Tuesday, February 28, 2012

So we may be moving house.

We made our verbal offer last night and hopefully should hear back today whether or not it's been accepted. Exciting times! We've lived in our current wee house for nearly fifteen years and while it suited us fine as a childless couple it's become a nightmare (space-wise) with two kids, not to mention our huge beast of a dog. Our  new house (hopefully) is going to be amazing, not least because I'll have my very own writing table with a glimpse of a view across the Clyde and therefore no excuses not to be writing!

The house we're going for is just over the other side of town, and, interesting, is on the same street as a house that used to be Robert Louis Stevenson's holiday home which, by the way, is also up for sale but out of our price range! 

The next couple of months are going to be pretty busy but I'm still going to StAnza next month, and a night of celebration and poetry in Dunblane in April for Poetry Scotland's 140th birthday bash (Colin and Sally's joint 70th birthdays!).

Monday, February 13, 2012

From 'Keep Reading'

"Waiting in the boat of your bed
To hear me reach what was so close by,
Where you led me to, having read my heart.

"Keep reading", you said, without saying why."
Phillis Levin

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I've finished Michael Hamburger's 'The Truth of Poetry'. Here are some quotes from the second-half of the book.
"In art the man is silent and the image speaks" Pasternak
"The duende wounds and the tendency of that wound, which never closes, distinguishes the creative man" Lorca 
"A poetic image is always a transference of meaning" Lorca
"Two conditions are neccesary to give life to an image: form and range of development: a cerebral nucleus and the perspective around it" Lorca
"Most 'ordinary people' turn to poetry not for bread, but for cream cakes, if they turn to it at all" Michael Hamburger
"People often repeat that English poetry 'begins with a flea and ends with God'. To that I reply that French poetry reverses the process, beginning with God, when it can, to end with love of no matter what" Bonnefoy
"the poem posits a special relation between the art of poetry and the phenomena of nature" Michael Hamburger
"one of the great criticisms of poets of the past is that they said one thing and did another - a false relation between art and life. I always try to avoid this" Larkin
"I believe that poetry is one means of discourse which takes one not into dream, not into clouds but into realities beyond normally observable realities" Christopher Middleton
"In that respect 'modern poetry' is no different from poetry of any other period, though the two poles have moved farther apart since Heinrich Heine's lines about the unending battle between 'truth' and 'beauty', 'barbarians' and 'Hellenes', a battle fought out not only between opposing schools of poets and critics, but within every poet who matters, from poem to poem, and from line to line." Michael Hamburger
"any successful description in lyrical poetry presupposes a measure of self-identification with the thing described, all Roethke's plant and greenhouse poems tell us something about human nature." Michael Hamburger 
"modern poetry proves conclusively that our kinship with organic nature can only be repressed, never eradicated. The more it is repressed, the greater its threat to the civilisation that represses it." Michael Hamburger
"the poet is not concerned with art but with reality . The poet is human but he is also something more that human - he has cosmic affinities... Poetry is affirmation of reality, no more, no less" Kenneth White
"The poet's material has always been nature - human or otherwise - all objects and aspects of our outer environment as well as the 'climate of the soul' and the 'theatre of the emotions'  May Swenson
"bad or mediocre poets have long tended to have a larger public than good ones"  Michael Hamburger
"If a true poet could predict what poetry he will be writing next year, or in the next decade, there would be no need for him to write it. In that sense every poem is experimental, or not worth writing" Michael Hamburger
The neccessary interrelationship of beauty and truth in poetry remains tantalizingly paradoxical, if not mysterious; for the 'literalists of the imagination' have been brought up against the knowledge that the peculiar truth of poetry may have to be rendered by fictions, or by what, literally, amounts to lies: and absolutists of the imagination have been brought up against the knowledge that 'it must be human'. The paradox alone remains constant and perennial" Michael Hamburger

Friday, February 10, 2012

Untitled short poem
first draft

the snow hill rises    
(poem removed)
A short untitled poem -

broken bones    
(poem removed)
New version of an old poem.
First draft

(poem removed)

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Here are some more quotes that particularly struck me from Michael Hamburger's fantastic book.

