Friday, September 6, 2013
THIS WRITING LIFE, #3
[21-8-2013; journal ++]
Visited the Facebook page of Lyme Regis artist & designer Hugh Dunford-Wood, after he'd accepted my friendship request, and found he'd posted images of his recent cushion covers. There they were : badger, squirrel, fox, cat, all beautiful in that very English style exemplified by Gibbings, Parker, Leighton & others. I shared it to my own page and thought to append my poem, The Badger : Along a Line of Seamus Heaney's, for Peter Gebhardt when I got back to it in the evening. I don't know where to lay hand on the mss at home but remembered it's included in the booklet accompanying My Life in Theatre, my CD published by Carol Jenkins' River Road Press.
It was pleasant copying it out --reinhabiting the poem, remembering the incident described in the poem, resuming the perception. Evidently, then, some of my things still measure up. Or they do for me : I cant imagine how they might come across to a reader and, frankly, disbelieve that they do. This wasn't always the case , though perhaps this pessimism has been with me for 20 or 25 years. The last time I tested my cold feet was when I accepted the offer for a book by Salt (UK), via John Kinsella & Chris Emery, but then at the eleventh hour withdrew the mss (which mostly comprised '80s & 90's poems). And though I recorded with River Road Press (Sydney) in 2009 and published a 12 page chapbook, Exile Triptych, with Vagabond (Sydney) in 2011, I feel awkward around & about them --perhaps not the poems but the collections they are… It feels as if vain author is always opposed subsequently by a recondite governor, by which time it's too late...
Somehow my writing is mainly, perhaps solely, for me. Words are so different, I think, to a drawing or painting or photograph. To my mind, these others don't cry out for mediation in the way a poem does. A poem --my poem that is --written for myself as it is --written out of myself, constituted of myself --takes along a great reluctance, a kind of forbidding --perhaps an essential 'intractability' (as Judith Rodriguez described my sequence The Last Gardens and her culminating reason for rejecting my submission of the mss for publication at Penguin Books back in the late '80s).
So it is I've been thinking of the paradox of poet who epitomises self-ishness & secrecy (within the larger perspective, for example the translation of Romanticism as Modernism's schizoid text : expressionist & hermetic simultaneously) --this kind of poet obfuscating (involuntarily often as not) within the very marrow of correspondence & communication…
THE BADGER : Along a Line of Seamus Heaney's. for Peter Gebhardt
O what was that? I said My God! I thought--
Was that a was that a badger? Yes
John Batten said Havent you ever seen one before?
Never I said He laughed
steering us down Somerset's hollowest lane
beneath the steepest red-earth banks
bursting with the roots
of the West Country's oldest trees. It's my privilege
then to have brought you your first
he said. His smile wouldnt have been wider
were he an intermediary for fairies & unicorns.
My legendary creature I suppose something between
fox & sheep trundled in the headlights the other side
of the road and suddenly glimmered away
as Seamus Heaney would say into the hedgerow
disappearing so completely one could doubt
it had ever been. This is what I meant I said
when I spoke of my painters Nash & Jones &
Sutherland rising above English sleep
into the deep & beautiful dream. John Batten
watched the road affixed the English seal
said yes yes I know what you mean.
[1994, ed 2008]