Posts Tagged ‘Poetry’

T S Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land,’ section IV ‘Death By Water’, consisting of just ten lines, seems to consist of three short sections.
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47311/the-waste-land

 Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.
A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward.
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome as and tall as you.

Ten lines, in this case, can also give two sections of five lines. This arrangement is important.
It is possible to be read as to have been composed in corresponding parts. It begins and ends:
Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,……………………..
and
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome as and tall as you.

So, we have opening, and ending, and then also a central section, or hinge:
……………………………………….. A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell/

He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.

So, we have what could almost be a chiasmus, each line and a half paralleling the other line and a half.

Surrounding this central section we have, firstly,

Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.

and lastly:
                                                      Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,

That gives opening and closing  correspondences, first section central-surround, central hinge, second section central-surround, and closing part.

The form gives suggestion of overall chiasmic structuring. Line length mirrors the arguments being presented.

If this is so, and it is strongly suggestive that this is the intended structure, then this  makes us read an unfortunate correspondence between ‘(…) the profit and loss.’(line 3) and ‘Gentile or Jew’(line 8).
The former is inclusive, the latter exclusive.
As a deliberate paralleling of lines 3 and 8 – indeed, the page layout emphasises the phrases – are we to read an anti-Semitic slur intended there?

In the former section of ‘Death by Water’, the first section of the poem (lines 1-3) is epitomized in this descriptive phrase; the latter third (lines 8-10) is an appeal to the reader, who may be Protestant Western Europe and New World, or Semitic and Old World – whoever it is that takes civilisation forward.
In this I would like to think are included Einstein, and Neils Bohr: the General Theory of Relativity, and the Quantum Theory.

Implicit here also in ‘once was’ is a progressive concept of civilisation and growth of  humankind away from middle-eastern religious roots, Judaism, and towards Western reason (- and non-autocratic Anglicanism?). The end-rhyme claims a relationship between Jew and you, that addressee being both contemporary reader, and Old World culture. The two terms are again in exclusive and inclusive arrangements emphasising the survival of one, but not both.
The earlier rhyme pair swell and fell state a sense of, if not cyclic (Vico-esque?), then organic growth and fall of civilizations that this last rhyme pair predicate.

The centre of the piece is the balancing of phrases ‘As he rose and fell/ He passed the stages of age and youth’ (lines 9 and 10) which gives a janus-like sense of descent of age to youth, and the life-review that is the accepted experience of death. The section ends as it begins with vocative appeal to the hearer/ reader as in the ‘Greek Anthology’.

We notice also the ‘current under the sea’ of half-line 4 is balanced with ‘(…) the whirlpool’ of half-line 7 each framing the central section of the piece. The ‘cry of gulls’ and ‘who look to windward’ are paralleled here, as are ‘the deep sea swell’ with ‘you who turn the wheel’. We sense a metaphysical mariner at work, a conflation of the wheel of fate, and a will that steers, that rises above and beyond the world.

If the form of this short example from ‘The Waste Land’ is certainly chiasmic, it not a ring – there is no tri-partite construction, the central section is a straight change from first half to second ABCCBA. Ring structure has ABCDCBA.

– The English sentence structure, of subject-predicate, has possibilities as another base-chiasmic scheme. It is not by any means a universal language structure, however. There are examples of chiasmic use in languages not structured in this way.

 

Excerpted arguments are from my study: Gifts of Rings and Gold, An Introduction to Chiasmic Text Structures.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gifts-Rings-Gold-Introduction-Ring-composition-ebook/dp/B01IRPODPW/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1533399879&sr=1-1&keywords=Gifts+of+Rings+and+Gold

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As black-on-black of stellar crows
chase by eyrie earth,
they leave it reeling.
Their monstrous battles
are star deaths, sunbursts.

When they mate times tense,
pressured;
the incubation of the egg
our doldrums.
The hatching
moves time on a notch.

Feeding the newborn,
our periods of acquisition;
when the fledgling flies
we feel its wrench, absence
like the loss of a god.

There is no knowing
they will ever fly here again.

CATWALK

Posted: March 25, 2018 in Chat
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Pink black slouch and lounge;
retro’s specific to the twenty year limit’s
periphery of reference.
Silk and rustic; heraldic, synthetic
admixtures of wool, Kashmir, satin.
Alice-blue gingham, with crinolines:
white is still pure, romantic,
without sins.

The sound track guitar on overdrive
distorts its chords to a programmed pulse;
and even if the music is a love song it is
tuned to a sulphate beat: dance, cruise, music
for the catwalk; lizard-like; ambient.

Panelled and fish-tailed dusty grey; a train
of gauze, lampshade head-dress;
kaftan and puckered waistcoat, djbella,
patterned with satin, sheer. Sateen
 swimsuit under high head-dress and train:
colour transforms to shape, shape to colour.

