community, the destruction of life, cruelty and the intimacy of her mother’s death, Hawthorne is telling us that love and courage do triumph; love in all its forms, including the punishable love of lesbians. Only connect and the understanding will spread; we have beauty to contemplate in these poems, but the thread of urgency, of the necessity of witness is strong and insinuating. Be enchanted, be moved but also the poems speak – acknowledge and be moved to action.

Throughout the poems is the underlying tribute to Sappho: the joy and right of women to love women. In her opening conversation with Sappho, Hawthorne muses…we have been violated and vilified. And yet there is a chorus just beyond the limits of audibility, we know it exists, but who will praise it? The Butterfly Effect is part of that chorus and we need to tune our ears to hear it and help its journeys because…

We women.
our lives are like vines threading
The eye of the needle holds more than the camel.

We also are butterfly wings, with no pre-knowledge of the consequences of our actions and creativity.

Filed under Book Reviews, Susan Hawthorne