Tuesday, October 30, 2012

We Fun-Runners

We Fun-Runners 1
Were we excited!
Easter egg anticipation
a brisk Canberra in early morning chatter  
bodies primed with no loose matter
waiting for execution
Were we excited!
Did we run!
swallowing the track with each disappearing second
striding passed our compatriots with a contemptible smile
to shatter the line in champion style
achieving PBs far more than we reckoned
Did we run!
Did we celebrate!
hugging and jumping and fooling around
tears,  laughter – ‘more bubbles please!’
fine food and drink sank down to our knees
then that slow- low morning-after moan
Did we celebrate! - yes we did!
Richard Scutter 15 October 2012

1 ... Based on using the same poetry scheme as Thomas Hardy in his poem We Field-Women ( line 1=line 6 then abba with an extension in the last line of the final stanza). 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sylvia Plath and Balloons - Analysis

Today is an appropriate day to remember Sylvia Plath. This one line from SP is a personal favourite – Love set you going like a fat gold watch – written in relation to the her first born Frieda (currently the only member of the immediate family still alive) … love, birth, life … all inextricably linked … love set SP going 80 years ago today … applying her words on her birthday.

SP lived in a cloud of mental instability … a question - is the love that actually set SP going related to any spiritual dimension … is that love alive and of influence … and was there such a thing as providence in her life?  Where providence equals the wisdom, care, and guidance believed to be provided by God.

As well as poems SP wrote short some stories and ‘The Bell Jar’.

Consider the title short story from ‘Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams’ … dealing with that primal emotion fear … from the last lines of this story … 

At the moment when I think I am most lost the face of Jonny Panic appears in a nimbus of arc lights on the ceiling overhead. I am shaken like a leaf in the teeth of glory. His beard is lightning. Lightning is in his eye. His Word charges and illuminates the universe.

The air crackles with his blue-tongued lightning-haloed angels. His love is the twenty-storey leap, the rope at the throat, the knife at the heart.

He forgets not his own.

Note that ‘Word’ starts with a capital and the reverse order of the words ‘forget not’… they give importance and have a religious association … perhaps Johnny Panic takes on the face of God and providence? 

It is ‘mental health week’ in Australia … mental illness is a serious concern and more prevalent than widely realised … if you reach that point in depression … that moment when you are most lost I hope you will find a certain light in the darkness from that love that set you first going and is eternal whether seen or unseen.

To end on a positive … here is SP’s poem Balloons … balloons are always associated with happiness, birthdays, and festive occasions … it was one of her last poems written in the month she died. I have included my comments …


Since Christmas they have lived with us,
Guileless and clear,
Oval soul-animals,
Taking up half the space,
Moving and rubbing on the silk

I like the choice of words – Guileless – without deceit, soul-animals … if they are to be animals because of their positive association then they are indeed soul-animals … more to women than men or am I being sexist. The fact that Christmas balloons are hanging around in February (if you forgive the pun) is interesting … Ted Hughes does say that SP is good at contemplating objects but not re-organising.

Invisible air drifts,
Giving a shriek and pop
When attacked, then scooting to rest, barely trembling.
Yellow cathead, blue fish ----
Such queer moons we live with

Instead of dead furniture!
Straw mats, white walls

When balloons move around they do contain invisible air … an emphasis on an unusual aspect. When attacked and popped they do scoot to rest with a little tremble leaving some interesting shapes perhaps ... cathead and fish in shrivelled rubber … and in definite colour

Moons come and go and just as the balloons have probably been drifting around her flat. She finds them more interesting because of their movement … and the colours in contrast to her drab furniture.

And these traveling
Globes of thin air, red, green,

The heart like wishes or free
Peacocks blessing
Old ground with a feather
Beaten in starry metals.

As well as moons they are of course globes of thin air in that they are quite fragile … and they do give soul food to the viewer like the forerunner for something nice … just as a wish or finding a peacock’s feather … ‘starry metals’ … the contrast between the much trodden metallic ground with the feather a symbolic star

Your small

Brother is making
His balloon squeak like a cat.
Seeming to see
A funny pink world he might eat on the other side of it,
He bites,

Then sits
Back, fat jug
Contemplating a world clear as water.
A red
Shred in his little fist.

Sylvia Plath  Feburary 1963

SP is talking to Freida regarding her brother Nicholas. Nicholas is only interested in testing everything with his mouth … what he can see and understand of the balloon is unknown … but enough to command his attention … note the ‘seemingly’ world seen through the balloon. He is described as a fat jug … babies tend to have a certain fat look and a jug is a receptacle for milk … it is also inanimate object – perhaps in relation to him and the life around him. He certainly doesn’t understand the ‘world of the balloon’ … the clear comparison with water fits nicely with the jug image … and then finally he is left with the remains of the balloon in his hand … it is just a shred – no image of cathead or fish … it is just a shred with no understanding of how this has happened.

