Categories
Classics Literature Poetry

“Nostalgia” a poem by Boris Pasternak

To give this book a dedication
The desert sickened,
And lions roared, and dawns of tigers
Took hold of Kipling.

A dried-up well of dreadful longing
Was gaping, yawning.
They swayed and shivered, rubbing shoulders,
Sleek-skinned and tawny.

Since then continuing forever
Their sway in scansion,
They stroll in mist through dewy meadows
Dreamt up by the Ganges.

Creeping at dawn in pits and hollows
Cold sunrays fumble.
Funereal, incense-laden dampness
Pervades the jungle

.Boris Pasternak

Does this poem convey the feeling of nostalgia to you? Geographically widespread there is certainly a sense of some disorientation. From “cold sunrays”, which suggest a Russian winter, to Kipling’s jungle or the Ganges or even the desert. The heat finds it hard to penetrate into the hollows and even the sunrays seem to fumble on their way to the losses of funereal dampness.

The poem shows Pasternak’s knowledge of Kipling and perhaps the first stanza refers also to Blake’s “Tiger, tiger burning bright”. Both, of course are political poets and the possible symbolism here might be imperial. However, it is the voracious hunger for the irretrievable which pervades the beasts-

A dried-up well of dreadful longing
Was gaping, yawning

Categories
Film Literature Poetry

If you forget me -Pablo Neruda

 

“I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.”

This poem contains some moving imagery which reminds me of ice and fire. Glowing embers and decay which are capable of re-igniting. Images which are intangible and sadly to me at least it conveys ambivalence. He is dependent upon being loved and his memory depends upon this too. There is a deep fragility here which makes the poem more beautiful. There is also the strong possibility of exile under discussion. The ash appears to rise like a prayer towards Heaven like little sailing boats of childhood dreams.

Further discussion is at https://theculturetrip.com/south-america/chile/articles/the-most-famous-poems-by-pablo-neruda/

Neruda (2016) | Official Trailer HD - YouTube

 

 

Categories
Literature Poetry

“In Exile” and “Quarantine” – two poems by Eavan Boland

This poem may be found in Eavan Boland’s book of collected poems on page 157 and it is from her sequence outside history. It starts thus:-

The German girls that came to us that winter and

the winter after and who helped my mother fuel

the iron stove and arranged our clothes in wet

thicknesses on the wooden rail after tea was over,

 

spoke no English, understood no French.

We are in Boland’s childhood in Ireland and the political situation in Europe has isolated these girls and put them into linguistic isolation, perhaps similar to that experienced in childhood. This long starting sentence sets the lamenting pace with which this poem is infused. She continues to say that they spoke rapidly; “syllables in which pain was radical, integral; and with what sense of injury the language angled for an unhurt kingdom….I never knew

Renowned poet Professor Eavan Boland dies at 75 | Stanford News

 

The memory of these exile voices reminds Boland of her own exile from the darkness of Ireland and “the drizzle in the lilac, the dusk at the back door” but also of “the tinkers I was threatened with” She is imagining the guttural voices some forty years on and the sadness and pain mixed with these sounds as she reexperiences her loss of her homeland, now teaching in America.

These searing memories she recalls in a very different place-

Among these salt boxes, marshes and the glove-tanned colours of the sugar maples, in this New England town at the start of winter. ” She appears to miss the past and its pains and ends by saying memorably that; “Here in this scalding air my speech will not heal.I do not want it to heal”

This poem I find appealing to the sense we presently have of dislocation due to the Covid crisis. Trying to retrieve some sense of the normal everyday and usual social interaction. In a sense we have all become exiles and I hear Leonard Cohen’s “and all men shall be sailors then until the sea shall free them” There are reminders for me in this poem of the sense of loss of control which so many feel with Brexit and the separation from the cultural and political values which Europe aspires.

 

Categories
Book Reviews Literature Poetry St Ives

Histories of War as seen by two indispensible Poets-Part Two

The St Ives September Festival had a range of controversial poets come to visit. I remember there being a huge stir when D.M.Thomas came to read and the proctor’s of moral rectitude in the unlikely form of delegates from the Town Council were said to have occupied the back row to ensure that an unseemly did not take place. Then Gavin Ewart arrived one evening to give a reading in the decorative surroundings of the Penwith Gallery. I am most vague as to when I heard him -around the mid eighties I think. I remember how he was said to have been influenced by Auden and spending a very entertaining evening listening to the poet reading in an amusing and cultured voice that sounded very English some edgy and clever poems. I have been reading Martial at the moment and I have an inkling that Ewart might well have been entranced by that Latin satirist.

