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Ouroboros catch’em post

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — attempting to keep the self-eating serpents in one pen, so they don’t get tangled in your hair and eyes ]
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From Aneurism, a brilliant long-form essay by neurosurgeon Henry Marsh, from his book Do No Harm, and presented in Slightly More Than 100 Exceptional Works of Journalism:

Are the thoughts that I am thinking as I look at this solid lump of fatty protein covered in blood vessels really made out of the same stuff? And the answer always comes back–they are–and the thought itself is too crazy, too incomprehensible, and I get on with the operation.

From Political Tracts of Wordsworth, Coleridge and Shelley via PR Beckman:

The purpose of the historian, to Coleridge, is the same as that of the poet : to convert a series of events, which constitute the straight-line of real or imagined history, into a whole, so that the series shall assume to our understanding “a circular motion — the snake with its tail in its mouth.”

Here’s one more:

And this I can’t resist — there’s hope for humankind!

There will no doubt be others, which I’ll drop into the comment section. So you don’t need to be troubled by a new post every time I see one.

ISIS, bridal and burial veils, Rilke

Monday, July 17th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — some non-Islamic (archetypal) context for a jihadist’s bride receiving a suicide belt as a wedding gift ]
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Asia Ahmed Mohamed, 26 (left), was given a suicide belt as dowry by her jihadi husband Mohammed Hamdouch – Daily Mail

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The unfortunate King Admetus, who had shown great hospitality to Apollo when the latter was banished from Olympus for nine years, was gifted by the spinners of fates with an extended lifespan — provided a substitute was found at the time death came to claim him.

Death came for Admetus, and in the great poem that Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, after his father, mother and closest friend have each refused the chance to save Admetus’ life at cost of their own — Admetus’ loving wife Alcestis steps forward to offer herself..

Here Rilke describes her inner state:

No one can be his ransom: only I can.
I am his ransom. For no one else has finished
with life as I have. What is left for me
of everything I once was? Just my dying.
Didn’t she tell you when she sent you down here
that the bed waiting inside belongs to death?
For I have taken leave. No one dying
takes more than that. I left so that all this,
buried beneath the man who is now my husband,
might fade and vanish–. Come, lead me away,
already I have begun to die, for him.

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The young, free, wild woman, the Artemis in every young bride, loses not just her father’s name but her identity, her life even, at the moment of marriage: the more sober, adult, bound woman, the wife, succeeds toi her flesh and days.

This theme, in which the (presumably white) bridal veil is seen to imply the (presumably black) burial veil, is a central strand in Greek tragedy, not just in Euripides ALcestist, from which Rilke drew his narrative, but in all three great tragedians, as Rush Rehm shows in his book, Marriage to Death: The Conflation of Marriage and Funeral Rituals in Greek Tragedy:

The link between weddings and death — as found in dramas ranging from Romeo and Juliet to Lorca’s Blood Wedding–plays a central role in the action of many Greek tragedies. Female characters such as Kassandra, Antigone, and Helen enact and refer to significant parts of wedding and funeral rites, but often in a twisted fashion. Over time the pressure of dramatic events causes the distinctions between weddings and funerals to disappear. In this book, Rush Rehm considers how and why the conflation of the two ceremonies comes to theatrical life in the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripedes.

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Oh yes, and here’s Santa Muerte as Death Bride:

Regarding Santa Muerte, here’s R. Andrew Chesnut‘s abstract for his book, Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint:

Although condemned by mainstream churches, this folk saint’s supernatural powers appeal to millions of Latin Americans and immigrants in the U.S. Devotees believe the Bony Lady (as she is affectionately called) to be the fastest and most effective miracle worker, and as such, her statuettes and paraphernalia now outsell those of the Virgin of Guadalupe and Saint Judetwo other giants of Mexican religiosity. In particular, the book shows Santa Muerte has become the patron saint of drug traffickers, playing an important role as protector of peddlers of crystal meth and marijuana; DEA agents and Mexican police often find her altars in the safe houses of drug smugglers. Yet Saint Death plays other important roles: she is a supernatural healer, love doctor, money-maker, lawyer, and angel of death. She has become without doubt one of the most popular and powerful saints on both the Mexican and American religious landscapes.

In Santa Muerte we see the conflation of wedding and funeral alive and well in 21st century Mexico — and rippling out into the wider world.

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That’s pretty much the cross-cultural context against which I understand a Jihadist’s bride given SUICIDE BELT as wedding gift:

Asia left Spain for Syria in March 2014 where she married Hamdouch, also known as Kokito de Castillejos, ‘the decapitator of Castillejos.’

During the ceremony, the terrorist gave his wife a belt of explosives. They had a son.

