Categories
Art and Photographic History Literature Poetry

Regarding “True Voice” for J.S. by Aviva Dautch

 

Friday afternoon in Streatham. Sunlight in

winter, a weight of snow above us

on the glass conservatory roof. We should

have been cooking but instead we tuned in

the new LG TV with its True Voice advanced technology.

The channel didn’t matter, what we cared about was clarity

and pitch, the digital dialling down

of background noise, homing in on the frequency

of the newsreader’s voice: far off famine

wars, a politician sacked, another

celebrity whose phone was hacked. We sat

in the sweet spot, the speakers concentrating

sound

 

I tend to collect books of poetry and poetry magazines and came across the above poem which I have not copied in full in the Poetry Review Volume 101:2 Summer 2011 This edition was subtitled The New Political Poetry and inside Dautch has written a letter to Emily Dickinson in which she writes about the Talmudic tradition in which contradictory truths are allowed to co-exist. and also about doubt in contradistinction, she says to a Western Tradition that emphasises single truths or epiphanies. This seems apparent too in the first section of the poem -or perhaps prose poem quoted above.

As is widely known Friday evenings in Jewish families constitute the advent of Shabbat and the poem has a certain cosiness, one might say Gemutlich quality about it. Yet also there exists a troubled contrast between the technical sound quality and the dreadful news on the radio which has been arbitrarily chosen. In the remainder of the poem, there is a concern shown about the intensity of the experience becoming overwhelming.

All that evening, as we transformed secular time into Shabbat, everything seemed heightened: the candles, bread, wine, vibrating; each molecule its own distinct, sacred, world.

There are several ways of looking at this feeling. Psychologically Melanie Klein might refer to feelings of envy overwhelming what on a deep level might represent the maternal perfect breast. This state also reminds me of certain lines from the beautiful hymn by W.Chalmers Smith (1824-1908) Immortal, Invisible, God only wise

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light.

Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;

All laud we would render:O help us to see

Tis only the splendour of light hideth thee.

and in the next verse-

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,

In light inaccesssible hid from our eyes

…..and in this poem, of course, our ears as well although the background sound of snow shuffling down the roof paradoxically helps the evening feel complete. Reading Col Toibin’s book Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know just yesterday on W.B.Yeat’s artist’s father and the concept of the gaze, I came across the former’s well known poem about the Second Coming-

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun…

In any event Aviva Dautch is worthy of future consideration and here is a discussion on displacement, migration and exile in which she takes part:-

Categories
Literature Poetry

Breakfrost by W.N.Herbert

Breakfrost

The frost is touching everything before the sun:

each blade has a pencil nudity that makes

the yolk-like orange seem already old,

each flatness reached, brick-like,

as though all cold was urban.

Sheep crunch its windscreen splinters,

horses’ heads are glued to it down the blue

flanks of shade. Each leaf is a sucrose flake.

Its intimacy is more exhausting than light.

Morning’s sepia, like medieval photographs,

has to fight its way through every scattered grain.

I had not heard of Herbert, born 1961 in Dundee until I recently came across this poem in Ruth Padel’s instructive collection; The Poem and the Journey -60 Poems for the Journey of Life. It appeals to me very much and I am asking myself just why.

These first eleven lines interweave the process of getting up for breakfast with the contrasts in the outside landscape. Being cold and having no clothes on and breakfast itself – perhaps “Frosties” (crunch sucrose flake) and perhaps a suggestion of tiredness or exhaustion. The gradual awakening takes place with engaging contrasts as Padel makes clear in her own interpretation. There is cold sharpness against and before the sunlight. There are contrasting colours orange-yellow with the blue flanks of the horses. An image which might suggest the paintings of Franz Marc.

Then there is the poet’s usage of engaging tropes like “cold was urban” and “sepia…medieval photographs”. These encourage the reader to use his imagination. It is interesting too that the latter photo image reinforces the element of time which is clearly passing along during the course of the poem.