Gavin Ewart : London Remembers, Aiming to capture all memorials in London

Consider the poem which is entitled “The Death of W.S.Gilbert at Harrow Weald” which may be found on the net. It tells of the demise of the famous lyricist of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas:-

Imagine that flat glassy lake in 1911,

a very Victorian part of the prosperous house,

(architect: Norman Shaw),

a beautiful hot summer’s day in 1911.

It proceeds to describe how two Victorian ladies in “decorous bathing garments” enter the lake where the younger gets into difficulties and Gilbert plunges to the rescue:-

He swims to her, shouts advice: ‘Put your hands on my shoulders!’

She feels him sink under her. He doesn’t come up.

She struggles to the bank, he is dead of heart failure.

and finishes with a typical Ewart touch in the next stanza with sweet advice to older men not to fool about with ladies –

But all the same it is good to die brave 

on a beautiful hot summer’s day in 1911.

Returning to the theme of my previous posting I think this a great poem-

This sanitisation of what war means and how it can falsely be portrayed parallels my previous posting of the poem by Tom Paulin.

 

 

Categories
Classics Literature Poetry Uncategorized

Histories of War as seen by two indispensible Poets-Part One

Tony Harrison: The bard of Beeston | Prospect Magazine

 

Tony Harrison is a poet whom I feel I know rather well from his television appearances. He seemed to be on the box quite a lot around 2000 or so. By any criteria his is a radical poet from Leeds. In my imagination I see him as a radical voice from that period along with another favourite poet, Tom Paulin. Harrison is an engaged poet from Leeds and is probably best known for his long poem “V” which was published in 1985. He is an immensely clever poet immersed in his Northern background with which is radicalism is associated and his broad knowledge of the classics. He is a playwright, a film-maker and a translator. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Harrison

In the poem which I discovered recently he is addressing his view of history. How the past has been recorded is an issue that perhaps becomes more pressing as we age. There is much debate about statues currently, who we should remember and what is both consciously and unconsciously addressed. What should we pass on to future generations and how to counteract distressingly current propoganda. This poem comes from the new edition of Selected Poems by Tony Harrison published by Penguin – you can find it here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Harrison He is travelling with his children over moorland-

Past scenic laybys and stag warning signs

the British borderlands roll into view.

They read: Beware of Unexploded Mines

I tell my children that was World War II.

Those borderlands are becoming politically more controversial, there is a simple rhyme-scheme with those dangerous residues beneath the surface. The poem makes the link between khaki uniforms and cavalry twill. It brins to mind the smart casual wear demanded of upper ranks in their so called leisure time. The areas forbidden to play are those marked off by signs and fences which remind the reader of enclosures and the imperial system of trade providing employment in a regulated manner to mill workers. The latter similarly having their time divided by tolling bells.

Mill angelus, and church tower twice as high.

One foundry cast the work-and rest-day bells-

the same red cottons in the flags that fly

for ranges, revolutions, and rough swells.

The alliterative Rs remind us not only of the Union Jack but that to some it was considered the butcher’s apron. The rough swells is almost classical ( Homer’s wine-dark sea) and rowdy posh boys with the ambivalent firing ranges in the background.

 
Categories
Classics Poetry Uncategorized

Martial 10.85 – Paradoxical use for a sunken old boat in retirement

Image may contain: outdoor

§ 10.85  ON LADON:
Ladon, a boatman on the Tiber,

bought himself when grown old,

a bit of land on the banks of his beloved stream,

.But as the overflowing Tiber often invaded it with raging floods,

breaking into his ploughed fields,

converting them in winter into a lake,

he filled his worn-out boat,

which was drawn up on the beach, with stones,

making it a barrier against the floods.

By this means he repelled the inundation. who would have believed it?

An unseaworthy boat became the protector of the boatman!

Harbour and River Boats of Ancient Rome

Iam senior Ladon Tiberinae nauta carinae

 Proxima dilectis rura paravit aquis.

Quae cum saepe vagus premeret torrentibus undis

 Thybris et hiberno rumperet arva lacu, 

Emeritam puppem, ripa quae stabat in alta,

 Inplevit saxis obposuitque vadis.

