Posts Tagged ‘Poetry’

Well, this is a shock. Just got the word that Leonard Cohen has checked out and moved on. Thought this week was rotten already; it just got exponentially worse.

Rest in peace, our man of poetry and song.

sleeping

Two Went to Sleep

 

Two went to sleep

almost every night

one dreamed of mud

one dreamed of Asia

visiting a zeppelin

visiting Nijinsky

Two went to sleep

one dreamed of ribs

one dreamed of senators

Two went to sleep

two travellers

The long marriage

in the dark

The sleep was old

the travellers were old

one dreamed of oranges

one dreamed of Carthage

Two friends asleep

years locked in travel

Good night my darling

as the dreams waved goodbye

one travelled lightly

one walked through water

visiting a chess game

visiting a booth

always returning

to wait out the day

One carried matches

one climbed a beehive

one sold an earphone

one shot a German

Two went to sleep

every sleep went together

wandering away

from an operating table

one dreamed of grass

one dreamed of spokes

one bargained nicely

one was a snowman

one counted medicine

one tasted pencils

one was a child

one was a traitor

visiting heavy industry

visiting the family

Two went to sleep

none could foretell

one went with baskets

one took a ledger

one night happy

one night in terror

Love could not bind them

Fear could not either

they went unconnected

they never knew where

always returning

to wait out the day

parting with kissing

parting with yawns

visiting Death till

they wore out their welcome

visiting Death till

the right disguise worked

 

Leonard Cohen ~ 1964

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dsc04076-2Abend ~ Evening

Slowly the evening draws on its robe
held out to it by a row of ancient trees;
you gaze: and the landscape splits in two,
one part lifting skywards, while one falls;

leaving you not at home in either one,
not so silent as the darkened houses,
nor calling to eternity with the passion
of what becomes a star each night, and rises;

leaving you (without words) to unravel
your anxious, immense, fast-ripening life,
so that, now elusive, and now grasped,
it becomes in you, in turn, both stone and star.

Rainer Maria Rilke, circa 1910

 

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nasturtium, and bee september 2015 hill farm

BALMS

 

Hemmed in by the prim

deodorizing stare

of the rare-book room,

I stumbled over,

lodged under glass, a

revenant ‘Essay on Color’

by Mary Gartside, a woman

I’d never heard of, open

to a hand-rendered

watercolor illustration

wet-bright as the day

its unadulterated red-

and-yellow was laid on

(publication date 1818).

 

Garden nasturtium hues,

the text alongside

explained, had been

her guide. Sudden as

on hands and knees

I felt the smell of them

suffuse the catacomb

so much of us lives in-

horned, pungent, velvet-

eared succulence, a perfume

without hokum, the intimate

of trudging earthworms

and everyone’s last end’s

unnumbered, milling tenants.

 

Most olfactory experience

either rubs your nose

in it or tries to flatter

with a funeral home’s

approximation of such balms

as a theology of wax alone

can promise, and the bees

deliver. Mary Gartside

died, I couldn’t even

learn the year. Our one

encounter occurred by chance

where pure hue set loose

unearthly gusts of odor

from earthbound nasturtiums.

 

Amy Clampitt, 1980

nasturtium september 2015 hill farm

 

 

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANovember. Here it is, and well on its way, too.

I cannot remember another period of time in my life when I have been so abstracted, so unfocussed, so just not there mentally. Things are coming from too many directions. And my reading has been what you might expect: abstracted as well. Ah, well, this too shall pass.

It’s been a great year, all things considered. A nice balance of (mostly) work, and (too infrequent but most enjoyable) play. But the busy-ness shows no sign of abating any time soon. I’m not even looking forward to snow, because the outside projects are due to continue regardless. Our best friends are our big tarps, covering construction projects in between working bouts.

