Saturday, March 12, 2016

Ken Hyam

A couple of days ago, on the second anniversary of Joe's death, a card came in the post. The sender's name on the back was J.Hyam, which gave me a start, but when I looked again it was a London address. It was in fact from Joyce, the wife of Joe's brother Ken, with the very sad news that Ken had died, suddenly, of a heart attack, almost two weeks previously. She had written almost straight away, though the card had taken a time to get here, which was strikingly thoughtful of her, since she and I didn't know each other personally.

Ken was the youngest, and last surviving, of the three Hyam brothers by some way, not yet seventy, I think. I met him just the once at Joe's funeral, and instantly felt I was with a trusted friend, not only because of our blogging contact and connection through Joe, but because he was clearly a gentle, kind and listening soul, a quiet man. He was a teacher, specifically of youngsters with learning difficulties, and he must have been a lovely one; the comments he often left here were always positive but also thoughtful and showing a very careful and attentive reading, and at times of loss and sadness most sensitive and comforting. We corresponded from time to time in the last couple of years, and a little while after his brother died he sent me Joe's copy of Eliot's Four Quartets, which had come into his possession, well-preserved with an inscription from when he left school in the fifties, a preternaturally perceptive choice which meant more to me than I can say.

He blogged as Lucas, mostly poems, sometime photos, less so of recent times, but he also ran a collaborative magazine blog with some excellent content called Small Party, for the last couple of years.* He was a fine and original poet, his work an intriguing mixture of naivety, subtlety and surprise which seemed to bespeak his character. He posted last in January of this year, about an old vinyl copy of Brahms Lieder he had found in a charity shop, copied onto CD, then spent some time researching the lyrics of and rendering into his own translations, the kind of pleasure in finding treasure and unexpected beauty in the detail which was typical of the man. I'm taking the liberty of reposting the translation he made of one of these, a poem by Dieter Rihm. It seems to me to take one to a place of clear, bright, joyful serenity, a good note to leave on, even if you are leaving too soon.

There was a town of noble heritage,
A church, shops, thatched roofs with spiral chimneys,
A hill that sloped down to a landing stage.
I see white blossoms drifting on the breeze,
The pleasant boredom of the boats in Summer,
How Autumn’s setting sun and fiery leaves
Influence the lake with bronze, how it grows calmer.
I see the stillness deep Winter conceives

When in the lake an image of the town
Appears: sloping roofs, smoke in blue air,
The shops closed-up, the church’s gentle spire,
This holiday, pointing both up and down
Into the water, which holds as in a mirror
Good will for everyone, both here and there.

Dieter Rihm, translated by Ken Hyam.


*Both these are now left as they were; I imagine he must have been the comment moderator on Small Party, so even a comment about his passing can't be made to appear. This brings it home again that, morbid as it may seem, we should think about what might happen to our blogs if the worst happens to us, and if possible sort out someone to be able to access and post on them, or at least do a bit of housekeeping. Ghost blogs of the departed, left hanging in the ether, getting cluttered with spam comments, are a very melancholy thing, I think, whereas on Ellena's and Paula's, for example, their dear ones have access and have posted since their deaths, which seems better, and even a potential comfort to all concerned. For many of us, our on-line lives are an important and very solid dimension of our whole lives, and need to be tended to and marked when these end, I think.


tristan said...

a lovely poem, the translation MUST be a good one, it seems so rich

i met ken and joe together, twice, at an indian restaurant that joe knew near charing cross ... on those days they were very good company

they were men who enriched the world before they had to leave it

the polish chick said...

what a gorgeous poem, so very visual, like a painting!

my condolences to you, lucy.

marja-leena said...

Yes, a beautiful poem. I had occasionally visited Lucas/Ken's blog, thanks to Joe. How very sad that two brothers, as well as Joe's wife, passed away so close in time, which must be hard for the families and close friends. I still miss Joe. Thank you for this and my warmest condolences to you, Lucy

I agree that we need to have someone look after our blogs after death, at the very least to put up some kind of notice. I feel like my site, especially my work, should stay online, even if much of the older blog pages were cleared away. As I already have youngest daughter take care of some of the technical stuff as needed, I'm sure she could do it, in fact I did put the bug in her ear recently afyer Ellena's and Paula's passing.

