Posts Tagged ‘cultures’

Earlier, I had written:

 Book Review: ‘The Evenings, by Gerard Reve

This is an early outsider novel, and a classic:
– ‘a cornerstone… of modern European literature…’ (Tim Parks)
– ‘The funniest, most exhilarating book about boredom ever written…’ (Herman Koch)

And that last comment captures my problem with the book.
Thr novel is set in 1946, presumably Amsterdam. There’s no TV, no record-player or records, there is, a radio, yes, that plays classical, a bit of jazz, some Latin American.
And everyone is bored out of their heads.

The chief charcter, 26 year old Frits Egters, entertains himself by needling everyone. This ‘enetrtainment’ takes over, to increasing degrees.
At first I thought I had a distinct impression of Billy Liar, by Keith Sillitoe, but, no.

And so I am struggling with it. Brcause… ‘I have seen the best minds of my generation…’
Exactly.
The date, see, is 1946.
The best minds of the previous generation were still numbed by years of Nazi occupation, the round-ups, transports. The best minds of that generation were shipped out to the German war effort. They returned home morally ruined, malnourished, spiritually dead.

OK, so, recently I was thinking about it again. And thought:

This book is not about boredom.

That is, boredom as the ubiquitous malaise we know it to be. The book describes conditions that are time-specific, culture-specific.

Think of it like this:
people had been living on a chemical diet of fear, adrenalin, horror for all the years of the Nazi Occupation. It had become their lives, creating its own neural pathways and specific synapses. The mind develops a world-sense around the nodes that provide the  information coming in.
Then it was gone.
The body, and concepts that the mind runs, its narratives, had to adjust. To what? What was left? Nothing was as before.
It must have been utterly exhausting, to the point of physically and mentally debilitating.

The Evenings was not about boredom.
It was about one person’s sense of War-fatigue, of dislocation, and trauma. Gerard Reve, the author, wrote of specifics, of a singular sense of these things, within the specific mind-set of Dutch culture, and its older sense of exclusiveness and strong cultural community.

And I’d mentioned the book’s kinship with John-Paul Sartre and his La Nausee.
In this way, nor was this book, and by extension Existentialism a universal condition.
It was a temporal, contingent, and place-specific physiological engagement with a suddenly changed world.
Sartre wove together his own grand narrative from writers who were exploring, or had explored, adjacent states of being, mind. Merleu-Ponty; controversially, Heidegger; Husserl; Simone de Beauvoir; they can all be counted as having contributed. Would they continue to recognise their work in his? And at which points, in the process that was the development of Existentialist thinking?
In this way Sartre attempted to create a universal mood from a specific, particular, set of circumstances.

It could be argued that this was Derrida’s modus also: his ‘little game’ as Foucault called it, of foregrounding (inconsequential?)  background detail. The destabilising he created – was that also a symptom of post-War reaction?

I suppose I am thinking here in terms of Post-Traumatic Distress.
If so, then forms of this state of being would also be present in Vietnam; Afghanistan; Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, Serbia; in Syria and Iraq. In China and Russia. In all war zones.
It  comes down, in the end, to whether it is politically acceptable to recognise, define, identify, this in one’s populace.

*

Ever since I became fully aware, I have felt to have lived under a cloud from World War 2 fall-out.
It is the psychic damage that has been hardest to overcome.
So much so, that it now seems it would be an act of monstrous dimensions to attempt to overcome all that. One would have be a dangerous person indeed not to feel the, hear, the terrible cries still, of people killed mercilessly in that War. Any war.
And they do still keep occurring.

There is a book I read some time back: On The Causes of War, by Hidemi Suganami, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1996.
Hidemi Suganami was Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the time of writing. He is now Professor of International Relations at Aberystwyth University.
For those who are not familiar with this post: Aberystwyth has a most prestigious International Relations department, of great reputation and  long standing.
His conclusion may seem banal in presentation:

That there is war, because war is still seen as an option.

It is the implications, though: we would rather kill huge numbers of people, let the beast in us out, and harm people for generations to come, than seek out other means of resolution.
And now we see the previously unthinkable: nuclear conflict actually on the cards.
It is definitely time to join CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament). I do not believe in unilateralism – but sometimes it is necessary to make a stand.

The perpetrators are as deeply affected as those they inflict their terror upon.

Trump and N Korea:
Yeh, that’s the way forward:
‘What brave new world….’

This is a re-posting from earlier. I took it down to make way for a time-specific post on Cinema-Based Well Dressing.
And so, avoiding further confusion, here we are:

The Sequence of St Eulalia is one the earliest surviving French hagiographies, in the vernacular. It dates from 880AD.
It is called a sequence because the manuscript contains three poems based on the St Eulalia legend. The first is a Latin fourteen-line poem, followed by the French vernacular poem, and then one in Old High German. It is surmised the Latin poem was the original of the manuscript, and the others added in response.

Poem is a wrong description: the Latin piece was written as prose but in assonantal couplets, and the whole piece ending in an unpaired coda verse form. The lines are mostly ten syllables in length, but this admits variations of eleven, twelve, even thirteen at one point.
Internal evidence of the French vernacular shows the composition to have been in the northern French region, indeed beyond, in modern Belgian Wallonia.
This is initially puzzling, because the Sequence manuscript was found in 880AD, in Barcelona.