More about W.N.Herbert can be read at https://poetryarchive.org/poet/W-N-Herbert/

and I recommend “Talking Water Blues which you will find on that page

Categories
Literature Poetry Psychoanalysis

“Autumn Journal” revisited this Spring

For here and now the new valkyries ride

The Spanish constellations

As over the Plaza Cataluña

Orion lolls on his side;

Droning over from Majorca

To maim or blind or kill

The bearers of the living will,

The stubborn heirs of freedom

Whose matter-of-fact faith and courage shame

Our niggling equivocations-

We who play for safety,

A safety only in name.

Whereas these people contain truth, whatever

Their nominal façade.

Listen: a whirr, a challenge, an aubade-

It is the cock crowing in Barcelona.

Sleep, my body, sleep, my ghost,

Sleep, my parents and grand-parents,

And all those I have loved most:

One man’s coffin is another’s cradle.

Sleep, my past and all my sins,

In distant snow or dried roses

Under the moon for night’s cocoon will open

When day begins.

These lines from MacNeice’s poem written in 1938 sadly seem apposite today. The lines refer to the bombing of Barcelona when fascists killed some 1300 people. They also refer to his response which is to seek solace in sleep. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Barcelona

For a fascinating discussion of MacNeice’s work take a listen to https://www.lrb.co.uk/podcasts-and-videos/podcasts/close-readings/on-louis-macneice

Now, of course the Spanish Civil War was a totally different situation from the current situation from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, the melancholy tone of Autumn Journal resonates with my personal feelings about current events. Firstly, weapons have become vastly more destructive and in a few days the casualties and destruction have become enormous and sadly mch more about to be revealed. In both conflicts, ethnic and religous belief would appear to be active. Although mercenaries and International Brigades are involved the ideological factors such as a belief in Marxism are radically different in form.

The cock which crowed in respect to Barcelona is an Easter image relating to betrayal. Just as with Covid the current response by politicians to the current crisis is totally underwhelming and indicates too how domestic and isolationist narratives have obscured a wider view as to how to resolve or even contain this conflict.

So this melancholia pervades from 80 or more years ago-

Our niggling equivocations

We who play for safety,

A safety only in name

Categories
Uncategorized Book Reviews Poetry Literature

Apprehension over Odesa

Once again I have been reading Christopher Reid and again finding his poetry both lyrical and accessible. I recently found a poem in his collection, “For and After“(2003) which is intriguingly entitled Bermudapest and is dedicated to Clariisa Upchurch and her husband George Szirtes. It begins:-

A place I’ve never been, but which, at back of my mind’s eye, I know I’ve seen:

its stately apartment blocks beginning to melt in the mid-morning blaze, its beach cafés

loud with the laughter of chess-players and philosophers. And there’s the postcard view you’ll know it

Now although the title has an ambiguity about it perhaps suggesting an imaginary destination, I can only read a few lines and think upon the city of Odesa. A city about which I only know but a few matters but one whose cosmopolitan nature makes it onto my wish list for a visit. Having seen those famous steps in Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin” in the early 70s started my interest. Re- kindled by a minitrek to Istanbul and Princes Island then I bought Neil Acherson’s Black Sea. Then again reading about the trade of the Euphrasi family in de Waal’s Hare with the Amber Eyes stimulated my interest further.

Reid’s lovely poem talks of a lively city with…..

loud with laughter

of chess players and philosophers.

And there’s a postcard view-

you’ll know it

However, the city which has grasped my imagination through reading this poem is awaiting the armed assault of the invader. The sandbags surround the elegant statues. The town where Pushkin was in exile which was always a cosmopolitan treasure awaits another barbarous incursion .A large portion of the dwellers have already left their homes fearing the sort of destruction meted out to Mariupol now some 13hours journey away to the East.

There is a certain irony in the last lines in which a guitar playing poet flavours his words with…

a nonchalant beat added

to old Gypsy sorrows.

A good place to meet,

I feel, and clink

a glass or two

of something sombre as ink,

with a paper parasol in it.

