(GJ) Canto I (p.1, ll. 1-10).

From Joyce’s Giacomo Joyce: 

“Yes: a brief syllable. A brief laugh. A brief beat of the eyelids.”

An Original Haiku:

Who is the Dark She,/ 

A Birdgirl or the Huntress?/

Jim prey or stalker?/

About Giacomo Joyce Canto I:

Joyce’s prose poem is a song of forbidden love that predicts Nobokov’s Lolita.  We find Molly’s orgasmic “Yes” after just the first few lines, but we might think Amalia Popper is the antithesis of earthy, loquacious Molly too. Giacomo Joyce’s birdlike Beatrice isn’t the Irish Sea bird of A Portrait either. That girl is made of salt and sea, and Fraulein Popper might be no more than air. We will begin the mystery accepting Richard Ellmann’s insistence that there was only one dark SHE and that SHE was his student Amalia. You will decide for yourself. SHE is a mystery because although nervously birdlike, SHE is wrapped in musky furs. Perhaps she is also a huntress. She is more a concept than a creature, a single syllable, a half-laugh, a lashed beat of the eyes. SHE holds a half glass to one eye when reading. Amalia Popper is both timid and aloof. SHE might likely dart off without warning if startled or suddenly inspired.

These unlucky thirteen words end the first canto of Joyce’s confession to what may be the greatest of his sins. Whether he ever consumated his lust for his dark SHE, he betrayed the trust of a student or students and of faithful Nora. 

Sixteen sheets of drawing paper handwritten, some pages with only a few words others say more. The words were too shameful to be taken by Joyce to a typist. The subjectivity of the narration allows for bendable time, space and emotions. Giacomo is besotted, lustful and, finally when rejection is undeniable, brutish. A construction of cobwebbed handwriting, gossamer but deadly, captivates Joyce, who is either the mothlike mentor or the lusty flame.

don ward June 9, 2020, appended November 1, 2021

Link to the Complete Text of Giacomo Joyce:


2 thoughts on “(GJ) Canto I (p.1, ll. 1-10).

  1. I like how you end this: ‘A construction of cobwebbed handwriting, gossamer but deadly, captivates Joyce, the mothlike mentor.’ Currently, I’m working on Joyce’s poetry and including GJ because of its ambiguity, brief snatches of Pomes, and, for me, autobiographical nuances. I know, as you mention in a previous post, that Ellmann is on the fence about this. Perhaps he’s right. Hard to dismiss the autobiographical element when there is a layer in GJ. I enjoyed reading these analyses. Nice job!

    1. Sometimes I’m frustrated by Joyce’s vagaries. I like tidy resolutions. Then I realize the uncertainties are what draw me back over and again. He’s capable of being eternally new.
      Thanks, Mary. Don

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