1
Eulalia was a twelve year old girl, from Merida, in northern Spain. She was known to be especially devout.  She was martyred for the intransigence of her belief, during the persecutions of Diocletian, around the year of 304AD.
Merida was the capital of Roman Lusitania; its ruins, part of an amphitheater, its bridge, and aqueduct  were still impressive in the 1850s.

The French vernacular begins:

Buona pulcella fut eulalia.
Bel auret corps bellezour anima
Voldrent la veintre li deo Inimi.
Voldrent la faire diaule seruir

This has been modernised:

Bonne pucelle fut Eulalie.
Beau avait le corps, belle l’âme.
Voulurent la vaincre les ennemis de Dieu,
Voulurent la faire diable servir.

It is interesting, instructive, even, to see how the French language has developed over time.
I made an attempt at Englishing the piece from the modernised French:

The good girl Eulalia
lovely of from, lovely of soul,
and ready to overcome the enemies of God,
was intent to make the devil serve
her, nor listen to his bad counselors.
She denounced them to God, who dwells in heaven.
Not for gold, nor silver, nor finery,
royal threat, nor prayer,
no thing could ever make her bend,
the young nun, from the love of God’s ministry.
And for this she was presented to Maximilian
who was at that time king of all the pagans.
He uttered: It matters little to me.
What he did not want
was to be called a Christian man.
And so he summoned together his forces
better to put her in chains,
and put her virginity in danger.
For that she died, in great honesty.
In the fire they threw her, but it would not burn
her, nor cook her flesh.
But that did not please the pagan king,
he ordered them with swords to cut off her head.
The young girl did not try to stop them
she wanted to leave her life, as ordained by Christ.
In the figure of a dove, she flew to heaven.
All pray for her, who deign to pray.
This you can thank Christ for
after death, that we can only leave
by his clemency.

There is an excellent paper on the background and context of the St Eulalia legend, transmission, and period, on Academia.edu, by Fabian Zuk, of the Universite de Montreal.  I give the link below:

https://www.academia.edu/30143399/Eulalia_and_her_Sequence_a_Bridge_between_the_Marca_Hispanica_and_the_Carolingian_Heartlands

There is an earlier version of the legend, as Fabian Zuk points out in his paper. This is the poem contained in the Peristephanon (Crown of Martyrs) by the Hibernian Latin writer, Prudentius (348 to 410AD).
Prudentius was another devout Christian; he was born in Saragossa, highly educated, and became an innovative writer for his period. It is claimed that he introduced a trochee-dominant prosody to the established Latin classical forms.
The Peristephanon is a collection of fourteen lyric poems by Prudentius, on Spanish and Roman martyrs.
Anyone who has translated Latin will know that a line’s word order is wholly dependent on the writer’s intent, emphasis, within that line. For those, like myself, without a classical education, the initial impact is one of chaos.
The following is from a literal Google Translate version of Prudentius’s ‘O in Honour passionis of Eulalia blessed martyr’, written in the 4thCentury AD:

next Southside location it is and took this ten excellent; city powerful; people abundant; and more blood martyrdom maiden powerful title. coursing tribe , and the nine three winters?quarter adtigerat; and clinking pears The distressed terrified rough butchers; execution himself sweet rata

As you can see….
The poem was written as a dedication of the remains of St Eulalia recently unearthed, transported, and then placed in a prepared tomb, in Barcelona. That explains the reference to placement at the beginning. Fabian Zuk investigates all this in great detail in his paper.

2
So why all this interest in St Eulalia? Especially as, until not many years ago, I had never even heard of her.
Blame it on Federico Garcia Lorca.
I was analysing the structure of his famous Gypsy Ballads collection, for my book on chiasmus and rings: Gifts of Rings and Gold:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gifts-Rings-Gold-Introduction-Ring-composition-ebook/dp/B01IRPODPW

The poem on St Eulalia occurs in the last three historical poems of the collection: Martyrdom of St Eulalia; Joke about Don Pedro on Horseback; Thamar and Amnon.

Lorca’s poem is in three parts. This is a form that the French form, above, cannot accommodate. The Prudentius poem, however, has a more discursive treatment. Here we begin to see how it can be opened up into a tri-partite structure. There are still details that do and do not coincide, however. One example is the Lorca addition of the double mastectomy of Eulalia/Olalla; her intransigence is also toned down, almost to oblivion.

Herbert Ramsden, in his ‘Lorca’s Romancero Gitano, Eighteen Commentaries’ (Manchester University Press, 1988) https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lorcas-Romancero-Gitano-Eighteen-Commentaries/dp/0719078245
writes that Lorca purposedly labelled Eulalia/Ollalla ‘la gitana Santa’, a gipsy saint, even though she had lived and died over a thousand years before the gipsies entered Spain. He also notes that Lorca, ‘characteristically ahistoricist’, integrated the gipsy into mainstream culture this way, so ‘elevating the gipsy’. By adapting a more popular form of the name, Olalla, he further cemented the connection. The gipsy is, paradoxically, a symbol of the eternal outsider. Yet Lorca’s ‘ahistoricism’ identified the moment in time that such outsider-ness was becoming a dangerous position.