Rouchswalwe said...

The older I get, the more important is a beautiful poem. Ken's translation is truly good. My sincere and heartfelt condolences, sweet Lucy, on the loss of another friend. It's been a hard winter. I've been thinking of Joe and Heidi lately, and with Ellena's birthday nearing, I have had some sad days.

Yes, let's think about avoiding having our blogs stuck like a bug in amber.

susan said...

That is indeed a wonderful translation. My condolences as well - losing friends is difficult.

Several bloggers I communicated over the past eight plus years have died and some have simply abandoned their blogs. Up to now what I've noticed is that Blogspot blogs remain in stasis just as they were. Sometimes family members updated them with brief memorials or funeral arrangement information but not always. The blog posts are still there to be read. It's the commercial blogs like Wordpress and Typepad that disappear when they're no longer being paid for or kept active in some way. Then it's sad to look up a favorite blog only to see the name has been appropriated by a third party and nothing else is left.

All the best

Roderick Robinson said...

You had the right idea: letting Ken speak for himself.

Lucy said...

Thanks all.

I sometimes have a little trouble appropriating condolences when I'm aware there are closer people to the one who has died who perhaps have more claim to them. Yet Ken was a friend, I hope, and a link to his brother too, and I wish people would just stop disappearing when I like having them there.

This is a lovely poem, and I am happy to think he was still finding and making beautiful things more or less up to the end, but then that always leaves the sense that there should have been some more life to enjoy.

Tristan - I'm glad you saw this, I remember you saying about lunch with Joe and 'his kid brother' and how you all had to be thrown out of the restaurant some time late in the afternoon!

PC - yes, it reminded me of a painted plate of a kind of Mitteleuropean town scene I used to have.

ML - yes, in fact the middle brother, Michael, died about twelve years ago, also suddenly from a heart attack. He was a very eminent judge in some quite noted cases, and there are several interesting broadsheet obituaries, like this one

It's not very cheerful to have to think about our blogs etc surviving us, but I think it could be quite important.

R - yes, I know. And I must find other things to post here than obituaries, it makes the heart sad. Take care.

Susan - thanks for reading. It's true that blogspot blogs stay as they are, so that is good, I suppose it's really to make sure that dearest and dearest can actually post and leave memorials or whatever they want, and also clear off spam comments, maybe even close comments if they wish and generally caretake a bit. Other people who have died, like Joe, their blogs were locked in, as it were, there families not having access to put anything on them (Joe's gmail account was also hijacked shortly after his death and many of us were receiving spam e-mails from it, which wasn't very nice). We left notes in the comments telling anyone who stopped by what had happened and leaving tributes, and also chatted amongst ourselves there sporadically, but a notice on the blog would have been better. Other blogs I've seen of people who've died get very badly spammed, which is a bit upsetting. Perhaps it doesn't matter so very much, but I think it's something worth thinking about.

Lucy said...

Robbie - yes, indeed.

marly youmans said...

Sympathy, Lucy--it's so strange the way our unmet friends pass away into the aether. I like the poem you choose as a kind of elegy--so calm and gentle, and putting feeling into the landscape in a way that suggests a childhood home. It's like a lost world--good will for everyone.

Trish said...

Hi Lucy

I've just visited your blog for the first time. What a lovely heartfelt post you wrote about Ken. You describe him with such respect and tenderness. My sympathies at the loss of another friend.

The poem is beautiful and very visual. It makes me think of Ellena and how she would notice her surroundings.

Looking forward to reading more of your posts.


Lucy said...

Marly, I do seem to be writing rather too many in memoriam type posts lately.

Trish - lovely to see you here, thanks for stopping by.

HKatz said...

Beautiful translation. Looking through his blog now, I see a poem he posted, "Handbook for Explorers 19," in memory of his brother and written by his brother; it opens with "And yet, you must keep saying "and yet"... and that's also such a fitting poem.