Posts Tagged ‘Cultural history’

2016-09-06-13-39-15

Negative Energy, by Richard Livermore.
24 Essays and Blogs. Elefantasia Press, 2016

ISBN: 976-1911357-17-9                  Price £.7.99 (Postage free in the UK)

The book can be purchased from:
Richard Livermore, 6/1 Jamaica Mews, Edinburgh, EH3 6HN, Scotland, UK.
livermore.chanticleer.richard@gmail.com
http://www.chanticleer-press.com/

 

https://michael9murray.wordpress.com/2016/09/24/book-review-negative-energy/

3 Reasons you should buy this book

This book is a great place for skinny-dipping  in The Western Canon, as Harold Bloom calls it  Swim without prejudice; just your own sweet self.

The book is a great reminder why people are so great when they create.

The book is a treasure-house of known things, things unknown,  and things we thought we knew but didn’t really.

Discover, re-discover, and savour.

If you need any more reasons, then try these:

These are the most stimulating pages you will probably come across… until his next book.

Brain-food here in quantity and quality. Give them a try.

Pages glinting with the riches of a life lived, a life of thought, and a life exploring the limits of life, and beyond.

 

Recommended book.

 

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Cover

 

Kindle book ready and waiting.
Roll up! Roll up!

So what’s it about?
It is about how stories, poems, texts, were structured in a certain way from early times, and to the present day. The structure works as a memory system. I investigate how this structure fits into the now well-known Arts of Memory. The book also looks at how the structuring works, and was passed down through time.

I look at twenty-plus texts from ancient times, through the medieval flowering, down to the present day.
You’d be surprised what I found.

Can be bought at:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01IRPODPW

ts

Leaving the city for the student quarters
postponing grief, holding off horror,
by all the arts study finds emotion capable.

That night’s examination we were heads down,
ours the unquestioned rights to question,
and our right to right

woke to outrage,
found time had stolen our innocence;
witnesses unable to act, found space
had made us impotent.

Made old that morning by the escalation
between immediate loss, and the long,
slow, discovery of loss.

tiananmen_square1

TIANANMEN SQUARE, NIGHT OF 4TH JUNE, 1989

For a period of time I was caught up in Elizabeth Kostava’s big-selling novel, The Historian.

Ok, I am well aware of its failings, that denouement in the crypt for one – I could not believe how perfunctory it was. And I hated that creaky, clumsy Darling Daughter postcard episode.

What kept me reading (twice!) were the descriptions of the east European villages, towns, cities.
The opening up of eastern Europe.
And there was the eastern European angle on the Dracula story. Got me scurrying through maps of Lake Snagov in Romania; to Bulgaria’s Rila Mountains, and following the route of the monks with their ‘cargo’.
One aspect of the story sees Vlad Tepes learning of the way of vampirism from a book. The book came from what was to prove Dracula’s/Tepes’ one weak spot, a monastery in the Pyrenees.
Now where could that be? If it really existed, and was not a mash-up of many.

The monastery in the book is Saint-Matthieu-des-Pyrénées-Orientales:

theHist

Then I came across this one. The Basilique St-Just de Valcabrere, in the Haute Garonne.

BstJ
What is important about this place is it has a legend. The legend suggests this it was to this town that Herod Antipas, King Herod’s son, was exiled and died. Exiled due to his ‘association with the executions of John the Baptist and Jesus.’
It is not, of course, historically accurate by any means.
But what a hook!

On the other hand Pontius Pilate himself was said to have died in Vienne, Isere department of the Massif Central.
His body would not rest, and is said to have been relocated several times. The last to the tiny Oberlap lake on Mount Pilatus, Switzerland.
pilatus

Take your pick.
Admit it, France and environs are rich in legends and inspiring sites.

Cover

Kindle book ready and waiting.
Roll up! Roll up!

So what’s it about?
It is about how stories, poems, texts, were structured in a certain way from early times, and to the present day. The structure works as a memory system. I investigate how this structure fits into the now well-known Arts of Memory. The book also looks at how the structuring works, and was passed down through time.

I look at twenty-plus texts from ancient times, through the medieval flowering, down to the present day.
You’d be surprised what I found. 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01IRPODPW

Out at the back of this village/small town where I currently live is a long hill. It is still used for quarrying – the local stone has a pink/grey colour, and is quite appealing.
Of course higher up is where the wealthier people live – they can look down on us all from there; it is their natural ‘inclination’.
There are leafy lanes and cart tracks. There are also, criss-crossing these land-owner’s fields, public pathways. These are hard-fought-for, still-being-fought-for public rights of way. Otherwise all this land would be private, prohibited, shut away from people who have lived here generations.

Not far from here is an area of the Peak District known as Kinder Scout. That was all privately owned land, kept for huntin-shootin consortiums.
Well, in 1932 the local Ramblers Groups had had enough, and it came in the Great Depression when many were out of work, and politics was on everyone’s doorstep. The great dream of fairness and equality that Socialist countries were exporting fell on this fertile ground (no matter it never really existed).
In 1932 was the great Mass Trespass of Kinder Scout, when hundreds (for the time that was a significant amount) turned out and walked those forbidden acres. It led to Acts of Parliament granting legal Rights of Way.
Appeasement, maybe; but it worked.

If it wasn’t for the great ideal, even this would not been won. As a great man once said, If you do not aim for the mountains, you will not even make the foothills.