What have I been reading? Nothing too exciting, mostly re-reads. Mamma, by Diana Tutton of Guard Your Daughters fame. Lafcadio Hearn’s The Romance of the Milky Way, from 1905, “studies and stories” from Japan. A whole string of O. Douglas tales. Reginald Arkell’s Old Herbaceous. Most of Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons, until I misplaced it. Monica Dickens – Joy and Josephine (ho-hum) and The Angel in the Corner (better). Ethel Armitage, and a host of other vintage British garden writers, combining pleasure with work, as I plug away updating our plant nursery website’s pages, in preparation for the too-soon-coming nursery year, which gets underway mid-December with the slowest-to-sprout perennials being optimistically seeded and subjected to their various germination-triggering temperature requirements – long warm, long cool, warm-cool-warm, cold-cool, cold-warm, very hot…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So, instead of a book post, here’s a seasonal poem. And not the one you’re thinking it will be, from that misleading post title.

I’ve been worrying away at Rilke in the original German, keeping a volume of his collected works on my bedside table and wishing I had the self-discipline to actually study the language in an organized manner. Maybe next year!

In a slightly uneven English translation, here is one of my favourites, especially that third stanza. November, indeed.

Autumn Day

Lord, it is time. Let the great summer go,
Cast your long shadow on the sundial,
And over harvest fields let the winds blow.

Command to ripen the final fruits;
Grant them two more burning days,
Bring them to fullness, and press
A last sweetness into the heavy wine.

Who has no house, will not build now.
Who now is alone, will remain alone,
Will wake, read, write long letters,
And will the alleys up and down
Walk restlessly, in wind-blown fallen leaves.

Rainer Maria Rilke, circa 1902

 

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A friend has shared this poem with me, and I now share it with all of you.

Happy New Year!

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To the New Year

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

W.S. Merwin ~ 2005

 

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At last the Solstice!

Balanced on the turning point of winter, we celebrate the darkness and welcome the thought of the coming of the light…

ice stars winter 2014

WINTER HEAVENS

Sharp is the night, but stars with frost alive
Leap off the rim of earth across the dome.
It is a night to make the heavens our home
More than the nest whereto apace we strive.
Lengths down our road each fir-tree seems a hive,
In swarms outrushing from the golden comb.
They waken waves of thoughts that burst to foam:
The living throb in me, the dead revive.
Yon mantle clothes us: there, past mortal breath,
Life glistens on the river of the death.
It folds us, flesh and dust; and have we knelt,
Or never knelt, or eyed as kine the springs
Of radiance, the radiance enrings:
And this is the soul’s haven to have felt.

George Meredith, 1888

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mercy pity peace and love jon rumer goddenMercy, Pity, Peace and Love: Stories by Rumer and Jon Godden ~ 1989. This edition: Quill, William Morrow, 1989. Paperback. ISBN: 0-688-10965-9. 160 pages. Also published as Indian Dust in the U.K., Macmillan, 1989, with identical format and content.

My rating: I have somewhat mixed feelings about this collection of stories mostly by Rumer, because so many are already included in her 1957 collection, Mooltiki, and reading Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love felt very much like déjà vu all over again. But then I got to the very few (four out of fifteen) stories by Rumer’s sister Jon, and those were good enough to still my pangs of annoyance. To be fair, all of these short stories are actually very good, and if you haven’t read the rather obscure Mooltiki, you will be coming to them with fresh and appreciative eyes.

I think in this case I will award the collection as a whole a most respectable 8/10. (Along with the recycled stories, the two also-repeated poems made me knock it back a half point; Rumer Godden was a much more accomplished prose writer; her poems are just “not quite” for me; something just a bit jarring with the phrasing, I think.)

The intent of the collection is to celebrate the India that the Godden sisters knew and loved; they spent most of their childhood years in India, and significant amounts of their adult lives there as well. Rumer and Jon also collaborated on a beautifully written joint childhood memoir, Two Under the Indian Sun, which I read with pleasure some years ago.

Reader Alert! This is the same book as Indian Dust. Both were published in 1989, but Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love is the American title, from Macmillan, with Indian Dust the British title, from Macmillan. I had recently ordered Indian Dust, thinking it was another collection of stories, and was greatly disappointed to find it was identical to the one I already owned, under the Mercy, Pity title.