There is one point of connection between the vernacular French, Prudentius, and Lorca, and that is the potential assault on Eulalia/Olalla’s virginity. From the French, I give
‘and put her virginity in danger’ Englished from Qu’elle perdît sa virginité. Prudentius gives us, ‘The grace of [Eulalia’s} maidenhood [shielded]  behind the covering  of her head’.
Lorca wrote of Olalla’s sex which trembled as a bird ensnared, and her hands leap across.
Reader, take heart: she was only burned, decapitated, and masectomied.

This last detail, an addition by Lorca, occurs nowhere in the records. There is that terrible painting, though, by Bernadino Luini, where St Agatha carries her severed breasts on a tray, as Olalla in the poem. And interestingly, St Agatha was a patron saint of, among many places, Zamarramala, a province of Segovia. St Agatha was also a young girl, fifteen at the time of her own martyrdom.

What can we say about this assault upon young, outspoken, women?
It is not necessarily their vehicle for their opposition we notice, that is, their religiousness, but the form the oppression takes. It is their female identity that is attacked – their breasts, the threat of rape.
All the authority of the Church is here, but it is subtly enforced. They are applauded for their devoutness, but the indictment is still there: the terrible cost of female outspokenness, and of having a female body, with its possibilities. It is this sexuality the poem addresses partly, with that ‘Beau avait le corps’,  ‘Bel auret corps’, and the body-assault.
So why was she matryred? It is only in the Prudentius poem you get an indication: she was not just a devout believer, intransigent, but she openly mocked and attempted to over-turn the altars and images of the ‘pagan’s’ gods. Prudentius has her vehemently abusing the pagan leader, verbally.
Here we have it, the prize cannon in a woman’s armoury: speech. Not only has she the body of the fallen Eve, Eve as Magdalene, but also the gift of speech that can run rings around poor little man’s abilities.

In her way Eulalia can be said to inhabit the ambiguous transitional space between Mary and Magdalene figures. As Mary figure she connects with Lorca’s young female-centred poems of the first half of his collection. This is particularly clear in the sexual threats of the Preciosa poem. But also she connects with the gipsy nun, and with the gipsy madonna of one of the centre poem, St Gabriel. Soledad Montoya of the Black Pain, and the unnamed woman in Sleepwalking Ballad, introduce more nuanced, transitional, even median, characters. The faithless wife in the ballad is most certainly a Magdalene figure, as are, I would suggest, the grieving mothers in The Feud. This ambiguity of the Mary and Magdalene transitional moment is more fully drawn in the last poem of the collection, Thamar and Amnon, with the rape of half sister by half brother.

The Lorca Olalla poem plays also with time periods: he gives us a before martyrdom, during, and glorification in future times. This structure connects with the central poem of the collection, St Rafael. In this poem Lorca introduces another marginalised religious figure, St Tobit.
Each of these three centre poems is based on a city’s patron saint  – except St Rafael, the St Tobit poem, who was not the patron saint of its linked city of Cordoba. Lorca envisages Cordoba as Roman, Muslim, and modern city, each glimpsed in the water (a major motif in Lorca). Three time periods, again.
The tale of St Tobit/Tobias is fascinating for its own sake, a two-part story of father and son, linked by an angel in disguise. The angel exorcises a demon from the son’s wife, which caused her to kill her previous husbands. Definitely a Magdalene type woman, then rendered as Mary.

If anyone has a decent translation of the Prudentius Eulalia poem, I would be most grateful to them if they would point out a copy to me.

 

Bluedot festival COSMOS project, Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope, with Daito Manabe

http://shift-digital.co.uk/?event=world-premiere-cosmos-2017-international-art-science-residency&event_date=2017-07-09

Daito Manabe:
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Translation was the keynote.

Daito’s English, although servicable, was not thought sufficient for him to discuss the COSMOS Project he had been working on. He had therefore a first class translator from and to his native Japanese. I am currently trying tom find out her name:

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And what was his project? He was commissioned to work with Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope. He chose to produce an art work that rendered radio data in the visual medium.  He collaborated with – again I am hoping for a name – to use the data to produce synchronised sound work to Daito’s digital visuals.

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It was essentially a work of translation.

In Japan, he explained through translation, this work would not be possible. In Japan art and science are kept strictly separate, apart.

The Radio Telescope not only picks up radio-waves from space, constellations, the Milky Way. It also picks up ‘interference’, that is, unexpected and unwanted ‘noise’ from passing airplanes – there is an international airport nearby – but also mobile phones and other terrestrial sources. Phones are not allowed on site. But air waves bleed into each other depending on atmospheric conditions.
The task of cosmological engineers at the telescope is to identify what is wanted, and what not.

Screen-Shot-2017-05-31-at-12.11.22

Similarly, in translation from one language to another, equivalents have to be found for phrases used, of a particular culture’s usages. Take our term, Milky Way, for the edge-on view of the constellation we are a part of, and so used to by now. In Japan it is known as the River of the Sky. There are a great many stories based on it.
But choosing the right word that carries most of the meanings and intentions of the one being translated is a matter of sifting out ‘noise’, that is, unneeded meanings and implications.

So, Daito received the raw data – like a fax transmission, he joked. Here again is ‘noise’: it sounds like a  fax transmission, he had meant to say, but there are also implications in the basic phrase ‘like fax transmission’: it could also mean that visual data was also being received. Working on visualising sound data, was Daito’s mind here working metaphorically in this choice of phrase?
This was not raw data, though, because it had already been sifted electronically, translated into digital data from radio transmissions. There are many levels of sifting and translation of the transmissions involved here. |The telescope is tuned to radiom frequencies only, and so already a sifting of kinds of data occurs.
He then sought to conceive of this data in other mediums. To bring this about required the creating, writing, testing and application of new computer programs.