"Has literature a function in the state...? It has... It has to do with the clarity and vigour of 'any and every' thought and opinion...When this work goes rotten - by that I do not mean when they express indecorous thoughts - but when the very medium, the very essence of their work, the application of word to thing goes rotten, i.e. becomes slushy and inexact, or excessive or bloated, the whole machinery of social and individual thought and order goes to pot."  Ezra Pound
"What characterizes a poem is its neccesary dependence on words as much as its struggle to transcend them" Octavio Paz
"In asserting their belief in 'art for art's sake' many writers have failed to distinguish between their personal motive for writing and the function for all literature" Michael Hamburger
"The 'self' written about becomes no more than a multiplicity of alternatives, possibilities and potentialities" Michael Hamburger
"If each man were not able to live a number of other lives beside his own, he would not be able to live his own life" Valery
"There is no theory that is not a fragment, carefully prepared, of some autobiography" Valery
"If I wrote of personal love or sorrow in free verse, or in any rhythm that left it unchanged, amid all its accidence, I would be full of self-contempt because of my egotism and indiscretion, and forsee the boredom of my reader...I commit my emotion to shepherds, herdsmen, camel-drivers, learned men, Milton or Shelley's Platonist, that tower Palmer drew." Yeats
"I was soon to write many poems where an always personal emotion was woven into a jewelled pattern of myth and symbol" Yeats
"The first person in a lyrical poem should never be identified, in any case, with the poet's empirical self. Whether primarily confessional or primarily dramatic, the first person in lyrical poetry serves to convey a gesture, not to document identity or establish biographical facts" Michael Hamburger
"Poetry...is a perpetual two-way traffic between experience and imagination. Poets like himself, Stevens [Wallace] said repeatedly, are 'thinkers without final thoughts'" Michael Hamburger
"It is up to the reader of poetry not to approach it with expectations and demands which it cannot, by its nature, fulfil." Michael Hamburger
"Steven's mysticism, like Rilke's, begins with the visible world" Michael Hamburger
"Poetry has no other end in itself" Baudelaire
"Poetry has no other theme than the poet himself" Gottfried Benn
"It is the feeling of the empirical self which poetry enlarges, complements or even replaces with fictitious ones, but only because the empirical self is not the whole self, cramped as it is in its shell of convention, habit and circumstance. Pessoa's disguises did not impair his truthfulness because he used them not to hoodwink others, but to explore reality and establish the full identity of his multiple, potential selves" Michael Hamburger

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Finally, a week of dry weather after nearly two months of endless rainfall. Here on the west coast we have one of the highest rainfalls in Europe and this last while has been so miserable that I've been seriously thinking on moving eastwards. It's not a coincidence that I haven't written a poem for two months either! Poems, for me, grow out of nature observation and it's hard to observe anything with the head down pushing the pram into the rain. However, it can only get better...

I've started reading Michael Hamburger's The Truth of Poetry: Tensions in Modern Poetry from Baudelaire to the 1960's. It's such a good read, stimulating, thoughtful, analytical, and well-needed to save me from sinking into Peppa Pig oblivion! It's not one to skim-read though I'm greedy to get to the end of it and have all the knowledge that's in it. The first couple of chapters are forcing me back to the 19th century French poets though, annoyingly, my fat Oxford World Classics book, Six French Poets of the Nineteenth Century, features neither  Laforgue or Corbiere, both of whom he discusses at length.

Here's an excerpt from the end of chapter two:
"Modern poetry, according to [Octavio] Paz, moves between two poles, which he calls the magical and the revolutionary. The magical consists in a desire to return to nature by dissolving the self-consciousness that separates us from it, 'to lose oneself forever in animal innocence, or liberate oneself from history'. The revolutionary aspiration, on the other hand, demands a 'conquest of the historical world and of nature'. Both are ways of bridging the same gap and reconciling the 'alienated consciousness' to the world outside. Yet both tendences may be at work within the same poet , and even within the same poem, just as a poet may combine the function of priest and fool, hater and lover of words".
The start of chapter three looks at the identity of the poet (or the lack of), and alienation of self as explored through Corbiere's (confessional) poems: "[S]elf-confession, however truthful, cannot escape from the unreality that is its subject matter. The 'self' written about becomes no more than a multiplicity of alternatives, possibilites and potentialities".

So lots to chew on. I love this quote from Corbiere: "Yes, it's me all right - I'm there - but like an erasure".  Also this paradox: "Waiting for life to start he died / And lived awaiting death".
I must get me a Corbiere collection!