Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Poetical friends

I've really rather a lot of these, but this is about just two of them for now.

First, Plutarch has replied to my question about following swallows over at Compasses.

... to follow the most delicate of birds, which drinks
as it skims the water, crosses oceans and continents,
feeds on flies, perches on telegraph wires
like musical notations, knows where to go, where to land
and when. Its nests are mythic architecture.

His poem is called A ball of string, so as you might imagine not only swallows but other themes emerge.  It's a beautiful, visionary poem which sweeps broadly through time and space, to the edge of clouds and down into labyrinths, belying the human limitations he laments.  To me it forms a fine diptych with one he recently had published in Qarrtsiluni, where he posits that

To monitor the flight of birds
in consideration of what is received
(for which we should be truly thankful),
to count and name their variations,
their prey and predators,
is reason enough to be on Earth.

I'm inclined to agree.


Second, these came in the just the other day:

I've corresponded with and come to know and love Teresa and her work for a year or so now.  I have both her previous books of poems, and found them wonderful, and when she asked me if she could have a photo she saw here for the cover of her next, Itching, itching, I was honoured and delighted.  I've been waiting for my copy impatiently.

In the first poem there is an artist, who 

took pain and shaped a vision

and this is what Teresa does.  There are a number of artists in these pages, like the metal artist, who

into the night, twists
the thin strands, presses
with tools of mysterious use

and who

shine back into the hammered medallion
of blackened silver

There is music, too, especially jazz, woven through her writing everywhere, a kindred spirit appears unexpectedly 'to borrow earphones' and then stays, in a sensual encounter, incidentally there is 'Mingus in the other room', and elsewhere

that thumbed the G, spun it straight in
to hope's solar plexus

This kind of music seldom exactly has savage-beast-soothing charms, though; like the love and passion of which it forms a part it is often a lacerating, flaying experience, so a man's 'easy singing'

rusts a scream onto bare arms

There are moths and a sinister, metaphorical cat, there is raw physicality in plenty - chests, throats, teeth, bones; we find ourselves up at 3 in the lonely morning more than once. This is pain-filled stuff indeed, (more so than in her two previous volumes, I would say) but love is also exalting and exulting, even if it is absence and loss which reveals this; the voice of the beloved lost brother to whom the book is dedicated 

... splashed 
down the channels of my ears...

and she longs to hold on to 

everything you ever touched, the golden light that rests
on places where your arms passed through.

Time and tide only increase the store of beauty of those we love -

nieces came
and went, growing lovelier with the storms

(how I love that one!)

This often isn't easy writing, but so what?  It is sometimes hard to follow, as in the appositely titled An upside down vision, you -

... lapels flying and clean grin
for friends, lover mother, then wavering
at the edge like reed, windblown
a whole block of flats, shimmying in streetlight,

but syntactical ambiguity can express and enrich a complex emotional landscape.

And sometimes it's hard to confront such an onslaught of intense, sometimes violent, synaesthetic sensory impressions, the omnipresence of  pain and shadow and the lightning flashes of ecstasy, which are in essence a refusal to experience life by any half-measures, no matter how much it hurts.

The title poem starts with the poet

At the sink in nettles to my elbows

which makes one wince, of course, but it is the sting, the itch, the pain, the acid taste of

... still-warm rhubarb that sets my teeth on edge

which needles and drives and provokes the creative act;

searching a stony streambed, we seek the heart
of all that water, the salt and darkness, the emptiness

that billows jewelled nets strung from every part 
of this place where nothing misses me.

If I didn't know her a bit, and if I didn't know enough to know that one need not confuse the writer with the places where they take you, I might worry about Teresa.  But that kind of worrying about can be a sign of smallness, resistance, jealousy even; that I can't quite go to those places on my own, but need her to take me there. It is a privilege to share something of the vision and experience of someone who has

along the front path, violets down deep, forsythia, mint she'll never

be free of, bleeding heart, the sounding out of poems fresh
and mysterious, a source she'll never tire of sipping.

I hope she never does tire of it.

(Itching, itching is published by Finishing Line Press )


YourFireAnt said...


thank you.


HLiza said...

Wow, having your picture as a book cover is really something! Congrats!

Rouchswalwe said...

Beautiful writing. Thank you, Lucy for the introductions.