In both of these collections the sea and its various moods features. It is not just this that endears me in each case but it is that element that prompts me to write about them today. It is raining once again here in Cornwall and it is as the mists mizzle gather over the bay that I find myself in somewhat melancholy mood to respond to these collections.
Essentially this is a collection of essays by different writers together with Mahon’s poems. Here is one example- the poem-“The Sea in Winter” which was written for Desmond O’Grady. There are so many lovely passages in this poem which is fast becoming a favourite.-
Portstewart, Portrush, Portballintrae-
Un beau pays mal habité,
policed by rednecks in dark cloth
and roving gangs of tartan youth.
No place for a gentleman like you.
The good, the beautiful and the true
have a tough time of it; and yet
there is that Hebridean sunset,
The coast in winter, something familiar here in West Cornwall evokes feelings as in these engaging couplets:-
The sea in winter, where she walks,
vents its displeasure on the rocks.
The human factor appears too beside these images or pathetic fallacies-
………………………….; the spite
mankind has brought to this infernal
backwater destroys the soul;
it sneaks into the daily life,
sunders the husband from the wife.
Sunder seems a significant word here, perhaps evoking “thunder” and reminiscent of the biblical separation of “asunder”. ( The chariot and horses of fire “parted asunder” Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 2:11). So we are situated on the bleak edge of the sea. Though not quite in the same mood state as T.S.Eliot-On Margate Sands./I can connect/Nothing with nothing./The broken fingernails of dirty hands./My people humble people who expect/Nothing.
There is an interesting piece on Mahon as the poet of place at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0895769X.2012.640266?journalCode=vanq20
In his comments on this poem, John Fitzgerald https://gallerypress.com/authors/a-to-f/john-fitzgerald/ says;
“I grew to love the poem’s complicit sense of ennui,bordering on but never quite reaching desolation, ‘living on the edge of space’; the memorable turns of phrase and allusive colour, both classical and contemporary; the sense of redemption just out of reach; the agonizing, trapped uncertainty of the writing life; all balanced against the consolation of confident, impeccable poetry.”
Evelyn’s book is published in English and German by Edition Sonnberg which is based in Vienna, where Evelyn was born in 1955. Perhaps the most interesting poem, it is for me, is Meeting which tells of Evelyn encountering Samuel Beckett in Oxford where she was a student in October 1973. I find that even with my poor German having the text in both languages somehow broadens the comprehension of the text.
Suddenly I see his face
stepped down from book covers,
a furrowed face, a landscape of thought
I waited for Godot,
saw people stuck in bins,
so many figures of his universe,
Now to return to the sea, a sea of memories- some perhaps repressed…….
ERRINERUNG IST EIN OZEAN OHNE SALZ
Ich kam hier um das Wrack zu sehen,
musste tiefer tauchen, tiefer.
Farben sind dort begraben,
Stimmen von der Zeit verschluckt.
Irgendwo in diesem Chaos,
ich bin irgendwo
verlassen,gefunden, und wieder verlassen
Atmen fällt schwer hier unten
Kunstweke hinter Mauern versteckt
Errinerung ist ein Ozean ohne Salz.
So that the memory can appear like a sea too, but one without salt. Memory and dreams have perhaps links to Vienna but the salty sea is close by in St Ives.
Here are just a few lines from WE ARE DANCING ROCKS (WIR SIND TANZENDE FELSEN)
We will outlast you.
Our salty eternity does not count the years.
We do not mourn the sand swallowed by the sea.
We are dancing rocks.
Her collection Words through Walls is published by Wieser Verlag ISBN 978-3-9504320-8-4