Sunday surprise — Hopkins’ words like unto Clapton’s guitar

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — what fire can spark forth when a great actor reads a great poet ]
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First, Clapton performing Dylan:

It’s the speeding beauty (grace, flight, blues brutality) of Clapton’s guitar riffs that I’d draw your attention to — how can the human voice, in language hope to compare?

It’s a question that has driven me any times to despair, listening to Clapton.

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And then there’s this poem. Let me give you the words first, so you can follow them. Gerard Manley Hopkins is the poet:

The Leaden Echo and The Golden Echo
(Maidens’ song from St. Winefred’s Well)_

THE LEADEN ECHO

How to keep — is there any any, is there none such, nowhere known some, bow or brooch or braid or brace, lace, latch or catch or key to keep
Back beauty, keep it, beauty, beauty, beauty…. from vanishing away?
O is there no frowning of these wrinkles, ranked wrinkles deep,
Down? no waving off of these most mournful messengers, still messengers, sad and stealing messengers of grey?
No there’s none, there’s none, O no there’s none,
Nor can you long be, what you now are, called fair,
Do what you may do, what, do what you may,
And wisdom is early to despair:
Be beginning; since, no, nothing can be done
To keep at bay
Age and age’s evils, hoar hair,
Ruck and wrinkle, drooping, dying, death’s worst, winding sheets, tombs and worms and tumbling to decay;
So be beginning, be beginning to despair.
O there’s none; no no no there’s none:
Be beginning to despair, to despair,
Despair, despair, despair, despair.

THE GOLDEN ECHO

Spare!
There is one, yes I have one (Hush there!);
Only not within seeing of the sun,
Not within the singeing of the strong sun,
Tall sun’s tingeing, or treacherous the tainting of the earth’s air.
Somewhere elsewhere there is ah well where! one,
One. Yes I can tell such a key, I do know such a place,
Where whatever’s prized and passes of us, everything that’s fresh and fast flying of us, seems to us sweet of us and swiftly away with, done away with, undone,
Undone, done with, soon done with, and yet dearly and dangerously sweet
Of us, the wimpled-water-dimpled, not-by-morning-matched face,
The flower of beauty, fleece of beauty, too too apt to, ah! to fleet,
Never fleets more, fastened with the tenderest truth
To its own best being and its loveliness of youth: it is an ever-lastingness of, O it is an all youth!
Come then, your ways and airs and looks, locks, maiden gear, gallantry and gaiety and grace,
Winning ways, airs innocent, maiden manners, sweet looks, loose locks, long locks, lovelocks, gaygear, going gallant, girlgrace —
Resign them, sign them, seal them, send them, motion them with breath,
And with sighs soaring, soaring sighs deliver
Them; beauty-in-the-ghost, deliver it, early now, long before death
Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God, beauty’s self and beauty’s giver.
See; not a hair is, not an eyelash, not the least lash lost; every hair
Is, hair of the head, numbered.
Nay, what we had lighthanded left in surly the mere mould
Will have waked and have waxed and have walked with the wind what while we slept,
This side, that side hurling a heavyheaded hundredfold
What while we, while we slumbered.
O then, weary then why should we tread? O why are we so haggard at the heart, so care-coiled, care-killed, so fagged, so fashed, so cogged, so cumbered,
When the thing we freely forfeit is kept with fonder a care,
Fonder a care kept than we could have kept it, kept
Far with fonder a care (and we, we should have lost it) finer, fonder
A care kept. Where kept? Do but tell us where kept, where. —
Yonder. — What high as that! We follow, now we follow. —
Yonder, yes yonder, yonder,
Yonder.

Richard Burton, unbelievably, recites this poem:

Burton performing Hopkins.

Let that wash over you once. Or twice — or as they say, binge-listen.

One of the commentators on the Clapton video calls it “a guitar tutorial on what it means to truly master the art of music” — ditto say I for Burton performing Hopkins.

we could get into the magnificent rage of Clapton & Dylan later (from a quasi-pacifist position over here).

Sunday subsidiary — typewriters, poetry, guns, roses, and art

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — one-time typewriter poet & artist ]
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From This Artist Recycles Typewriters into Guns:

Typewriters revolutionized the way we write and guns changed the wars we fight, yet it can’t be denied that both are artifacts of tremendous cultural impact, despite the dramatic differences in function. This notion helps illuminate the peculiar Typewriter Guns of Québécois artist Eric Nado, a sculptural series of typewriters transformed to look like guns.

Thankfully non-functional, Nado’s guns seem like strange weaponry from the future, due to their brilliantly vibrant hues and the protruding typewriter parts that seem like alien steampunk appendages in this technological recontextualization. This may be partially an aesthetic choice, but it also relates to the artist’s desire to fully recycle the typewriters. In his project statement, Nado iterates that every piece of the typewriters were re-incorporated into the guns, an almost eerie vein of sustainability given how convincingly dangerous these sculptures look.