I was walking these leafy lanes and here by an old well at the road side, found this:

cowboy-1

It may be clumsy, but it’s fun, it’s vibrant. But what’s it for?
Later, down a similar lane I came across this one:

owl

Carved out of an old tree stump, an ever-vigilant owl.

I know what these are for: any ideas, anyone?

I must go and find more.

 

Poems B H Fairchild W W Norton and Co 2003

bhf

B H Fairchild has been hailed as an exemplar of the ‘plain style’. His acknowledged predecessors are James Wright, Richard Hugo, and especially Philip Levine. He made a big splash with his previous collection The Art of the Lathe; this new collection has added to and cemented his reputation. He was a finalist in the National Book Critics Circle Award, and winner of the Kingsley Tufts and William Carlos Williams Awards amongst others.

We must distinguish between ‘plain style’ and the ‘ornery’. Fairchild’s themes are of the Southern States blue-collar worker’s experience; but there is no caricature in his work. We encounter narratives, but they are by no means Frost’s Calvinist legacies:

(…)

After the year of troubles – the family business drowning
in red, the broken plates, black words, slammed doors,
my mother and father in separate rooms, the terrible silence
that grows like a clutch of weeds choking the little house –
(…)
from: The Big Bands: Liberal, Kansas, Summer of 1955, Pt1

So, anecdotal then? No, this excerpt is an interlude in a narrative, a yarn that roams the Kansas plains and records:
a pipe seal somewhere making a sobbing sound (…)
(ibid)

He can rhapsodise:
The green Packard I have just washed dries by the curb,
and the evening makes a bronze plunder
of brick streets (…)
(ibid Pt2)

A loose, freewheeling of memory, then? Well, no, not that either; his poems centre on very real events, times, places, but they also explore what it is about them that makes them memorable. And a very assured use of rhythm, metrics; knowing just where to place that caesura for maximum effect in catching the tone of those places, those times.

‘Holy Rollers, Snyder, Texas, 1951’ begins:
Shades of brown: rust of the dirt road in
and the gulleys deepening to umber,
the taupe of winter grass along the shoulder (…)
(ibid)

And the details redolent of authenticity:
Nightmare fades to memory: the grey-brown hair
of Mrs Hill pasted to her neck, the cracked
porcelain of her hands (…)
(ibid)

We encounter Mrs Hill again:
(…).hammering
on our front door shouting (…)
(…) oh I’m so sorry, so sorry
so sorry (…)

(…) He said
he was going to shoot me. He had a shotgun
from: Mrs Hill

This becomes:
In the kitchen now Mrs Hill is playing
gin rummy with my mother and laughing
in those long shrieks that women have
that make you think they are dying.
(ibid)

while her husband:
my father (…)
(…)  his shadow envelops Mr Hill (who)
(…) bows his head and sobs into his hands (…)
(ibid)

It is not straight narrative; I have missed out the sections that plumb the child’s responses. The laughter-shrieks and dying-women association is very much a writer’s connection; the shifts of grammar between present infinitive and immediate modulate our understanding: this not just a poem about marital crisis, but about the relationships between husbands and wives, of family and lack of family.

Similarly, in The Welder, Visited by the Angel of Mercy, the narrative of a truck wrecked by a blown tyre at speed, takes on a greater significance

The red dust of the city at night. Roy Garcia,
a man in a landscape, tries to weld his truck and his life
back together. (…)

(…) and the arc’s flash hammers
his eyes as he stumbles, blind, among the fruit of the earth

We are set up by the title to pick up on a secular Saul, blinded by what he cannot see, but is readily apparent. It is the contextual detail that renders this accessible to us.

And when Fairchild rides we cannot help but go with him over those Kansas plains:
Rumbling over caliche with a busted muffler,
radio blaring Buddy Holly over Baptist wheat fields,
(…) Boredom grows thick as maize in Kansas, heavy as a drill pipe (…)
from: Rave On
The event this poem records is a very scary episode of young kids hungry for kicks, turning a car over at speed with themselves inside.

In that long, strung-out first sentence we travel a long way: from the hot head of youth, to a more muted, reflective age; from the self-absorbed tone to a more abstract tone; from the mid fifties, to the present day.

The book is divided into five parts, which map out wider and wider circles of knowing, from the immediate vicinity where one grew up, to Paris, London, Nuremburg… but at the centre always the same sensibility:
(…) he gazes deep into the Seine,
the face of a glassworker’s son stares back,
and the river that runs through Paris runs
through Ohio past Jimmy Leonard’s shack (…)
from: A Wall Map of Paris

Like Mrs Hill’s hands transfigured into a (secular) saint’s hands, Roy Garcia, stoned truck- driver, transfigured into a Saint Paul figure, Fairchild acknowledges how memory changes what is remembered. But also, by acknowledging and re-identifying with the Southern Baptist religious background, Fairchild avoids the modernist dilemma of alienation from one’s background through the nature of one’s awareness, and revivifies a sense of oneself within one’s past, and the past of one’s community.

The last section of the book is a long poem that narrates the back story to the earlier sections. Here B H Faitchild gives the chronology of an inspiring relationship with secret epileptic, small-towns drifter, and his wife. They had tried Hollywood and film writing, but returned to the small towns.

So where does he stand politically? What of his social awareness? Southern State politics are strange, there are no obvious distinctions: a Republican can display strange Libertarian tendencies, and vice versa. Fairchild’s long ‘narratives’ acknowledge, record, these blended affiliations but refrain from comment.

B H Fairchild                    bhf1

Also, see:

 

bhf2