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
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:-