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
Poetry Psychoanalysis

Road 1940

Road 1940

Why do I carry, she said,

This child that is no child of mine?

Through the heat of the day it did nothing but fidget and whine,

Now it snuffles under the dew and the cold star-shine,

And lies across my heart heavy as lead,

Heavy as the dead.

This beautiful poem by STW is another poem about the flight of refugees. It almost certainly relates to the civilian escape from Paris as it fell in 1940, It conveys both the weariness and the worry of a woman escaping with a child who is not her own and unfortunately there must be many such examples of such experiences among refugees from Ukraine at the present time. The next lines reveal that the story is being reported by an observer.

Why did I lift it, she said,

Out of its cradle in the wheel-tracks?

On the dusty road burdens have melted like wax,

Soldiers have thrown down their rifles, misers slipped their packs:

Yes, and the woman who left it there has sped

With a lighter tread.

The poem continues to discuss the rescuers ambivalence towards the child being rescued. there are echoes of the Scriptural verses of Matthew 24:19 –

And woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days!

and also of Mark 13:17

Townsend-Warner finishes with these poignant lines which might also be those of a similar refugee from the Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan or elsewhere:-

But since I’ve carried it, she said,

So far I might as well carry it still.

If we ever should come to kindness someone will

Pity me perhaps as the mother of a child so ill,

Grant me even to lie down on a bed;

Give me at least bread.

Here is another moving poem by Townsend Warner from You Tube where you can also find her own reading of this second poem.

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
Art and Photographic History Penwith Poetry Psychoanalysis

Frames and thoughts about Frames

Orphic wind, you blow far and wide;

You will enter the realms of the sea;

As I cherished a world not yet made

I relinquished the useless “I”

From Poem 25 in Osip Mandelstam’s Stone

This shopping precinct seems full of empty shops. It feels as though the local economy has not recovered from Covid and this environment has taken on the strangeness of the new normal. This in turn raises questions about the whole construct of “normality” and how normal the old normal really was. The empty frame, one might ask oneself; is it really empty? The frame itself can become a tool to investigate the reality on which attention is focussed.

In social philosophy there is a particular frame theory which is referred to by Goffman. There is a useful discussion of this at http://philosophyreaders.blogspot.com/2018/09/frames-as-ways-of-seeing-world.html?m=1 In this there is a useful quotation from Lakoff-


      “Frames are mental structures that shape the way we see the world. As a result, they shape the goals we seek, the plans we make, the way we act, and what counts as a good or bad outcome of our actions. In politics, our frames shape our social policies and the institutions we form to carry out policies. To change our frames is to change all of this. Reframing is social change

Furthermore from Fairhurst and Sarr-


      “Just like a photographer, when we select a frame for a subject, we choose which aspect or portion of the subject we will focus on and which we will exclude. When we choose to highlight some aspect of our subject over others, we make it more noticeable, more meaningful, and more memorable to others. Our framing adds color or accentuates the subject in unique ways. For this reason, frames determine whether people notice problems, how they understand and remember problems, and how they evaluate and act upon them (Entman, 1993).

      Frames exert their power not only through what they highlight, but also through what they leave out. In framing, when we create a bias towards one interpretation of our subject, we exclude other aspects, including those that may produce opposite or alternative interpretations.”

The frame might be the area of domestic politics which when focussed upon excessively means that political discourse becomes isolated. This has been the case in the U.K. where foreign affairs has suffered much neglect. Statesmen with detailed understanding of policy seem few. Consequently issues nearby are outside the frame. The events leading up to the invasion of 🇺🇦 Ukraine 🇺🇦 are now the return of the repressed.

The doleful and economically depressed scenario locally has a dreamlike quality at times somewhat reminiscent of paintings by de Chirico or Rene Magritte. Outside the frame there are grander landscapes.

Categories
Art and Photographic History Film Poetry

 Trump story sends criminals to Ballard’s Wharf.

It is always interesting to surmise what was happening in the world when you were a very small child. This intriguing black and white film from 1947, Hue and Cry has some of the answers. It is set in the feral landscapes of bombed out London. However, the spirit and humour of the kids captures some of the trauma of the recent blitz but much more the youngsters resilience. The following clip shows a little of what I mean.