To look cool, even though the room is rising,
keen, though the style is low, look
catwalk-kitsch in full face-mask,
in Edwardian layers, as the room spins hotter.

The beat is an astrakhan flashbulb pulse,
the keyboard an embroidered burnt umber,
and that guitar again, perspex, translucent;
the singer’s voice a textile acid yellow.

A sampler tape labeled Sex Sounds – Normal.
Design after design; a model turns,
throws a red carnation to the camera.
We all applaud; we are all the show.

 

after the dance-theatre performance of the Pina Bausch company

‘We must talk’ you say, ‘sit here, listen’.
The moment is a revolving door
I do not know how to stop, or close;
our table a sun on a scorching planet —
we have wandered there naked, burnt,
and lost amongst its crumbs, metal.

French windows gape like dark wings draped
over the city; and louvred windows hold aloof
their fragile, distant aches.
In their assimilation there is no longer place
for us. Your words are hot —
and the night grows colder. I long for you
but taste only ashes
not peaches, gingered melon.

We have died here before — the waiter
wraps us warm in the embrace
of a thousand passing presumptions,
asks us to chose; I can take none.
We are what we civilise of the wildness in us;
I have blood in my mouth
and the melancholy of pain, like hunger.
Who is this other? She is giddy with the possibility
the naked and the tabletop offer equally;
an ostentation of preparations.
We are deficient, and the menu lessens us further.

Who is waiting at the door? Window? Wall?
Why are we all here? So sit and sit and sit.
Relationships break here, wives
leave, and husbands stand at the flung open
french windows: an offering to the sky.
The night detonates: they stare back, burnt out;
and all the candles flare, then fail.

Our pain is a mirror — the clock’s tells
and its reckless readings circle the words
‘Leave’ and ‘me’; its chime
muffles the smothered ’Never’.
The room always empty, but populated,
a carved-out place of space,
served up on fine platters
— listen
can you hear the rustle of moments
coalescing? A fine meal we make of this.

She said this ring is a broken tone
the wall-clock has forgotten, and won’t take back.
He twists it around and around his finger, wishing,
for this is the day of the continuous lie — a tall tale:
what was once broken, is twice unmended;
— what was once said, is twice unremedied.

And the child’s hand slips from hers, the baby’s cry
unheard in the bustle and hub of the hall;
her nerves wire the walls,  flare the light
as the current flickers again. To be left alone,
empty, as a coat left, hung on the wall….

To be caught is to be in the cup that drips
then is wiped away with a serviette;
to be lost is to be forever going and not going
at the same time, in the same place
is to be found in the tale that breaks off
but does not,
amongst the communion,
and the cutlery.

The break is the tale’s breathing, it continues always:
the room, and the haunting — the window,
and the blind hurt, the bleeding,
and the doors
endlessly
revolving

 

I wonder what she is doing at this hour
my Andean and sweet Rita
of needs and wild cherry trees
Now that this weariness chokes me, and blood dozes off,
like lazy brandy inside me.

I wonder what she is she doing with those hands
that in attitude of penitence
used to iron starchy whiteness,
in the afternoons.
Now that this rain is taking away my desire to go on.

I wonder what has become of her skirt with lace;
of her toils; of her walk;
of her scent of spring sugar cane from that place.

She must be at the door,
gazing at a fast moving cloud.
A wild bird on the tile roof will let out a call;
and shivering she will say at last, “Jesus, it’s cold!”

 

I remember this poem from years and years ago. It has always stayed with me. It is from The Black Heralds collection, I think. I don’t know who did the translation.

SELECTED POEMS/POEZII ALESE by Richard Livermore
Copies available from the author, http://www.chanticleer-press.com/contact-page.html
£8.00 each, plus £1.00 p and p

This is a very handsome book.
Printed in Romania as part of their contemporary literature series Orizont Literar Contemporan, the production values are high. This is a book of which to be proud.

The cover carries a copy of a Munch painting, Melancholy. A gloomy subject? But the background colours are lovely: blues, olive, yellows, and a moment of white. The colour scheme of the cover uses this as its base, an overall black is banded with blue, and the main focus of white script.
On the back cover is a photo of Richard. Look closely, here again we see a similar mood, pose, and the colours in the background, out-of-focus, once again capture the overall range of the Munch.

Inside we have a Profil cultural, rather than biographical details. The focus is different, away from self, and towards how the writer has responded to place and time. The emphasis is on where self and cultural world interact. This is healthy, and does not engage with writer-status or celebrity.

What we are presented with here is a selection of Richard’s poetry from 1973 up to 2016. It is dual language book, with Ioanna Agafitei translating poems 1 to 12, and Elena Tapean 13 to 29. So, a dual-translator, dual-language book.
Richard certainly puts them through their paces at times. On page 23 for an instance, he gives Ioanna ‘…only when life is a was will it be.’ The poem is written in 5 quatrains with occasional end-rhyme and much alliteration and assonantal play. To cope with maintaining argument and form’s playful use of language, she gives us a 9-line stanza, combining the last two quatrains, and capturing the connotations.

