amreading

Shaping water as with words

With the Oscars this Sunday, I thought it would be fitting to muse about The Shape of Water.

My immediate thoughts were conflicted: gorgeous, yes, lyrical, yes, but it also felt too closed. Like a perfect circle that doesn’t hold a mirror to anything we could ever experience. 

Argue fantasy and fairy tales, and that’s true with this film, but I am a constant critic.

Why escape to the 1950’s? Who is nostalgic and warm and safe here? I’ve grown uncomfortable in these clothes, these roles. 

On the other hand, I loved that it ended with a poem, one which left me thinking, Wait, who wrote that?

"Unable to perceive the shape of you,
I find you all around me.
Your presence fills my eyes with your love,
It humbles my heart,
For you are everywhere.”

The state of poetry is thriving. Online it’s easy to find vibrant debate, dissection, and dedication to a craft that is (truly) old as dirt. And I love it. 

Just asking the question “who” can open a discussion and wealth of new knowledge for novice poetry readers.

I immediately searched online, trying to find who wrote the poem at the end of The Shape of Water. While I didn’t find any definitive answers per say, what I did unearth was a forum full of discussions over this very topic. 

Some suggested the poet was Saint Symeon. Others were adamant it was Rumi. (And at first their enthusiasm and confidence convinced me the most.) Others mentioned poetic origins hailing from different worldly corners and traditions, from Islam to Greek mythology. And others thought it was original, a poem written by del Toro himself.

I think it's special that a poem spoke to so many, and in a film with that massive of an audience. The poetic tradition is full of different lineages and the concluding poem in The Shape of Water speaks to that layered, interwoven identity.

When I write, I also feel like I'm making shapes. Language is so malleable, both soft like clay and hard like brick. It can become so much and soak up what you let it soak. The shape of words isn't so singular as it is possibilities—an infinite polyphony, as water also flows into whatever contains it.