Lets get on a plane and go there.

Tomorrow’s?

Categories
Book Reviews Literature Poetry Uncategorized

Stephen Romer, the warmth of Spring and Lentern Thoughts

The lines above come from Stephen Romer’s title poem in his 2008 collection Yellow Studio. This poetry book (Oxford Poetry Series ISBN978 1 90303985 4)I purchased having read some of his critical writings in the TLS (or was it the LRB?) Getting to understand a new poet inevitably takes time and I find that I have reached the point where actually I want to reassess my favourites; Auden, MacNeice, Yeats and Mahon). However, my interest in French Poetry remains strong and Romer is perhaps the leading translator. Incidentally, Romer keeps reminding me of the corresponding poetry and translations from German by Michael Hofmann. Here is a clip finding Romer reading at Worcester College, Oxford in 2019 about the warmth of the South,the approach of Spring, Air BnB and other matters.

Perusing the collection my eye was caught by the poems about returning to Paris.:-

Returning here

under the cold blue

the rue des Saules

is absurdly tender

with its pink house

on the corner

and the château des Brouillards

with its ruined vineyard

and secret trees

still a world on its own

(For more information on the misty castle opposite Renoir’s house see

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C3%A2teau_des_Brouillards )

Rue des Saules

Another section of Yellow Studio deals with the poets relaxation and remembering a friend/lover recently lost ;an elegy conceived in the garden and about the house. It is called Pottering About.

any sign of neglect or decay

weighs on my conscience

when you were always the one

somewhere at work among the birdsong

and the appleboughs, the place marked

by a stupendous oath

as the Allen Scythe choked

or where the odd chainsaw

was hurled into the undergrowth

and I dreaming on

among my books

in the yellow attic room.

Here is Stephen Romer in more sombre mood reading at Trinity College, Cambridge in 2018

Categories
Literature Poetry

Thoughts inspired by “From a Window” by Charlotte Mew

From a Window 

                  Up here, with June, the sycamore throws 

                      Across the window a whispering screen; 

        I shall miss the sycamore more, I suppose, 

Than anything else on this earth that is out in green. 

             But I mean to go through the door without fear, 

             Not caring much what happens here 

                           When I’m away:— 

How green the screen is across the panes 

              Or who goes laughing along the lanes 

        With my old lover all summer day. 
 

By Charlotte Mew 

The poem begins by locating the poet both in place and time; the high elevation suggests an oracular tone which pervades the poem. The poet is contemplating not just leaving the house or building but also the loss of life- that is to say death itself.

I seem to recall a final interview of the playwright Dennis Potter talking in a moving way about a tree in blossom and the poignant feelings this aroused in him. The poem evoked his memory.

In Mew’s poem however the tree appears as a green screen which might conceivably fill an entire window where foliage whispering might suggest some maternal comforting. Indeed it becomes a kind of screen memory, that is a distorted memory, generally of a visual rather than verbal nature, deriving from childhood. The term was coined by Sigmund Freud, .

Mew talks about not caring much about what happens when she is away. It seems that the word “much” suggests that actually, largely unconsciously, she actually really does care about what happens when she leaves. Indeed the real difficulty in leaving is about what is left behind and perhaps who is left behind doing exactly what. The separation involves a felt loss of control. Her previous lover is laughing along the lanes and perhaps there might be some faint suggestion of the poet feeling perhaps jeered at as well. There is a beautiful melancholy feel to the internal rhythms of the line “How green the screen is across the panes” and the now obvious pane/pain pairing.

This programme is moving about Charlotte Mew and worth a listen-

Categories
Literature Uncategorized

Further approaches to building resilience-Mark Vernon and Donald Winnicott

I have been thinking a little about Winnicott and meaning to read a book about him by the redoubtable Adam Philips. However, having sufficient reading material in the form of poetry collections, journals, novels and criticism I still find myself scrolling/chillaxing on You Tube where I found this extraordinarily interesting account by Mark Vernon which repays listening through.