Not all translation systems function.
Daito brought his achieved art piece in computer format to give us a taster. The room was set up for a large-screen visual display. It did not work. Somewhere along the long transforming of information between outlets there was a glitch.
He used his two laptops to show the artwork instead: how it was put together from source data, and the final piece.

Nor did we have the scale of the finished work.
That was with the Radio Telescope.
It was also an interactive work, where visitors?… viewers?… interactives?…  could move via a console, through the constellations, and hear and see how the energy transmissions differed, altered, fitted into a whole.
This gave the regular musical beat of Pulsars, for instance, to work with and from. Each had a different rate of pulsation: when its radio wave flickered across our area of space, and a different degree of energy emitted.

*

On a personal note, in this instance my hearing was impaired: it shifts between ordinary to impaired with no pattern discernible. I have hearing aids but they only help at certain times.
One presentation was given at the talk where the speaker – a lovely soft southern Irish accent, I believe – spoke so soft, and low I heard little more than the odd consonant. I gave up trying to listen on that one. The rest of the talk I made great efforts to listen.
There are degrees of interpretation of recognisable sound clusters in operation when we listen. We interpret by what we know/remember/recognise. I interpreted from what I heard, translating – once again – to a continuing narrative of informative content.
Another and earlier project Daito had worked on was to create a changing visual representation of a period of, I think, the Japanese Stock Exchange data. He also tracked the rate of Bit Coin movements, and represented it as a moving graphic.
For more on Daito, see:
http://www.daito.ws/

*

The River of the Sky
On July 7th every year one of these stories is marked. This is the story, one of the many connected with the Milky Way/River of the Sky, that Daito alluded to.

It is the Tanabata Festival. It is the story of two lovers, Orihime and Hikoboshi, who represent the stars Vega, and Altair. They are only allowed to meet on the seventh day of the seventh month, every year, at the River of the Sky, our Milky Way. It is a based on poems in the Manyoshu volume, ‘Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves’. It is based on an old Chinese tale, The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd. She was, of course, weaving the pattern of the stars and constellations, whilst he herded the cows of heaven. They fell in love and were allowed to marry. On marriage, however, they neglected their duties. They were separated, and only allowed to meet once a year. On meeting they found themselves on opposite sides of the Sky River. She wept so much that a flock of magpies made her a bridge with their wings.
If it rains on the seventh day of the seventh month, the magpies will not be able to come.

People write messages, poems, and hang them from trees on this day.

Starting from July 1st, my local town unveils its new Well Dressing  displays. The theme for 2017 is Cinema.
With the one exception.

For more on Well Dressing, see the link: https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/25353303/posts/3197

And here is another link, a behind-the scenes view of Well Dressing:

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/237280/posts/1512962951

We start, and the route always starts here, at Greg Fountain, Flash Lane, with a lively display capturing the vivacity of the classic film, Dancing In The Rain, 1952.
You cannot see the detail from the overall shot, but the display features three central characters from the film: Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor, flanking  Debbie Reynolds, all in yellow-petal raincoats.

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As always, with this display, there is a separate side panel for the Mount Hall nursing home. Here we have the ubiquitous American pop-corn, and cinema tickets.

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Next stop on the route is the Ash Brook display. This is usually the venue for a local school to contribute. This year is another delightfully produced piece, based on Fantasia. We see Mickey Mouse as Sorceror’s Apprentice – remember that scene?

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For inside pictures follow the link:
http://www.bollingtonstjohns.co.uk/news/well-dressing-2017/26667

There is a long walk now until the next one in the Memorial Gardens. This one has a much darker theme, in keeping with its position, among commemorations for those who died in the two World Wars.
This display gives us a scene from Passchendaele, that terrible, drawn-out massacre. One hundred years ago, this year.

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Within the same vicinity is another display, back on the cinema theme, but linked to the Passchendaele display: the Clarence Mill display gives us The War Horse film. In close up, the tree trunks/bushes in the background are formed from pasta twists:

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Breathtaking blues.

We then have another and this time up-hill walk to the Cow Lane display. This is situated above a stone basin that collects the constantly running water.
This year they have chosen a meticulously executed 007, James Bond franchise theme. Again it is a double board, angled over the basin.

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Then the long trek down hill to the last display of all: Pool Bank Well.
Again this is a triple-board display, and the subject a very elaborately produced cinema bill/poster  of Laurel and Hardy.
They cannot stand alone as champions of the cinema, though. And so, they are flanked by Charlie Chaplin, and Buster Keaton.

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And here, under a large parasol, are tables, seats and benches. Here are sandwiches, cakes, tea and coffee.
Here is the sense of repletion and completion for all who have trod the miles and hills, and have appreciated the displays that have been these past few months in the making.

A very high level of expertise, and imagination, have gone into these displays.
Come and see.
You have until July 9th.

For directions, route, and background, see:
http://www.welldressing.com/venue.php?id=13

On poems by Rutger Kopland and Kathleen Jamie

What follows is a brief discussion of use of interruptive image and of modes of address, in two seemingly disparate writers. There is much to be found in common between them.