I found this DvD in one of my local charity shops and was intrigued by the fact that the plot revolves around a children’s comic called The Trump. The blurb on the reverse also mentioned that it was the first of the famous Ealing Comedies and there were fascinating shots of post-war London’s exterior locations. In fact as I watched the film it in some parts reminded me of seeing the recent gang wars of Sondheim’s West Side Story as filmed by Spielberg. Indeed some of the visual tropes or tricks were similar too. This second clip gives details about the locations of the film and how they look today.

Passing beyond the psychogeography of “Hue and Cry” I also thought there was a sort of undertext. The working class children with their naïve and energetic enthusiasm overcome the sharks and spivs in their criminal activities. Very much the product of those heroic times when the Atlee government brought so much to recovery. There was something democratic if somewhat frenetic here which vividly contrasts with life here today. The hectic has become frenetic in a Governent of the Posh Boys and what used to be known in Lambeth as Wide Boys.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wide_boy#Fictional_portrayals

To finish on a more upbeat note; this film has amusing glimpses of life in the old Covent Garden Market. It is worth watching for that alone. However, the acting of Lambeth born Harry Fowler, Jack Warner and especially Alastair Sim is superb. Talking of markets let me conclude with these lines from Charlotte Mew’s Saturday Market.

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
Art and Photographic History Poetry West Cornwall (and local history)

Some thoughts on “resilience”

The splendid Penzance Literary Festival has chosen this topic as the inspiration for this year’s event. I have taken out my larger dictionaries and looked a little at its usage and etymology. The latter is not difficult as it derives directly from Latin and basically means something like the capacity to jump back.

The term resilience was introduced into the English language in the early 17th Century from the Latin verb resilire, meaning to rebound or recoil (Concise Oxford Dictionary, Tenth Edition).

resilience (n.) … 1620s, “act of rebounding or springing back,” often of immaterial things, from Latin resiliens, present participle of resilire “to rebound, 

From Ovid we read  “saepein gelidos resilire lacus, sed nunc quoque turpes” which Loeb gives as  meaning in Metamorphoses Book VI as Often they sit upon the sedgy bank and often leap back into the cool lake. This comes from a rather beautifully poetic passage at https://www.loebclassics.com/view/ovid-metamorphoses/1916/pb_LCL042.315.xml

We get the English expressions ‘Salient’ and ‘To sally forth’ from the Latin verb Salio -to jump. In Cassell’s Latin Dictionary we learn of the Salii who were apparently a college of priests who jumped and leapt about worshipping Mars in a procession accompanied by singers and armed dancers. Instituted bt Numa Pompilius apparently.

Returning to the concept of Resilience we can distinguish its meaning from something like Endurance or Durability; it is more springy, elastic and perhaps energetic. Principally, of course, the concern around the concept relates to the inner resources for coping with Covid and the restrictions consequent upon it. It is the psychology of resilience which makes it a concept current in the zeitgeist. Without much prompting Google asks –

What are the 5 skills of resilience?

Five Key Stress Resilience Skills

  • Self-awareness.
  • Attention – flexibility & stability of focus.
  • Letting go (1) – physical.
  • Letting go (2) – mental.
  • Accessing & sustaining positive emotion.

Additionally it further questions-

What are the 7 C’s of resilience?

Dr Ginsburg, child paediatrician and human development expert, proposes that there are 7 integral and interrelated components that make up being resilient – competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping and control.

Also from the Mayo Clinic-https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/resilience-training/in-depth/resilience/art-20046311

Whilst thinking about this topic, I came across these lines from a poem entitled Women Running, based upon Picasso’s painting entitled Deux femmes courant sur la plage which seem apposite and uplifting-

That arm laid across the horizon,

the racing legs, an unstoppable quartet, pull

me from my skin and I become one of them,

believe I’m agile enough to run a mile,


believe I’m young again, believe age

has been stamped out. No wonder, I worship

at the altar of energy, not the energy

huge with hate which revels in tearing apart,


in crushing to dust but the momentum

which carries blood to the brain, these women

across the plage, lovers as they couple

and tugs at the future till it breaks into bloom.
Myra Schneider