I found Vernon’s approach so engaging that I then found myself intrigued by the following clip where his philosophical and theological approach carries some imaginative and enlightening comments. It is also deeply moving.

Categories
Literature Poetry

Katarina Brac by Christopher Reid- contemplations and ruminations

After several months studying and discussing poetry, Christmas has offered me the opportunity to reconsider the poetry I like and just why I like it. Christopher Reid has been a firm favourite for some time. I find him quite accessible or offering other compensations when he seems harder to understand. As I believe I mentioned previously, I find his slim volume Katerina Brac particularly interesting. Even the plain yellow cover with ionly the author and title in letters seem thrilling.

Here are two stanzas from a poem in this collection which is called Epithalamium

Something as homely

as a cat or a clock.

But what you leave unsaid

sustains you

like the net of the heavens.

Man and wife

with your life between you

like a chessboard:

a palimsest

of innumerable possibilities.

A very interesting analysis of this book may be found at-

However, although this lengthy essay is both fascinating and illuminating in respect of the Eastern European persona of the poetess, Katarina Brac, it may be difficult to accept in one respect. Viz, that the abstract politico-philosophical elements sit uneasily with the personal feminine viewpoint which Reid is attempting to emulate.

Image 1 - Dinky Toys GB N° 34C Loud Speaker Van

One of the best regarded poems in this collection is “Tin Lily”. It is discussed, for instance, in Ruth Padel’s collection of 52 Poems. It is also given a useful interpretation and the poem may be read at

http://greatpoetryexplained.blogspot.com/2020/04/tin-lily-by-christopher-reid.html

I particularly like …..”It is difficult to separate the words from the razzmatazz” and applies here in 2022 as in Eastern Europe in 1985 when this collection was published first in 1985.

Categories
Literature Poetry

Some ephemera on Ernest Dowson, Poet  (2 August 1867 – 23 February 1900) 

https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/theatre-arts/poetry-infatuation-that-inspired-devotion-34297047.html

THE LEWISHAM POET: THE LIFE AND WORKS OF ERNEST DOWSON - Kindle edition by  Jones, Kelvin I.. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
Categories
German Matters Literature Poetry

New York Fascinates by Rosa AUSLÄNDER

New York fascinates

In the early morning hours when between plaster and the crystal of Heaven the elegant skyscrapers stand like gems on the salmon ground

Beautiful is New York in the morning, most beautiful early Sunday when sirens and wheels sleep, little voices from park trees coo to the Hudson adapting to the ocean

A person comes upon you and you see is really a PERSON and you see it is really NEW YORK; a fable beautifully devised subtle and strong

The eight million sleeping Sunday dreamers have not yet shaken off the nightmare of the week. Too late they seek when already shadows embrace the streets, seek the PEOPLE too late, NEW YORK the azure-dreamed fable New York.

New York faszinert

New York fasziniert in den fruehen Morgenstunden wenn zwischen Pflaster und Himmelskristall die eleganten Wolkenkratzer gemmengleich stehn auf lachsrotem Grund

Schoen ist New York am Morgen am schoensten Sonntag frueh wenn Sirenen und Raeder schlafen kleine Stimmen von Parkbaeumen kollern der Hudson sich anpasst dem Ozean

ein Mensch dir begegnet und du siehst es ist wirklich ein MENSCH und du siehst es ist wirklich NEW YORK ein Maerchen schoen ersonnen subtil und stark

Die acht Millionen schlafenden Sonntagstraeumer haben noch nicht abgeschuettelt den Alpdruck der Woche

Zu spaet suchen sie wenn schon

Schatten die Gassen umarmen den MENSCHEN suchen

zu spaet NEW YORK

das blaugetraeumte Maerchen New York

I really like the sense of place in this poem of a stranger awaking to a new environment and its fairy tale quality. The word “kollern” apparently can mean goobled up – presumably by the flowing Hudson entering the sea. Derek Mahon and of course, W.H.Auden give voice to similar sensations too.