Under the Apple Tree/Onder de appelboom

http://www.poetryinternationalweb.net/pi/site/poem/item/4514/auto/UNDER-THE-APPLE-TREE

I came home, it was about
eight and remarkably
close for the time of year,
……………………………………………..

 

…………………….. once again became
too beautiful to be true, …………….
………………………………………………….

and later I heard the wings
of wild geese in the sky
heard how still and empty
it was becoming
……………………………………………..

Rutger Kopland, Under the Apple Tree/Onder de appleboom (Among Cattle/Onder het vee, 1966)

We scarcely notice the ballad-like repetitions of key phrases, or the manipulation of mood-buttons. He earns our trust, and the trust of the ordinary reader by foisting no great ideas of redemption on us, by insinuating no Political awkwardness. We get the ‘feel’: the surburbanism of life lived by the ordinary person, with a job, family… in fact, do we recognise in ourselves: nostalgia for the past? The past of a secure economy, of safe jobs, a stable society? This is a claim that plagued Rutger Kopland from these early books.

See how he builds the tension from stanza two: the juxtaposing of details of the neighbour (for which read, everyman/the identifier of self as ordinary: the classic Dutch sense of communalness), the change in light: the dark that identifies colours, blues…. Having keyed up the emotions at this point: the ‘…too beautiful to be true…’ (those last three qualifying words communicate so much, particularly in combination with preceding, ‘…once again…’), he immediately disengages and redirects. The emotional response is channelled via the toys in the grass, via sound, to the house, and identified as the laughter of children. The emotions are stirred but not settled, their direction may have been channelled but in consequence the mind is made open, the imagination engaged, by this ‘mental event’, so that when the geese fly they are identified immediately as ‘wild’, the sky is emptied by their presence, a sense of immanence is apparent.

Once again this keying-up of emotions is channelled to the ‘…precisely you…’: an anchoring, grounding in the here and now.

Now I want to look at Flashing Green Man by Kathleen Jamie: my apologies for the long excerpts, the text of the poem occurs nowhere online

Flashing Green Man

I regret the little time I make to consider
these adult days, …………………
…………………………………………………..
……………………………………… Under the multi’s

walking tall and bejewelled
across our dark land, I wait with the others:
thinking about supper and the grocer’s wife,
……………………………………………………..
………………………………. But these days I don’t much consider.

The green man flashed – he too refuged in cities –
and the traffic stilled for the shouting
news-vendor in his cap and scarf, for us
blethering people; and a sound
in the orange glow: a high kronk-honk
………………………………………………………..
…………………………….. But I stopped

on the rush hour pavement to watch
the skein’s arrow
cross the traffic-choked Marketgait,
and head for the glittering multi’s
tenth or twelth floor, where they banked
in the wind of these pivotal buildings
to pull themselves North to the Sidlaws:
and brash light from windows
……………………………………………………..

………………………………………………………
…… a pale-faced woman peeling potatoes

as her husband climbed the long stairs,
listened, smiled, and wiping the window
cupped her hands around her eyes
to acknowledge a sign
truer than the flashing green man
or directional arrows seen at a junction
where I watched the geese tilt
to make their turn, their beating wings
more precious than angels’ in the city lights.

Kathleen Jamie, The Queen of Sheba, Bloodaxe, 1994

Both poems employ long sentences that take up almost a whole long stanza; both do not employ much by way of commas, colons, semi-colons. The Kathleen Jamie much more than the Rutger Kopland. Why is this? What does the long sentence express in the poem? Because it is used for a reason. What, the lack of punctuation?

Rutger Kopland only uses the comma; this allows a sense of flow, of ongoing thought, of feeling uninterrupted by analysis, discursive thought, consideration.

The long sentence can be seen as a rhythmic device, except that my term ‘device’ devalues the way the writer orders his work in this instance. Both writers contribute to the effect of on-going life in the poems, of on-going life in tandem with reflection; that is, although the poem instances a brief period of time, the minutes of the event, it encapsulates a life period. The point being that life and reflection are portrayed as part and parcel of the same event, the event that that the poem enacts, and that is the poem. It is all thrown against a much bigger, wider screen where times passes and is enacted.

Try to imagine what each poem would be without the interruption of geese.

For Rutger Kopland the geese can be seen as a device for expressing (or discovering?) an emotional state beyond that posited by the poem to that point. Admittedly, tiredness combined with a sense of fulfilment/achievement, had brought Rutger Kopland to a delicate state where he found his cognisance of the evening as too beautiful to be true. I use the term ‘cognisance’ here because I think it is necessary to know something of the man to know the range of the poem.

The late Rudi H van den Hoofdakker was a neuroscientist, who specialized in sleep disorders, and the aging process in the elderly. He was, it has been said, ‘the least metaphysical of men’; he was also a pioneer of the use of ‘ordinary language’ in poetry. By this I mean he did not use terms, express concepts that were not available to common language use. And yet he strove continually to express deeper and deeper insights into the human condition using this limited palate. To read his (translated) poetry aloud is to never stumble over an overwrought, or extravagant image, never to sense any awkwardness due to incursion by uncharacteristic content. I have cited negative attributes; for the positive I would state the poems recommend themselves to us as owning an integrity, honesty even.

