Sunday 1 August 2010

Some Poetry

I have been dipping in and out of several books over the last couple of weeks so thought I would post something to whet your appetite.

The first is 'Voice-over" by Norman MacCaig. I could not find a cover image, nor take one as the camera has died, so I found instead this wonderful painting from the National Galleries of Scotland website by Alexander Moffat showing a group of well loved Scottish poets and writers (MacCaig is the man on the left). Now I have been fond of him since discovering the poem 'Aunt Julia' and I have enjoyed this collection. His themes are very straightforward, often observing nature, at it's wildest, with frequent reference specifically to Scotland, it's mountains, rivers and coast, and the people who live there. He seems to appreciate both the hardness and the simplicity of the lives they lead. In 'A room and a woman in it' we have, "And the old woman, lonely and sad, / sits wrapped in a shawl of memories", and in 'Crofter', "Last thing at night / he steps outside to breathe / the smell of winter." and 'Country cameo' "Talking (like crows) of crows / three old men by a wall / in interesting attitudes." I loved one called 'Slow evening' where he describes beautifully watching the night fall: "Night is long in coming. It's softest feet / pause at the horizon. Starts wait / for the light to go out, to perform / their brilliant rituals on their dark stage." They are all so perfectly composed, taking mostly quite simple ideas and encapsulating them in a few lines. In 'Small boy' he describes a child throwing pebbles into the sea, "He wasn't trying to fill the sea. / He wasn't trying to empty the beach. / He was just throwing away", but then brings you back to the essential human condition, "he was practicing for the future / when there'll be so many things / he'll want to throw away / if only his fingers will unclench / and let them go."

So many that I liked but I will leave you with this very short one, is what is wrong with human beings that we make life so so complicated:

Compare and contrast
The great thinker died
after forty years of poking about
with his little torch
in the dark forest of ideas,
in the bright glare of perception,
leaving a legacy of fourteen books
to the world
where a hen disappeared
into six acres of tall oats
and sauntered unerringly
to the nest with five eggs in it.

The other book is Lawrence Ferlinghetti's 'These Are My Rivers'. I gave you a brief taster of one poem a while ago, though it is unsatisfactory to try and reproduce his poems on the blog. As I have also found through this collection he frequently lays out the lines quite specifically and it does add something to the way you read it, creating pauses and emphasis in a certain way. This collection covers a huge swath of his career so as you might imagine the style and content is very varied, politics, history, popular culture, homage to other poets, and observational poems, many of which come across as very stream-of-consciousness, though who am I to judge, maybe each word is chosen with deliberate care. This book is going to take a long time to digest so I will just give you this one that caught my attention:

Two scavengers in a truck, two beautiful people in a Mercedes

At the stoplight waiting for the light
Nine a.m. downtown San Francisco
a bright yellow garbage truck
with two garbagemen in red plastic blazers
standing on the back stoop
one on each side hanging on
and looking down into
an elegant open Mercedes
with an elegant couple in it
The man
in a hip three-piece linen suit
with shoulder-length blond hair and sunglasses
The young blond woman so casually coifed
with a short skirt and colored stockings
on the way to his architect's office

And the two scavengers up since Four a.m.
grungy from their route
on the way home
The older of the two with grey iron hair
and hunched back
looking down like some
gargoyle Quasimodo
And the younger of the two
also with sunglasses and long hair
about the same age as the Mercedes driver

And both scavengers gazing down
as from a great distance
at the cool couple
as if they were watching some odorless TV ad
in which everything is always possible
And the very red light for an instant
holding all four close together
as if anything at all were possible
between them
across that small gulf
in the high seas
of this democracy

Finally Adrian Mitchell's 'Ride the Nightmare' published in 1971 at first glance seems to be the work of an 'angry young man', so we'll see where that goes in the next few weeks. I loved the inscription inside the front: "Note to examiners, children and students. None of the work in this or any other of my books or articles is to be used in connection with any examination whatsoever. This also applies to beauty contests." If you have a couple of minutes you can pop over here on Youtube and hear him reading 'To whom it may concern', wonderful piece of film.

1 comment:

Thanks for stopping by. Thoughts, opinions and suggestions (reading or otherwise) always most welcome.


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