A Rispetto on Edward Hopper’s Cape Cod Morning, 1950

From window bay she looks out towards morning

light.  Sun rays illuminate pale blue wooden

cladding. Bent forward in desperate longing,

she seeks relief from her worries. Chiming ten

the clock is unheard by the woman leaning,

scanning beach and beyond  urgently searching

for her son’s return.She discerns no footstep

nor boy coming with wet net dragging to drop.

 

I have been reading about John Berryman and Robert Lowell on the Cape and looking at photographs of this interesting location. Next day, after trying to write this fairly simple verse form I came across an article about the topicality of Edward Hopper in The Guardian and this can be seen at https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/mar/27/we-are-all-edward-hopper-paintings-now-artist-coronavirus-age

Details of the Italian form Rispetto can be found along with other simple fotms at

https://owlcation.com/humanities/10-Types-of-Short-Poetic-Forms

 

 

More Lowell and some recommended reading

Sailing Home from Rapallo
BY ROBERT LOWELL
[February 1954]

Your nurse could only speak Italian,
but after twenty minutes I could imagine your final week,
and tears ran down my cheeks….

When I embarked from Italy with my Mother’s body,
the whole shoreline of the Golfo di Genova
was breaking into fiery flower.
The crazy yellow and azure sea-sleds
blasting like jack-hammers across
the spumante-bubbling wake of our liner,
recalled the clashing colors of my Ford.
Mother traveled first-class in the hold;
her Risorgimento black and gold casket
was like Napoleon’s at the Invalides….

While the passengers were tanning
on the Mediterranean in deck-chairs,
our family cemetery in Dunbarton
lay under the White Mountains
in the sub-zero weather.
The graveyard’s soil was changing to stone—
so many of its deaths had been midwinter.
Dour and dark against the blinding snowdrifts,
its black brook and fir trunks were as smooth as masts.
A fence of iron spear-hafts
black-bordered its mostly Colonial grave-slates.
The only “unhistoric” soul to come here
was Father, now buried beneath his recent
unweathered pink-veined slice of marble.
Even the Latin of his Lowell motto:
Occasionem cognosce,

seemed too businesslike and pushing here,
where the burning cold illuminated
the hewn inscriptions of Mother’s relatives:
twenty or thirty Winslows and Starks.
Frost had given their names a diamond edge….

In the grandiloquent lettering on Mother’s coffin,
Lowell had been misspelled LOVEL.
The corpse
was wrapped like panettone in Italian tinfoil.

 

There is a truly fascinating analysis of this poem in one of my favourite books. That is to say -The Secret Life of Poems by Tom Paulin. This useful book gives an excellent insight into the way poetry works. That may sound a cliche but in Paulin’s review of this poem you can see just how the critic discovers the levels of meaning within the poem and finally expresses his open appreciation of it. There are a number of introductions to poetry that I have found helpful – Ruth Padel has done this for me in her two anthologies-

52 Ways Of Looking At A Poem: or How Reading Modern Poetry Can Change Your Life

and

The Poem and the Journey: 60 Poems for the Journey of Life

Poetry In The Library Michael Hofmann - Events - Shakespeare and ...

Michael Hofmann (photo) is yet another poet and critic as well as a brilliant translator. Yesterday I was reading his introduction to John Berryman’s Selected Poems which was also very clear and enlightening.

 

 

 

 

John Berryman as seen by Eileen Simpson

Well with social distancing in vogue, John Berryman may not be an entirely inappropriate choice for this, my 1000th post! Lots of my friends are writing Haikus which is very good practice, I think for trying to count syllables. So reading Eileen Simpson’s Poets in their Youth, here is my effort about Berryman at Harvard during the war, an early period in their marriage after a cold winter:-

The late spring drove ice

and snow away.Trees were in

leaf, John returned books.

There is a very useful and interesting review of this book by the London Review of Books by Christopher Reid https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v04/n22/christopher-reid/john-and-henry

Personally, I find Simpson’s book well written, with engaging descriptions of a wide variety of poets; Delmore Schwartz, R.P.Blackmur and Robert Lowell among others. It shows the struggle of Berryman to deal with his difficult upbringing and offers a vignette of academic life at Boston and Harvard as well as the pressure of life on the dole in New York. Eileen Simpson became a psychotherapist and she shows both considerable insight and sympathy for the young poets she met.

Philip Levine on Lowell and Berryman

 

Here is a sonnet by Berryman and I would be interested in what you make of it;-

Great citadels whereon the gold sun falls
Miss you O Chris sequestered to the West
Which wears you Mayday lily at its breast,
Part and not part, proper to balls and brawls,
Plains, cities, or the yellow shore, not false
Anywhere, free, native and Danishest
Profane and elegant flower,—whom suggest
Frail and not frail, blond rocks and madrigals.

Once in the car (cave of our radical love)
Your darker hair I saw than golden hair,
And where the dashboard lit faintly your least
Enlarged scene, O the midnight bloomed… the East
Less gorgeous, wearing you like a long white glove!