***

If you were to send a message to Romania, knowing what happened in 1989, Christmas day 1989… what would you send? This is a generation on, but the question remains: what would you send?
What we now know of Romania, apart from tennis players, the old guard poets, are EU open borders, workers bringing their own interpretations of what they find here.
What can we say to them? More important, how can we say it, where would be the weighting and emphases fall? This is the West – what stories did they have of us? Officially degenerate, of course.
Whatever it was, it was fairy-tale.
For people to travel all that distance for work here, and to find austerity, closing borders, scratching round for low-paid jobs….
What can we say to them?

And this is where Richard Livermore judged his selection well, for what he sends are messages of recognition, of struggle, disappointment, of the value and worth of the person caught up in the machinery of time and place.

One commentator, Ian MacFadyan, called Richard’s work ‘dark star poems… shot through with bright images of wonder….’ And they are.
In form they are short, rarely over a page in length, and often two or three stanzas each. In structure we find full rhyme, alliteration, assonance, internal rhyme. Rhythmically tight, with not a syllable wasted and yet not stifled by that; the freedom comes from the audacity of image and movement.

They are supple, as well as subtle. If you look for heritage then think of Kant’s antimonies – the form lays down the argument, but then it pivots into an unexpected image, which unlocks its depths of meanings. And as you read you become aware of richness, of exploration, insight, thought. The antimonies give you the argument and conclusion, then present you with an alternative one you had not thought possible.

‘Here we are locked/ in a prison of words’, ‘Here’ begins (did you think of Dylan Thomas?), and ends ‘here life is reprieved.’ How it gets from beginning to end is through the vehicle of language, image and sound. Yet it is aware that this is a vehicle, for it is to the inner movement that our attention is drawn. This is where people meet, in their inner experience of the world, not the immediate-demand response.

We feel locked into our habits, cultures, socially trapped. In ‘Pi’ he writes ‘I know very well/ what  it is to be  Pi/ for they keep reining in// my potential as well.’ Who cannot empathise with that? How can we move from this position? The structure, use of modern knowledge systems, are subject to the mind’s capabilities. Quantum effects, he gives us, open up other possibilities to us.

Yet don’t think all the poems use this stance – there are tender poems, see ‘Engraved In the Stars,’ and poems of mythic proportion, ‘Hidden Agendas,’ and playful poems, and poems of serious play.
There are riches to be found here.

One of the many riches is in the glorious sound textures Richard Livermore creates. How translatable are they? Take, for instance, the following from the first poem, ‘Wind/Vant’:
the burly, brusque bull-whale/ of a wind with it’s buffalo’s/ biffing and bellow, billowing…‘ Notice how the use of the line’s pause steers the rhythm, creating excitement. The translation can capture the checked flow that holds and then lets go, but cannot mimic this alliterative dynamic. Elsewhere the translation gives, rather than takes, texture; in ‘Prophecy’ we have:
What is the cloud doing/ storming the sky/ and why does it want//to bring down the moon… The Romanian has: Ce face norul/ furtuna cerul/ si de ce doreste// sa darame luna –I cannot reproduce the accents.
The line length is shorter, the metre changed, end-rhymes introduced, and the lines’ internal chiming of sounds changed.
The structure on the page informs how we read: this is poem structure, and in each case we read for the line because syntax and rhythm instruct us to do so. I leave out the vexing discussion of whether the translation is an entirely different poem, or an extension of the source-poem.

‘I don’t see why  words/ should always wait table‘ he writes in ‘Words Running for Cover’, the last poem in the book. Words, language, are the vehicle for exploring self and world, but only a vehicle. Our engagement with, our  living in, the world is the real subject. Always.

This is a book that you will go back to, often, and discover new riches each time.

INCIDENT 10

Posted: May 28, 2017 in Chat
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In the raised brimming glass of the moon,
in the empty beaker of the day

in the sad, bedraggled evening
hot and bothered at the end of play

two bats met above the town’s rooftops
colliding on the air’s highway:

a long-eared bat in a cassock of black
and a short-eared bat with its collar turned back

collided above the rooftops
of the chic new shops in the centre of town.

And I ask you members of the jury, now,
which one of them had right of way?

Reprise

 Beyond the busy gabbling of the air waves,
the shot-off arse of time’s clearway

 in the last relinquished evening
of the not-very-bothered last day

 two bats met above the conflagration
jostling in heaven’s doorway:

 a free-tailed bat turbaned with black
and a pipistrelle with cassock on its back

 elbowed and jostled above the conflagration
in a time out of time on the edge of time.

 And I ask the jury: In this instance,
to which, if any, would you give admittance?