  • Bengal River by Rumer Godden – a poem – from Mooltiki. First stanza is the best.
Nothing can mollify the sky,
the river knows
only its weight and solitude, and heat, sun-tempered cold,
and emptiness and birds; a boat; trees; fine white sand,
and deltas of cool mud; porpoises; crocodiles;
and rafts of floating hyacinth; pools and water-whirls
and, nurtured in blue mussel shells, the sunset river pearls…
                                                                                                            … … …
  • Possession – by Rumer Godden – from Mooltiki.

The rice field lay farthest from the village, nearest the road. On all sides the plain unrolled in the sun with a pattern of white clouds, white pampas grass in autumn and white paddy birds, and glimpses of sky-reflecting water from the jheels or shallow pools. The sky met the horizon evenly all the way round in the flatness of the plain, an immense weight of sky above the little field, but the old peasant Dhandu did not look at the sky, he looked at his field; he did not know that it was little; to him it was the whole world. He would take his small son Narayan by the wrist and walk with him and say, ‘This field belonged to my grandfather and your great-grandfather; to my father and your grandfather; it is mine, it will be yours.’

But life-plans may go horribly awry; Dhandu’s does not follow its anticipated path; in an ironic ending, which I somehow found reminiscent of W.W. Jacob’s The Monkey’s Paw, the field stays with Dhandu but is forever lost to his son.

  • Rahmin – by Rumer Godden – new to this collection.

An anecdote concerning a series of encounters with a minor craftsman, who proves to be representative of a vast class of Indian society balanced on the knife edge of survival.

  • Monkey – by Jon Godden

Another anecdote, this time by Jon, telling of an encounter with a neighbour’s pet monkey, and the chain of events set off by its biting the author. Fascinating glimpse into the pet-owning culture of upper middle class Calcutta, where Jon was part of a mixed Anglo and Indian community.

  • Sister Malone and the Obstinate Manby Rumer Godden – from Mooltiki.

Sister Malone, the nun in charge of a charity hospital in Calcutta, is unshaken by the horrible sufferings all around her and does great good with her nursing abilities, but her continual effort to share her religious faith with those she heals goes unheeded. One day Sister Malone meets a man who has truly put all of his trust in God, but she cannot reconcile this with her own conception of what faith should be.

  • The Grey Budgerigar – by Jon Godden

Heart-rending short description of a valiant pet bird and its sad fate.

  • Children of Aloysius – by Rumer Godden – new to this collection.

A modest seamstress is offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make her fortune.

  • The Oyster – by Rumer Godden – from Mooltiki.

A Bhramini Hindu student, who has travelled abroad to study in England, visits Paris with a friend and is forced to examine the role of compromise in the formation of his own developing character.

  • Kashmiri Winter – by Rumer Godden – a poem – from Mooltiki.
Big Sister, Hungry Sister and the Greedy Dwarf of Ice,
these are forty days of winter, then twenty and then ten…

   … … …

  • The Wild Duck – by Rumer Godden – from Mooltiki.

A young Kashmiri hunter, longing for winter to be over, thinks of his time the previous year among the high mountains hunting ibex.

  • The Carpet – by Jon Godden

The long process of acquiring – or rather, being led into buying by a master salesman – a beautiful Persian carpet. Beautifully observed; gently humorous.

  • Red Doe – by Rumer Godden – from Mooltiki.

A vignette of a young nomad riding up the mountain to fetch his unseen new wife. Sensitive and poignant.

  • The Little Black Ram – by Rumer Godden – from Mooltiki.

An orphan boy,

… a young thief, a bully, noisy, quarrelsome and turbulent, against everyone with everyone against him…

finds his place in the world through his care of a black ram lamb.

  • Miss Passano – by Jon Godden

Miss Passano is disgusted by her fellow humans, and meditates upon a world without them, where only she would remain, in service to the animals she so greatly loves.

  • Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love – by Rumer Godden – new to this collection

Ganesh Dey attempts to write on these concepts – Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love – for his doctoral thesis. A gently ironical and emotionally powerful story, possibly the best of the collection in its summation of the contradictions of human nature and how we actually treat each other versus how we view our relationships and interactions.

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