In Kathleen Jamie the geese are an interruption into the closed state the city represents, of the wilderness, the ‘natural’ world, from the world that covers major parts of the earth’s surface. Kathleen Jamie has travelled these places, remote, difficult, almost inaccessible. Her books bear this out.

In this poem we are prepared for this special interpretation of the geese, by the Green Man image, a rural image of the essence of wildness in this case translated into the city as an icon for Walk, that is, movement, vitality, if you will.

Without the geese the poem would still have been a very potent expression of the urban life. For some writers this would have been enough. For Kathleen Jamie, though, she has at least a dual vision. Like her fellow Scot, Norman MacCaig with his ‘binocular vision’ who identifies the smell of herring on an Edinburgh high street, or the incursion of Highland (Lochinver/Assynt) experience, memories, into city experience, Kathleen Jamie is aware of the importance to her of those outside places.

She identifies herself as a city dweller in the poem, and this, it could be argued, precipitates the crisis that the incursion of geese engenders. The geese in this case become for her agents of a wider life-experience. Yet it seems to be a gendered life-experience: the clerks tugging on their street clothes are set against the pale-faced woman peeling potatoes: the clerks are oblivious to the geese, although just as trammelled and trapped, whilst the woman, and there is no hint of an unhappy relationship, smiles and recognises something of an extra adjunct to life in the incursion and activity of the geese.

For Rutger Kopland the geese are the vehicle for acknowledging a greater intensity of feeling. In the poem he writes how the sound of the geese precipitated a sense of how still and empty/ it was becoming.

If we compare this stillness and emptiness with the immediately preceding sense of fullness we get a quick switch from full to emptiness, itself symptomatic of emotion without outlet, looping in itself, until anchored by the presence of the other person.

If we compare this sense of emptiness with the following by Kathleen Jamie we maybe can get a handle on the emotion.

Skeins o geese

http://www.versedaily.org/skeinogeese.shtml

Skeins o geese write a word
across the sky. …..
……………………………
The sky moves like cattle, lowin.

I’m as empty as stane, as fields
ploo’d but not sown, naked
an blin as a stane. …..
…………………………………
blin

tae a’ soon but geese ca’ing.

Wire twists lik archaic script
roon a gate. …………………
…………………………………..
………………………  The word whustles

ower high for ma senses. Awa.

…………………………………………………..
…………………………………………………..
………………………………………..

Whit dae birds write in the dark?
A word niver spoken or read.
the skeins turn hame,
on the wind’s dumb moan, a soun,
maybe human, bereft.

Kathleen Jamie, as above

Line 15 – that Awa’., should it be read as The word whustles/ ower high for ma senses and awa? Or is it a direct address: Awa with all that! In the latter case it could be said to serve a similar purpose to the retreat from the intensity of emotion in the Rutger Kopland poem. And as in the Rutger Kopland poem the emotive power of the piece is re-directed, first by disentangling from the past and then by calling upon the standard image for the going beyond language, custom, culture, into a common heritage of human experience, that of the human predicament of being faced with the ultimate full stop, our inevitable deaths.

Both writers have particular takes on use of language. I have mentioned Rutger Kopland’s ‘common language’; Kathleen Jamie intersperses standard English with lowland Scots, a lived language rather than a dictionary-enhanced language such as lallans. Kathleen Jamie’s lived Scots, particularly evident in Skeins o Geese, is also and emphatically a ‘common language’. Elsewhere in the book this poem is from, The Queen of Sheba, we have poems of recognition between people, of a (re-)discovered fellowship. This is at times wholly a gendered recognition, at others a recognition of common humanity. The identifying of herself as a city dweller, as in Flashing Green Man, is a part of this. The book also broadens out into the ‘other’ lands Kathleen Jamie constantly references. There we find recognition and fellowship amongst, and with, nomads and widely different cultural groups.

And where do the poems end, in relation to these interruptions of geese?

In Rutger Kopland the becoming is in the arrival of the partner, remarkably close, that is, it is a treasured relationship. With Rutger Kopland we never move beyond the self. This is what has contributed to his being called essentially a sane writer: he recognises that all our knowledge is the self’s knowledge, that we are always just people on the earth, amongst its variousness. In a later poem Self-portrait as a Horse the writer does not become the horse but is always aware that he is human, and can never enter the being of another, whether person, or creature. We can only know the world other than from the position of our self. In this we are all alike.

In Kathleen Jamie we become aware of the close proximity of the Sidlaw Hills to the city. This is a key feature of much Scottish writing, that city and ‘mountain’ are cheek by jowl. One is never without a glimpse, sighting, of ‘wilderness’ in one form or another. This dual vision, cited above, becomes a means for investigating the common bond in the variousness of human lives, in whatever terrain.

Rutger Kopland investigates a similar connection, but by emphasising the common humanity inherent in all, but from within.

Both poems chart a journey; in Kathleen Jamie this has the added resonance through her experience of nomadic peoples, and the apparently nomadic migrating geese in the city. The journey in Rutger Kopland is an entirely self-referential journey; maybe here we see the impact and legacy of the Calvinist tradition, the sole reliance on the self naked before God, without intercession from priest or saint. This is very much what we now take to be Martin Luther’s great vision. Historically it took many generations, twist and turns, interpretations etc to get to this, but the vision is strong enough for us in our unreligious time to glimpse: it is the existential moment. But in Rutger Kopland’s case brought back from the brink by the bonds of common humanity, of love for family, of duty, of responsibility to one’s community. And all accepted with varying degrees of willingness.

