Categories
Literature Poetry

From “All day it has rained” by Alun Lewis

And I can remember nothing dearer or more to my heart
Than the children I watched in the woods on Saturday
Shaking down burning chestnuts for the schoolyard’s merry play,
Or the shaggy patient dog who followed me
By Sheet and Steep and up the wooded scree
To the Shoulder o’ Mutton where Edward Thomas brooded long
On death and beauty – till a bullet stopped his song.

Categories
Literature Poetry

A Second Look At Simon Armitage

You May Turn Over and Begin

“Which of these films was Dirk Bogarde

not in? One hundredweight of bauxite

makes how much aluminium?

how many tales in ‘The Decameron’?”

General Studies, the upper sixth, a doddle, a cinch

for anyone with an ounce of common sense

or a calculator

with a memory feature.

The lines above are from one of Google’s suggestions for Armitage’s top best poems. This poem is actually about teenage sexuality and has a surprising and mildly interesting ending, I think. However, having shared the poets exam room ambience as a youngster, as well as having invigilated many many tests and examinations it is the first few lines that I would like to peruse here.

More soon but you can read the whole poem at https://www.poeticous.com/simon-armitage/you-may-turn-over-and-begin

Categories
Uncategorized Poetry Literature

Deux Barbaras-Autumn Leaves

Miri it is while sumer i-last
With foulës song;
Oc now neghëth windës blast
And weder strong.
Ei, ei, what this night is long,
And Ich with wel michel wrong
Sorwe and murne and fast.

Dis, quand reviendras-tu ?

Voilà combien de jours, voilà combien de nuits,
Voilà combien de temps que tu es reparti,
Tu m’as dit cette fois, c’est le dernier voyage,
Pour nos coeurs déchirés, c’est le dernier naufrage,
Au printemps, tu verras, je serai de retour,
Le printemps, c’est joli pour se parler d’amour,
Nous irons voir ensemble les jardins refleuris,
Et déambulerons dans les rues de Paris,

Dis, quand reviendras-tu,
Dis, au moins le sais-tu,
Que tout le temps qui passe,
Ne se rattrape guère,
Que tout le temps perdu,
Ne se rattrape plus,

Le printemps s’est enfui depuis longtemps déjà,
Craquent les feuilles mortes, brûlent les feux de bois,
A voir Paris si beau dans cette fin d’automne,
Soudain je m’alanguis, je rêve, je frissonne,
Je tangue, je chavire, et comme la rengaine,
Je vais, je viens, je vire, je me tourne, je me traîne,
Ton image me hante, je te parle tout bas,
Et j’ai le mal d’amour, et j’ai le mal de toi,

Dis, quand reviendras-tu,
Dis, au moins le sais-tu,
Que tout le temps qui passe,
Ne se rattrape guère,
Que tout le temps perdu,
Ne se rattrape plus,

J’ai beau t’aimer encore, j’ai beau t’aimer toujours,
J’ai beau n’aimer que toi, j’ai beau t’aimer d’amour,
Si tu ne comprends pas qu’il te faut revenir,
Je ferai de nous deux mes plus beaux souvenirs,
Je reprendrai la route, le monde m’émerveille,
J’irai me réchauffer à un autre soleil,
Je ne suis pas de celles qui meurent de chagrin,
Je n’ai pas la vertu des femmes de marins,

Dis, quand reviendras-tu,
Dis, au moins le sais-tu,
Que tout le temps qui passe,
Ne se rattrape guère,
Que tout le temps perdu,
Ne se rattrape plus

That’s how many days, that’s how many nights,
How long have you been gone,
You told me this time, it’s the last trip,
For our hearts torn, this is the last shipwreck,
In the spring, you’ll see, I’ll be back,
Spring is pretty to talk about love,
We will go together to see the flowering gardens,
And stroll through the streets of Paris,

Quoting Paroles at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlgVIC_7dvI

