Tonight I finally got around to finishing Les Miserables. I feel like I've lived a dozen lives through the reading of its 1000+ pages. At the heart of the book is probably the most beautifully written love story I have ever read - at times extremely sentimental and well over the top but always very beautiful.
Anyone who's interested in landscape in art and literature should check out this goldmine of a blog I recently came across - Some Landscapes - be warned, you may be lost in the archives for some time!
Some brief thoughts on Andraste's Hair -
A while back I picked up a copy of Eleanor Rees' first full-length poetry collection Andraste's Hair.
The blurb on the sleeve says -
"The poems in Andraste's Hair draw on myth, memory, folksong, and murder ballad. Often set in a mythical Liverpool, a city of metamorphosis and magic, grotesque and beautiful".
To me, these poems are irresistable. The landscapes of the poems become, largely, the vehicle for the emotion of the poems (something I try to do in my own writing). In most of these poems the emotion is a kind of terror to greater and lesser degrees.
The first poem in the book, Night Vision, exhibits some factors consistently found in the majority, if not all, of the poems in the book.
There is a focus on landscape -
"An open moon; burr of grass.
Last reaches of the spilt day
ending, the last
quiet pitch heard
in deep woods. Wet sod of dirt"
The language here is fairly traditional for a nature poem but further into the poem it begins to break down into something rather more sinister and nightmarish in its imagery and language -
"A cold touch in a bleeding house.
An open door. Sores.
And I dream you are the rising sun:
where are your bones, baby? Where are your bones?"
There is a sense of invocation in the reading of the poem; attention is paid to assonance, alliteration, repetition and internal rhyming.
These are extremely visual poems jumping, within the same poem (Roadworks), between the nightmarishly hallucinatory:
"the street opens up to tumble
me into an underground
of corpses and snowdrift
and horses with gold faces"
and the rather beautiful image of -
"My city is wearing costume jewellery tonight -
glittering and unreal."
The book's title poem can be read here on Rees' website.
My only criticisms would be:
(1) A large number of the poems are written sprawling down the page as opposed to in stanzas which means I can barely stop myself from racing through the reading of the book.
(2) The sinister element, particularly of the landscape, is present in the majority of the poems which do make them start to feel a bit samey on a superficial level.
These criticisms are nothing compared to my enjoyment of the poems. I think I would like to see a larger collection of her poems where the ones in this book are interspersed with poems of a wider variety of themes.