Rutger Kopland (1934-2012):

rk

Kathleen Jamie:
kj

We have all now seen the viral R F Kelly interview.

http://www.news.com.au/world/europe/robert-kellys-live-bbc-interview-gatecrashed-by-his-kids/news-story/941f9467b6664cc9b5684cb6db933814

I was one of the ones who presumed the lady was the nanny, and not his wife. Of course, those of us who did, are now happily castigated:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-39244325

It’s all about reading the signals, aligning with experience, and about rail-roaded expectations.
Who now remembers the argument he was putting across? It was presented as a purely visual event.

Those of us who have siblings close in age recognised this: the older/wiser one goes there, does that, so the other follows. It is about learning to be part of a larger unit. We will need it when we go to school, to be obedient so we can take in, learn.
As they get older this can turn into utter frustration: being followed around all the time. I remember it, I did it: we trust our family more than neighbour kids. Something our parents taught us. So, when the older one needs a broader discourse, the younger does not understand, and thinks it’s business as usual.

The older child came in: she knew something was going on, with the computer, her dad talking to it. She played along.
Oh, but he pushed her away.
Maybe she was way too disruptive anyway. Maybe not. But what did we read from that?
And the other sailed in, in the arc.

This was piling it on: we knew the classic two set-up, so when the lady came in, with the expression of horror, it was a classic full three-set fail.

But how did she handle it? She did not assume the authority we presumed his wife would.
And, now knowing she was his wife, my heart bleeds a little for her predicament, how she was caught out here in her uncertainty to her position, status.

It is no longer so funny. I now read her moment of pain in this.
Why does it hurt; what do I read? My own embarrassments? Probably; me not measuring up to some wider discourse’s system of etiquette.
I read her crouching, and closing the door on hands and knees as not the wife-status behaviour of someone from my own very restricted cultural experience. I was wrong; this was her/South Korean etiquette.

This is how Brexit will be.
Our ignorance of others will be written large. Because this is how it was before Britain joined the Common Market, when anything continental was exotic, when foreigners were to be mocked, and Ealing Farce and Carry-Ons ruled the waves… on a very, very small pond.

 

I was right to be castigated. I did go the easy way, and assume. I did play along with the media game/online presentation.
Tiredness, loss of attention, over-exposure to the needs of a world, much of which is not my business – all these sap alertness and attention.

‘Pay attention, boy. Yes, you at the back.’

PS

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-39267005

Meaning Gwyn son of Nudd (pronounced Nith); the forename carries the meaning of light.
So who was Nudd? Many now think the name comes from the old Celtic god, Nodens.
Nodens, in turn, is associated with the old Irish first king of the Tuatha de Danann, Nuatha.
And Nuatha is related to the legendary Finn Mac Cunhail (Finn MaCool).

The Tuatha de Danann were the most successful invaders of Ireland. Some sources give their origins as ‘formorian’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fomorians.
The Celts have been traced back to Iron Age central European regions: ... the people of the Iron Age Hallstat culture  in central Europe (c. 800–450 BC), named for the rich grave finds in Hallstat, Austria.  

The names Finn, and Gwyn are related.
Gwyn is often described as a being of light, with a darkened face.

What is especially interesting here about the Tuatha de Danann connection is that, as Wiki says, The Tuath Dé eventually became the Aos Si or “fairies” of later folklore.
Gwyn ap Nudd became, in turn, the king of the Tylwyth Teg or fair folk and ruler of the Welsh Otherworld, Annwn.
Nodens and Llud seem to be cognates. See below for confusion and consternation.

FALSTAFF: Heavens defend me from that Welsh fairy, lest he/ transform me to a piece of cheese
:  The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 5, Scene 5.

The Welsh, Scottish and Irish fairy, unlike the English, were not to be trifled with. They were dangerous, and no lover of humankind. The concept of Seelie and Unseelie, that is, benign and malign influence, is closely related to the Irish and Welsh fairy.
We know most about Gwyn ap Nudd from the Welsh Mabinogion (the title, the  purists would say,  only strictly relates to the First Branch, the first four tales of the book. Anyone who has read my discussion of the first of these, Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, in GIFTS OF RINGS AND GOLD https://michael9murray.wordpress.com/2016/09/07/gifts-of-rings-and-gold-5/
will  see how they fit the description of teaching tales).
He occurs mostly in what is considered the oldest of the tales, The Tale of Culhwch and Olwen, as part of King Arthur’s band. His expertise is later called on in the hunt of the terrible wild boar, Twrch Trwyth. (Once again, see my  book  above.)
The Mabinogion tales make us aware of another two siblings to Gwyn, Edem, another of King Arthur’s party, and Owain. Nothimg else is known of these two.

