Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Books, Books, Books

As usual I'm reading my way through a variety of books at once. I've taken a break from Les Miserables after finishing the first volume but I'll be starting volume two pretty soon.

I've been mulling over Douglas Dunn's Selected book of poetry and thoroughly enjoying it. I don't know why I've not paid much, or even any, attention to his writing until now. There is a series of poems in the Selected from Dunn's Elegies collection written about his first wife who died of cancer at the age of thirty-seven. I literally wept while reading these which is a first for me. Here's a section from one of the poems, it's called 'Sandra's Mobile':

So Sandra brought her this and taped it up -
Three seagulls from a white and indoor sky -
A gift of old artistic comradeship.
'Blow on them, Love'. Those silent birds winged round
On thermals of my breath. On her last night,
Trying to stay awake, I saw love crowned
In tears and wooden birds and candlelight.
She did not wake again. To prove our love
Each gull, each gull, each gull, turned into dove.

I've been thinking a lot over this last year about the style poetry I've kind of fallen into writing. It is without a doubt that nature, by and large, is my key inspiration for writing a poem and the clothing I use for writing about other things. It's good to know this, this time last year I had no idea.

I've also discovered that I'm drawn to the themes and style of writing related to Romanticism with a Gothic tinge which helps me understand why I'm such a fan of Plath's poetry and yet no where near as fond of the other Confessionals.
This has brought me to the writings of Carl Jung whose work on psychological archetypes was influenced by some of the ideas and motifs found in the works of German Romanticism. I see that this is going to lead me onto reading Thomas Mann, Poe and Nietzsche and who knows where I'll end up after that!


anhaga said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anhaga said...

Oddly enough, I've read Dunn's Elegies, though nothing else of his. The lines you quote are lovely. So much mourning compressed into the last line's repetitions.

Approach German things with caution. Their dark gravity makes it hard to pull away. I so wish I had studied German back when I might have gotten it, but it really seems beyond me now.

When one is bright and young's
The time to study tongues.
My mind is growing late,
Now I'm an old mutterer.
I hardly keep my English straight.
I try to sprechen but only splutter... er....

I have a strange relationship with Thomas Mann. Death in Venice and "Disorder and Early Sorrow" are essential works that I go back to, but I don't think I've read anything else. I bought a copy of The Magic Mountain years ago, an 800-page slab of a thing that bows its shelf and beckons when it sees me coming, then smiles, smugly undisappointed, when I have passed by, because it knows I will give in someday.

Sorlil said...

yes, the repetition in the last line is quite emotionally brutal isn't it. I've had my head stuck in Jung all day - verrrry interesting and quite bizarre!

I did a bit of German at school and quite enjoyed it though really I would love to learn Hebrew and have been trying but beginning to think it's getting beyond me also!

I read Death in Venice years ago but can't really remember much about it. I love the rhyme btw, made me laugh! 'splutter...er...' lol!

Dave King said...

Phew! A lot of meat to chew on there! Douglas Dunn's Collected is one of the three books I woudn't be without. Very often I have to debate with myself which to read from this evening. The other two areW.S. Graham's and Wallace Stevens.

I do think the the Dunn Elegies are heart-breakingly beautiful. The first poem of his that I ever read, though, was Loch Music. Then St Kilda's Parliament. Then the first one in The Selected, The Patricians. I go back to those three very frequently.

And Jung for me is the most enlightening of the classical psychoanalysts.

An interesting post, with alot to follow-up.

Roxana said...

'Approach German things with caution' - oh james (hi :-) that made me so laugh :-)
I remember Wordsworth was very keen on learning German, started off on a highly enthusiastic note and after three weeks he gave up exclaiming that it was an impossible language :-)

I agree, Sorlil, Jung is fascinating but also very hazy, you have to be cautious!

and I had noticed the romantic sensitivity in your poems, which can be a dangerous thing nowadays, I believe, but you manage to avoid the worn-out images and this is not always easy to do.

Sorlil said...

hi dave, Dunn is a new discovery for me and I agree the Elegies really are beautiful. The selected I have is from the library but I'm definitely planning on getting my own copy.

hi roxana, the 'approach German things with caution' made me smile also! The funny thing is that I never intended to write this kind of poetry, in fact I was pretty ignorant of the different theoretical movements and had to do a lot of reading up to find out the theory behind my preferences.

Anonymous said...

Hello. I have discovered your very interesting blog via Rachel Fox's place. I'm enjoying what I have read so far. I just want to say something about Douglas Dunn. He is surely a highly underrated poet, not nearly praised or read as much as he should be. I started reading him in the early 80s on the recommendation of one of my English lecturers and, for once, he was right. 'Elegies' is so incredibly powerful and utterly sad. At times, it's very hard to read but is so beautiful. Thank you for reminding me to get his 'Selected' out again and I'll have to root around the house to locate my very old copy of 'Elegies'. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

Sorlil said...

hi singing bear, thanks for dropping in! I agree, I think he's very underrated, so much so that I hadn't bothered to read him until now!