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Reminds me of Ernst Jandl‘s sound poem schtzngrmm, based on taking the letters of the word “trench” — “Schützengraben” in German literally, letter by letter, so as to evoke (some of) the sound of trench warfare:

schtzngrmm
schtzngrmm
t-t-t-t
t-t-t-t
grrrmmmmm
t-t-t-t
s———c———h
tzngrmm
tzngrmm
tzngrmm
grrrmmmmm
schtzn
schtzn
t-t-t-t
t-t-t-t
schtzngrmm
schtzngrmm
tssssssssssssss
grrt
grrrrrt
grrrrrrrrrt
scht
scht
t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t
scht
tzngrmm
tzngrmm
t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t
scht
scht
scht
scht
scht
grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
t-tt

But I’ll let Jandl read it himself and comment on that final “t-tt” and its aural cognate, “tod” — death:

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Back in the day, I was a “visual poet” as Jandl was a “sound poet” — the two experiments observed poetry as it approached art and music, respectively — and here’s one of mine, now enshrined in Marvin & Ruth Sackner‘s definitive The Art of Typewriting:

That’s no gun — it’s a rose, and I presented it to Elizabeth Taylor, no less, when she was supporting Basil Bunting for the Oxford Poetry Professorship, and we met in a pub by the river..

NSFW RIP — obituary for a friend, Heathcote Williams

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — Sunday sadness — for Julian West and Gabi Nasemann, each of whom loved Heathcote no doubt better than I ]
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NSFW might well have been John Henley Heathcote Williams’ initials. There were few boundaries he did not push, he taught himself fire-breathing and burned himself breathing fire to impress his then girlfriend, the model Jean (or was it Chrissie?) Shrimpton, and breathed fiery words all the livelong day. Here’s his final tweet, containing a poem you may want to watch:

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I’ve posted this before, but do so again today because I’m old enough find it very funny, and because it piercingly reminds me of my friend:

Oh, and the beauties of his days loved his ugly mug — this I posted before, too:

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As someone observed, Heathcote was a Ranter in the fine old tradition:

Coppe went up and down London streets ‘with his hat cockt, his teeth gnashing, his eyes fixed, charging the great ones to obey his Majesty within him.’ Clarkson as ‘Captain of the Rant’ entertained women to his lodging house but made canny financial provision simultaneously for his wife. This was the ugly face of Protestantism. It was what countless opponents of the Reformation had inveighed against since Munster: antinomianism was the logical, if perverted, conclusion of dissent. Anabaptists attracted the opprobrium in sixteenth-century Europe; Quakers inherited this legacy in later seventeenth-century England. But it was the Ranters who were the enemy of orthodoxy in England in 1650.

Myself, while I have Ranter sympathies, am also a Royalist and Cavalier.. Heathcote, no way: he’s an unabashed anti-monarchist through and through.

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An Old Etonian and overlap-contemporary of mine at Christ Church, Oxford, Heathcote took language to the street:

Believing the world to be a common treasure house to all
I spray-painted this slogan almost everywhere,
‘USE YOUR BIRTH CERTIFICATE AS A CREDIT CARD’,
Suggesting to be born entitles you to a share.

I’d then keep an eye on the graffiti’s lifespan
And would often find myself amazed
By its lasting for years in the poorer districts
But if they were gentrified, it’d be erased.

And he meant it!

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Heathcote, I’ve owed you a review of your book on Badshah Khan. I have been too fatigued to write it, but take it as a mark of your singular intelligence that you know, revere and celebrate the man!

Badshah Khan: Islamic Peace Warrior by Heathcote Williams

Thin Man Press is delighted to be publishing this timely and important ‘poetic investigation’ by Heathcote Williams (‘Whale nation’, ‘Falling for A Dolphin’, ‘Autogeddon’, ‘Royal Babylon’…).

With the news full of Islamic extremism, terrorism and the steady rise of the ‘Islamic State’, Heathcote Williams brings us a different story – the amazing life of Afghan Pashtun leader, Badshah Abdel Gaffar Khan, a devout Moslem, revered spiritual guide and champion of world peace who was a close friend and companion of Gandhi. Gaffar Khan spent much of his life as a political prisoner, and was tortured by the British; but he remained committed to his ‘jihad’ of peace, kindness and gentleness, which Williams relays with clarity and passion.

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But onwards, to death.

Speaking of Van Gogh, in There has to be an afterlife, Heathcote wrote:

He believed that the heavens were our future destination
And he declared, “we take death to reach a star.”
Now that there’s stardust in every single cell of our body
More mystery is added to knowing who we are.

But in bereavement it’s a very great comfort
To those who are feeling dispossessed
To consider that those they’ve known who’ve died
Have simply changed their cosmic address.

Heathcote, are you going soft?

Or is the new address you address yourself to — and have now achieved — “among the stars, dissipated“?

I’ll miss you, until I’m dissipated, too.


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