Gwyn ap Nudd was king of the Underworld
– and connected to the later Wild Hunt, as ‘psychopomp’, a phrase from psychiatry that describes a symbolic receiver and transporter of the dead.
Before what some see as attempts to tame and lesson his powers, Gwyn ap Nudd was a mighty warrior. He was connected with one of the three pointless battles according to the Welsh Triads: the Battle of the Trees, Cad Godeau.
Wiki relates that his skill as a warrior, as described in The Black Book of Carmarthen’s The Dialogue of Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwyddno Garanhir, had long brought him great renown.
In Culwych and Olwen it is related that Gwyn abducted Creiddylad, the daughter of Llud (his sister?). She was betrothed at the time, to Gwythyr ap Greidawi, who then roused a great host to get her back.
Wiki gives us this result:  Gwyn was victorious and, following the conflict, captured a number of Gwythyr’s noblemen including Nwython and his son Cyledr. Gwyn would later murder Nwython, and force Cyledr to eat his father’s heart. As a result of his torture at Gwyn’s hands, Cyledr went mad,[1] earning the epithet Wyllt.
As we know from a previous post Wyllt denotes madness:  see my The Madman in the Woods: Lailoken
https://michael9murray.wordpress.com/2016/11/12/the-madman-in-the-woods-lailoken/
King Arthur intervened in their fight, and ruled that the two contestants for Creiddylad meet every May Day to continue their fight for her.Every year, forever.
This was sufficient evidence for Robert Graves in his The White Goddess, to read these two contestants as Holly Kings, solar gods of the old and the new year, battling for supremacy, and the hand/blessing of the muse goddess.
In The Life of St Collen of Llangollen, we glimpse him again, this time connected with Glastonbury Tor or Ynys Witrin as it was known (https://ztevetevans.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/the-legend-of-saint-collen-of-llangollen).
St Collen denied him, and so was invited to dine with him in the hill top’s palace. There he was regaled with Gwyn ap Nudd’s splendour, only to banish it all with a dash of holy water.
Fairy as demon. This was the edict of the later middle ages: all supernatural agents were categorised as demons. (See : https://michael9murray.wordpress.com/2016/10/21/magic/)

We maybe begin to glimpse here the importance of the role of Gwyn ap Nudd in the imaginations of earlier periods

All these written sources are from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries.
In the 1360-70 poetry of the famous Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym, translator and scholar Rachel Bromwich notes of poem 26 (:DADYDD AP GWILYM, POEMS, Gomer Press, 1982): Dafydd alludes to him a number of times (for refs see E Rowlands, Ll C. V, 122-3) and always presents him in a sinister light; hence the  Owl is ‘his’ bird; the bog-hole is ‘his’ fish-pond… the Mist a deception caused by him….(page 99 op cit):
‘(The Owl) she is the bird of Gwyn ap Nudd/ Crazy Owl that sings to the robbers…’ or, for those purists: ‘Edn i Wyn fab Nudd ydyw.’ Early Welsh forms of the name Gwyn were Wyn, as here, and in some cases expanded to Windos. In those earlier periods the name denoted pure, holy, sacred.
We see his effects, but no longer the warrior – it was, after all, the time after the fall of the Last Prince, Llewelyn ap Gruddydd (1223 -1282), to the English.

These tales are uncomfortably patriarchal, they are from the long periods when the daughters of nobles, kings, were used as counters in the game of politics, pacifying potential enemies by drawing them into extensive family relationships. Family was the ultimate bond – to break that was the worst moral and ethical act.
Yet some still did step outside, broke those greatest, strongest of bonds. Only the desperate would risk that ultimate shame and banishment. Or the strongest.
If Gwyn ap Nudd did exist as an actual person in history, then we can only surmise he did something, acted in some way, that meant he chose to step outside of normal, acceptable human relations to become a mighty warrior – or an outcast, an oathbreaker.
As prime outsider he was allotted a status befitting his rank in the outside: as king, of the dead, and of the fair folk, of all who existed outside humanity, in mythical, unimaginable realms.
Andrew Lang, in his introduction to Robert Kirk’s The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies, strongly suggests that the otherworld of fairy is the afterlife of the dead, that the fairy mounds are in reality tumuli, resting places of dead chieftains.

King Arthur was another such dweller outside of history- not as an outcast, but one freed from history, from time, one whose story carried great potency for future generations.
The ways in which Gwyn ap Nudd were remembered marks him out as different from Arthur; Gwyn ap Nudd has the mischief about him, like the vestiges of a trickster figure: disruptive, dangerous. Arthur is the pacifier. It is possible to see that both play connected, vital roles.

Earlier I used the terms ‘seelie’ and ‘unseelie’. These are Scottish distinctions between those well-disposed and ill-disposed towards people. The seelie court are benign fairy. according to Katherine Briggs, in her Encyclopedia of Fairies, 1976. It is also thought the seelie dwell within hills, whereas the unseelie host choose barrows. Here again we have intimations of a connection with the dead and the after life. Kathleen Briggs says of the unseelie: ‘They comprise the SLUAGH, ‘The Host’…the unsanctified dead who hover above the earth, snatching up with them  undefended mortals…
It has been suggested the seelie court rule over the waxing year, whilst the unseelie, the waning year.

We can still feel his presence, though, if we approach him with respect.
The only other fairy being in literature to have such a presence must be The Raven King, of Susanna Clarke’s JONATHON STRANGE AND MR NORRIS.
Here is another hugely enigmatic presence, made more so by his absence. His effects and minions are everywhere, but his own brooding presence is felt, rather than seen, sensed rather than known.

You can consult all the odd books in your reach, and there is still the one holds great ptomise that is missing. Katherine Briggs, again, writes on Gwyn ap Nudd, ‘a more sober assessment of him is given by John Rhys in Celtic Folklore.’

Anybody willing to fill in the gaps?