In bi-polar terms we could equate the balloon = a ‘high’ …the burst balloon = a ‘low’ … the transformation form one state to another as with the baby a complete mystery.

Today let such thoughts float into the unknown and just look at these guileless balloons as a description of simple family play.

Love set you going like a fat gold watch - now in OBE territory
Previous Birthday Post

... and here is an excellent link to an on-going SP Website for those interested in SP … http://sylviaplathinfo.blogspot.com.au/

... also this celebration site

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Rosemary Dobson - Poetry Continues

Rosemary Dobson died on 27 June this year at the age of 92. She was a well -respected Canberra poet who had known another well-known Canberra poet David Campbell. They had worked together on poetry and when David Campbell died as a tribute she wrote twelve poems entitled ‘The Continuance of Poetry’. They are short pieces that reflect their shared times and an interest in Chinese poetry.

In relation to this and the ‘continuance of poetry’ Radio National broadcast a commentary on this work and here is a link to the audio from this session …

Below are two of the poems from this sequence …

7… Translations Under the Trees
Wine to drink at a plank table,
Poems blowing about,
Some we stalk like Li Po and the moon in the stream,
Some we put under the carafe.

Pollen brushed from the table
Flies off to make forests
In faraway countries;                                                                         
May change a landscape.

Poems blow away like pollen,
Find distant destinations,
Can seed new songs
In another language.

Note … poems have a life and like the above interest in the Chinese work of Li Po poems can spread to distant shores (the translation effects the birth of this new life, hopefully the seeds land on fertile ground).

8… At The Coast
The high wind has stripped the bark from the gum-trees,
Smooth-boled they follow each other down to the water.
From rented houses the daughters of professors
Emerge smooth-limbed in this light summer season.
They step from behind the trees at the edge of the water
As smooth as ochre and as cool as lemon.
And which are girls and which are smooth-limbed saplings?
The light is trembling on them from the water.
They glow and flicker in and out of shadow
Like poetry behind the print on pages.
Note … David Campbell’s poems drew strength from a landscape association … looking into the landscape we find his poems (from Rosemary’s final poem in the sequence) … in the above there is direct personification, person and nature inseparable, … I’m sure Thomas Hardy would identify with such sentiment.
Poetry continues … continues to flow … the past will always complete the present in some form or other and I am sure Rosemary’s work will continue through the years in many unseen ways.
The Wikipedia link to Rosemary Dobson … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosemary_Dobson

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Chinese Sayings - Intro

China is known for its wise sayings/proverbs passed down the centuries …

It can’t be over-stressed that at the time they were written they had to create words that were memorable and catchy to facilitate dissemination given that word of mouth (excuse the pun) was the only way to communicate … hence the importance of the actual words and their association, plus linking to rhyme and song to aid memory.

Most Chinese proverbs are based on historical events and the greatest number originates from that rich period of history, the third century BC, when the first Emperor of China reigned. He was the sovereign who united China, built the Great Wall, and created the magnificent tombs with the army of terracotta warriors.

An example … Govern the country like you would cook a small fish.

My (an) interpretation … Fish = Wealth … treat the country as though you have little and therefore respect every element that you have … not wasting any part … therefore treat (cook) gently and caringly … and in your own house with the best of your kitchen … adding your own ingredients to enhance flavour (government).

Recommended reading for those interested in history connected to words is … A Thousand Pieces of Gold … this is a memoir of China’s past through its proverbs by Adeline yen Mah … it was due to this book that Philip Larkin met Adeline. Larkin described Chinese proverbs as ‘white dwarfs of literature’ … white dwarfs = tiny stars whose atoms are packed so closely together that their weight is immense compared to their size … proverbs being densely compacted with thoughts and ideas. To discover meaning meditation or mulling on the words is often necessary. Another very important factor is the translation (translator).

Some proverbs to consider …

One written word is worth a thousand pieces of gold
Clapping with one hand produces no sound
Binding your feet to prevent your own progress
When a tree falls the monkeys scatter

Here is a link to Chinese Proverbs from Wikiquote ... http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Chinese_proverbs

Footnote … Adeline also states that the equivalent to Shakespeare in China is Sima-Qian (145 – 90BC) a chinese historian who lived during the Han dynasty. He wrote only one book Shiji (Historical Record) published after his death and a bestseller since … perhaps the greatest Chinese book ever written.