“Dis, quand reviendras-tu ?” est une chanson sortie en 1962, écrite, composée et interprétée par Barbara. Dans cette chanson, l’auteure-narratrice écrit une lettre à un amant dont elle attend inlassablement le retour pour l’inciter à revenir à ses côtés. La qualité exceptionnelle d’écriture de cette chanson ainsi que la sensibilité de l’interprétation de Barbara en font un monument de la chanson française.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_(singer)

Categories
Literature Poetry Uncategorized

Mourning and the Movement

I have been perusing in a somewhat feckless manner an introductory chapter in Blake Morrison’s carefully written “The Movement” subtitled, English Poetry and Fiction of the 1950s. Here he mentions a poem about Plymouth by Philip Larkin which begins-

A box of teak, a box of sandalwood,

A brass-ringed spyglass in a case,

A coin, leaf thin with many polishings,

(Collected poems page 166)

This appears to be an early poem which concludes with a stanza that explains in which Larkin says of his intentions for his poetry……

Let my hands find such symbols, that can be

Unnoticed in the casual light of day,

Lying in wait for half a century

To split chance lives across, that had not dreamed

Such coasts had echoed, or such seabirds had screamed.

Now when today mourning takes place with great pomp and ceremony it is somewhat salutary to turn to Keith Douglas killed fighting in the Second World War, admired by Movement poets, and his splendid and sparse poem-

Simplify me when I’m Dead

Categories
Penwith Poetry Uncategorized West Cornwall (and local history)

Schools out!

Schools out and all that entails.

Sun shines on mountains of tomatoes, avocados and oranges.

Tourists looking for something shuffle up Causewayhead.

Locals mostly look a bit lost- some injured or otherwise afflicted.

Seems that about a quarter of shops are closed;

no carpets, no papers and no haircuts.

Pigeons warble and peck under

regimented baskets of scarlet petunias

adding a patina of civic cheer.

In here, a voluble teenager

pronounces and pontificates on

the unlikely history of India,

seemingly annoyed that the food

has not turned up in time.

Lost in the gap between fantasy

and the arrival of the fatty sausage sandwich.

September, results and Speech Day await.

Categories
Book Reviews Literature Poetry

Some remarks on the Poetry of Alun Lewis

Postscript: For Gweno

If I should go away,
Beloved, do not say
‘He has forgotten me’.
For you abide,
A singing rib within my dreaming side;
You always stay.
And in the mad tormented valley
Where blood and hunger rally
And Death the wild beast is uncaught, untamed,
Our soul withstands the terror
And has its quiet honour
Among the glittering stars your voices named.

Alun Lewis is a poet whose writing is associated with the Second World War in which he died in Burma in 1944. It is then naturally a poetry of partings, separation and yet shows the tenderness which is expressed in the poem above. See also https://allpoetry.com/Alun-Lewis

However, it is the following lines which grasped my attention and which are shown here from a poem called Destruction:-

In this intriguing passage, the viaduct arches feels like an image, perhaps from a dream suggesting transportation, crossing a gulf as well as the industrial Welsh scenery which it also evokes. The polluted river contrasts remarkably with the dreaming girl. I discover that attar of roses, also called otto of rose, essence of rose, or rose oil, fragrant, colourless or pale-yellow liquid is an essential oil distilled from fresh petals. This is followed by a striking consideration of the fragility of the poet’s writing and how it can be affected by the sudden hostility of his own feelings- the destructive feelings which he acknowledges. This too is beautifully expressed in a line of tragic s sounds- “Like a schoolboy’s sling that slays a swallow.” A swallow that might be otherwise be free to rise to otherwise unreachable places. Lewis goes on to compare this to the devastation of war with words that must remind a contemporary reader of the current conflict in Ukraine-“the impersonal drone of death Trembles the throbbing night” so that possible connection is broken as the viaduct is destroyed.

This link for what is possibly Alun Lewis’s most famous poem is also worth exploring:-

https://shows.acast.com/the-daily-poem/episodes/alun-lewis-today-it-has-rained

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