 Sic nimias avertit aquas. Quis credere posset? 

Auxilium domino mersa carina tulit.

Moving on from ancient boats protecting retired boatmen, I was intriged by the article in the New Scientist telling how an unmanned ship has just made it’s way with very little remote steerage through the Panama Canal.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2260008-us-navys-huge-uncrewed-robot-ship-has-journeyed-through-panama-canal/

Categories
Art and Photographic History Poetry

I Hear an Army by James Joyce


I hear an army charging upon the land,
And the thunder of horses plunging, foam about their knees;
Arrogant, in black armour, behind them stand,
Disdaining the reins, with fluttering whips, the charioteers.

They cry unto the night their battle-name:
I moan in sleep when I hear afar their whirling laughter.
They cleave the gloom of dreams, a blinding flame,
Clanging, clanging upon the heart as upon an anvil.

They come shaking in triumph their long, green hair:
They come out of the sea and run shouting by the shore
My heart, have you no wisdom thus to despair?
My love, my love, my love, why have you left me alone?

There is a discussion of this poem at-

https://poemanalysis.com/james-joyce/i-hear-an-army/

The painting above is Marine soir par LéonSpilliaert
Categories
Poetry Uncategorized

Rentrée des Classes-U3a

Bent and bearded, distantly gathered

in plush deep armchairs we blinked.

Outside the hazy morning sunlight obscured the horizon.

Inside, we calculated the cost of the room

and for the fragile biscuits passed around.

Cafeterias at elbows we made a stab at

the Natural Rights of Man-the declared topic,

“But what about animals?” one lady wondered.

 

5 heads with 250 years of work experience,

pondered Nietzsche and eternal recurrence.

Social skills recollected at a forlorn separation.

“Sorry, I didn’t hear a word of that,

what shall we discuss next time?”

I wanted to add a line about antimacassars too – on the armchairs. I found from the Urban Dictionary, perhaps an unusual source for this that,”The name is derived from an Indian unguent for hair commonly used in the early 19th Century , macassar oil- the poet Byron called it, thine incomparable oil, Maccassar

 

 

 

Categories
Book Reviews Literature Penwith Poetry St Ives

Museums, memories and myth making.

Written by the daughter of Guido Morris, the famous St Ives printer and illustrator. A fascinating mélange of her family and personal archive with the changing history of museums. It emphasises the importance of touch as a means of recollecting the past.

In reading about museums I discovered that Derrida had written about archives. He develops a post modern approach to how the perspectives on the past are subject to change. Witness the recent debates about racism and colonialism in relation to this.

From My Archives: Derrida’s Archive Fever

There are two moving poems by Louis MacNeice that moved me when I read them this morning. The first was an early poem called just “Museums” with a pronounced rhyme scheme. The second is more interesting and called “In the Reading Room at the British Museum”. The final line is perhaps more poignant than ever.

Museums by MacNeice

Museums offer us, running from among the buses,
A centrally heated refuge, parquet floors and sarcophaguses,
Into whose tall fake porches we hurry without a sound
Like a beetle under a brick that lies, useless, on the ground.
Warmed and cajoled by the silence the cowed cypher revives,
Mirrors himself in the cases of pots, paces himself by marble lives,
Makes believe it was he that was the glory that was Rome,
Soft on his cheek the nimbus of other people’s martyrdom,
And then returns to the street, his mind an arena where sprawls
Any number of consumptive Keatses and dying Gauls.

On Derrida this link may be of interest

https://youtu.be/uHtXeUH4gnY

 

 

Categories
Literature Poetry Uncategorized

Prévert-Les prodiges de la liberté

Les prodiges de la liberté

Entre les dents d’un piège
La patte d’un renard blanc
Et du sang sur la neige
Le sang du renard blanc
Et des traces du renard blanc
Qui s’enfuit sur trois pattes
Dans le soleil couchant
Avec entre les dents
Un lièvre encore vivant.

Jacques Prévert

Jacques Prévert (Author of Paroles)

The wonders of freedom

Between the teeth of a trap
The paw of a white fox
And blood on the snow
The blood of the white fox
And traces of the white fox
Who runs away on three legs
In the setting sun
With between the teeth
A hare still alive.

Jacques Prévert