Posterity and all that.

Recently, I wrote a post about how government bodies tend to view poetry. Indeed, I would say that given funding cuts to poetry and writer’s societies on both sides of the English Channel that the view tends toward jaundiced misunderstanding rather than outright aggression. The image embedded in the piece was that of a woman placing flowers  at Ted Hughes‘  memorial stone in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey.

Ted Hughes’ stone was placed in close proximity to that of  T.S Eliots in the Abbey.  Eliot, the banker, the poet, and  editor of Faber and Faber  mentored and supported Hughes. Eliot’s writing was of the monumental type, and clearly directed to posterity. It lacked intimacy, but produced in his readers the most tremendous reactions. I will admit that my favourite Eliot is his play, Murder in the Cathedral. I have for years tangled with the voices of the women, the chorus. This then is poetic-posterity. These women of Canterbury are doom-sayers, they are the Greek-chorus. They are both ignored and later chided for their melodramatic utterances.  They are however  heard and regarded by the martyr Thomas À Becket.  They are not in the play to provide a dramatis-personae or as part of a construction, they actually make the play. I decided that I would add a section of the recording here for those interested in how T.S Eliot used the women.

Aside from Eliot, I find it quite difficult to relate to women characters that are written by men, as there is an absence somewhere that I regard as experiential. I look for women-writers with whom I can resonate. I think maybe Anna Livia as written by Joyce has for me a similar resonance to the Canterbury women written by Eliot.

Posterity seems to have increasing importance to those writers who have criticised Carol Ann Duffy in recent weeks. It took 341 years for the English people to countenance a woman laureate, and then her laureateship is attacked by the guardians of poetic-dogma, who not once sought to define (say) Ted Hughes’ Laureateship,

Conversely, Carol Ann Duffy’s work which speaks so clearly to many today may seem stale to posterity. I have no idea whether this would distress her.” (Allan Massie)

The idea of poetic-posterity being defined by intellect is almost risible. The life of a poem is defined by the resonance of the image (or images) that are captured within the form of the poem, it is not a question of the perceived intellect of the poet but how the poem illuminates the reader. Nuala Ní Dhomhnaills images are fine-hewn and unforgettable, as are Plath’s, as are the images created by Anna Akhmatova, by Margaret Fuller, by Stevie Smith, or by Ágnes Nemes Nagy. The fact that a certain coterie of critics are glued to the idea of posterity whilst mistranslating the idea of popularity (or populism) wholly misses the point of poetry. It is not about how wordy and intellectual the poet,  but how that image which they have fashioned can adapt, and move with the reader through their lifetime and be always different and always challenging. That government-appointed funders do not recognise the place of poetry in our societies  is worrying.

I am adding here two excerpts of poems/prose which I will properly attribute next week. I want the reader to investigate the images and form therein,  and then possibly wonder at how stupidly gendered and egotistical the intellectual poets’ profound disconnect with their reader actually is become.

Poetry and Poetic Prose, two excerpts.

 

Excerpt #1.

Trees

Learn. The winter trees.
 Hoarfrosted crown to root.
Immovable curtains.
 .
And learn too of the zone
where a crystal steams
and trees merge into mists,
 as the body in recollection of it.”

Excerpt #2

Travels

I.

 ‘I came to a land where freedom had been realised or was at least believed to be very close to its full realisation. For the people here the word freedom  could consequently not be applicable to themselves but only to other peoples who had not yet discovered the happiness-making formula that means the realisation of freedom. In this land,therefore, the people talked much and with a strong sympathy for all the people beyond the frontiers of their own land who were not free. It was said that one ought to exert oneself to  the uttermost in order to liberate all the lands and peoples of the earth. On the other hand, it would hardly have been the right thing if it had occurred to some compatriot to longingly, invoke, for example, the concept of freedom in an internal context to himself or any of his fellow-countrymen. To be sure, it was not forbidden by law to use the word freedom in that last-mentioned way, but a universally sanctioned convention in reality liquidated the word from any contexts other (than) external ones.

Since everything in this land was so new, so thrillingly and inspiringly new,  I became like a child, reborn, receptive and avid for knowledge, and also became involved in teaching in a school. By day and by hour I received proof which confirmed that freedom really was being realised  in this land as in no other. On the way to work, in buses,  trams and underground trains the workers sat studying books which promised them the chance of experiencing freedom completely realised  in their own lifetimes; a mother married to a simple sailor told me with eyes moist from emotion that there was every reason to expect that her son would attain the rank of admiral one day, and everywhere  there was testimony to the fact  that here women were acknowledged as beings equal to men with all their human rights acknowledged; among other things the fact that within the military profession they possessed the rank of captain, major and even colonel.”

EDIT  18/02/2012:

Excerpt # 1 was Trees by Ágnes Nemes Nagy , from Between Dedalus Press (Dublin) and Corvina Press (Budapest) 1998. In translation by Hugh Maxton.

Excerpt # 2 is by Mirjam Tuominen , The short prose Travels , is from Theme with Variations, published in 1952.

Murder in the Cathedral , the women , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxA_3qyN1lk 

T.S Eliot and the death of poetry ,  http://poethead.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/t-s-eliot-and-the-death-of-poetry/

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Posterity and all that‘ by C Murray/Poethead is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at poethead.wordpress.com.

‘ Rare and Interesting Books’ in Westport , Co Mayo.

John Hursts Interesting books (with suit of armour).

EDIT : 13/12/2010 : John Hurst died last night . Rest in Peace.

As always a visit to John Hurst’s Interesting books shop is a delight, a real treasure-trove, indeed, I have spoken of the shop before now. I thought to add a picture of the frontage (with the suit of armour) and though it cannot be seen in the pic, a foot acts as a door-stop!

John has a good range of rare and interesting books that is not tailored to the tourist but to the local population, the writer and miscellaneous visitors, which is refreshing. Lots of contemporary bookshops require desperate rooting time to uncover a jewel but that’s not necessary here. Theres a well-stocked poetics and drama section and the rest of the shop is worth a mooch too.

The children’s area is guarded by a carved boar of indeterminate age, complete with bristles and moveable jaw. Books for children are wide in range but always of literary interest, a nice copy of Old Possums Book of Practical Cats was obtained along with a Three shillings and sixpence copy of Irish Classical Poetry (!!!) (which only publishes excerpts but provides food for thought and research).

On returning home from a very brief visit to Mayo , there was a book-offer on my email.  I await the fruit of that one with some delight, as it involves the exchange of my address for a new imprint of Daragh Breen’s Latest book. His last book; Across the Sound is searchable on Poethead , along with a lovely Paul Henry painting to illustrate.

Whilst visiting the house and library of my old friend, I enjoyed some Francis Bacon essays and the music of Alphonse the Wise. It would be great to have a more extended visit sometime quite soon.

I am adding in the link to Daragh Breen’s book Review here :

‘Writing the Loved Word’.
 Daragh Breen’s ‘Whale’ , with thanks to Daragh