Another Wikipedia Link ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sima_Qian

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Unspoken - Edwin Morgan

When the troopship was pitching round the Cape
in '41, and there was a lull in the night uproar of
    seas and winds, and a sudden full moon
swung huge out of the darkness like the world it is,
and we all crowded into the wet deck, leaning on
    the rail, our arms on each other's shoulders,
    gazing at the savage outcrop of great Africa.
and Tommy Cosh started singing 'Mandalay' and
    we joined in with our raucous chorus of the
    unforgettable song,
and the dawn came up like thunder like that
    moon drawing the water of our yearning
though we were going to war, and left us exalted,
that was happiness,
but it is not like that.

When the television newscaster said
the second sputnik was up, not empty,
but with a small dog on board,
a half-ton treasury of life orbiting a thousand
    miles above the thin television masts and mists
    of November,
in clear space, heard, observed,
the faint far heartbeat sending back its message
steady and delicate,
and I was stirred by a deep confusion of feelings,
got up, stood with my back to the wall and my
    palms pressed hard against it, my arms held
as if I could spring from the earth ---
not loath myself to go out that very day where
    Laika had shown man, felt
my cheeks burning with old Promethean warmth
rekindled --- ready ---
covered my face with my hands, seeing only an
strapped in a doomed capsule, but the future
    was still there, cool and whole like the moon,
waiting to be taken, smiling even
as the dog's bones and the elaborate casket of
glow white and fuse in the arc of re-entry
and I knew what I felt was history,
its thrilling brilliance came down,
came down,
comes down on us all, bringing pride and pity,
but it is not like that.

But Glasgow days and grey weathers, when the
beat on the bus shelter and you leaned slightly
    against me, and the back of your hand touched
    my hand in the shadows, and nothing was
when your hair grazed mine accidentally as we
    talked in a cafe, yet not quite accidentally,
when I stole a glance at your face as we stood in a
    doorway and found I was afraid
of what might happen if I should never see it again,
when we met, and met, in spite of such differences
    in our lives,
and did the common things that in our feeling
became extraordinary, so that our first kiss
was like the winter morning moon, and as you
    shifted in my arms
it was the sea changing the shingle that changes
as if for ever (but we are bound by nothing, but
    like smoke
to mist or light in water we move, and mix) ---
O then it was a story as old as war or man
and although we have not said it we know it,
and although we have not claimed it we do it,
and although we have not vowed it we keep it,
without a name to the end

Edwin Morgan (1920 - 2010)

This poem reflects back on three distinct events in the life of the poet. Three highlights and each event with high emotional content and clearly memorable - to the extent that words cannot be spoken in any description - and hence the title is clear ... words always fail in trying to communicate to another.

The question is how much of an essence is conveyed ... and that, of course, depends on the reader as much as the words themselves.

The three stanzas could easily be three separate poems in their own right. They conjure up very different images. It is hard for the reader to switch thought between each recollection – at least it was for me when I first read this poem.

There are number links across the stanzas … the prime one being the depth of feeling … but the moon occurs in each stanza …

The moon is considered to rule the senses and emotions. It is an archetype for the fickle and changeable. Furthermore, the moon's phases are often connected with female attributes. The phases feature references to the Maiden, the Mother, the Matron, and the Crone … this paragraph taken from Wikipedia.

… each stanza represents an unearthly experience … the moon has mystery, another world … unknown … just as these personal experiences will always remain unknown … how can we really describe/share those very personal happenings in our life!

… the troopship rounding the Cape in moonlight happened when Edwin was only 21 … so despite going to war the adventure of seeing Africa from the ship was paramount … the war had yet to make a personal impact … what an apt world to choose to define Africa (=savage) ... a double meaning in the context of the journey to war … note that the last line of the stanza underlines the title … a discount to all that he has said

… the second stanza is later in Edwin’s life … that contrast between the fate of Laika and the precursor to the future of manned space travel … what an achievement for man, for Laika … the falling back of the debris is mirrored to the concept of history coming down … again the last line negates the text … today we take manned space travel for granted … fortunately no Laika is needed to test procedures … (Promethean = boldly creative) ... the moon ready to be taken - and in a sense this has happened

… the last stanza … the first kiss equated to winter morning moon … the sea changing shingle – never to be the same again … but the last five lines are a change from the first two stanzas (it is not like that) … now we have the affirmative … We Know It without being said … We Do It without the need for statement … We Keep It without vow … it is as though there is something deep inherent in us (unspoken) … as old as man … and really when it comes down to it is the very core of our being … the touch of love

… and of course there is unspoken commonality that can be shared without the need for words

Edwin Morgan - Scotland's greatest poet? ... here is a website link ...