I am writing some notes on this collection of poems. There are 3 parts to the book, so I have read the first section and am writing these notes without knowing what comes next. I like that uncertainty.
Part 1 - Nature
I know George is a performance poet. He recited a couple of his things to me in a loud cafe, but that isn't the same, I know, as speaking forth across into a filled room, standing up there in front of everyone. So reading poems by myself is a different proposition again.
Are these poems which he usually speaks forth, at the Oxford Hammer and Tongue nights or where ever it is something exciting happens every 2 weeks down the Cowley Road? Or are these poems from another side of his life, ones which couldn't be thrown across a room and need a quiet page to themselves and the special loose binding which Albion Press, ie Dennis Harrison, has given them, via Lucie Forejtova of Immaginacija?
It took me until 'Creation Myth' to find myself. Until then I was lost. At the end of 'When I Am' I wrote 'I feel lost still'.
Finding myself didn't mean I was happy. I pondered the as yet unsolved question of procreation. Why is it so full of prohibitions? Why does the rest of the living world just go to it while we humans are constantly told not to or tell ourselves not to for fear of poverty, educational disaster, moral disaster, physical exhaustion, physical disability...you name it, it all adds up to a no. I'd rather not see my children killed, starve, be bullied by a horrible father or educational system obviously, but the result of that is a loveless sterile life, which stinks. What is this all about?
I loved the phrase 'she purred them on' because it feels as if a powerful beast is protecting and permitting the couple to be together. She won't let anyone attack them or disturb them.
So who is Jay Griffiths and what is 'Wild' from which so many quotations are taken? Whose book is this? George's or Jay's. Am I a bad person for asking?
'The Day I Stopped Taking the Happy Pills' has a certainty about it I love. Here's the final stanza:
'The day I stopped taking the happy pills
my hunger ate me, my sorrow cried me,
my faith believed me, my light shone me,
my love loved me and I loved me back.'
'What I Learned in the Closing of The Year' is so hopeful, yet fragile. Glorious, delicate confusion in front of the wonder of local real kindness. Am I putting in too many words here?
'Teaching Observation' pleased me because it mixed the time consuming process of going through a mathematical equation with something else entirely.
'The Dark Companion' is my favourite at the moment because of the intimacy with the way things can be. Escaping it only means being able to see it and sense it rather than being under water with it. 'He is near me again.' That is such a plain sentence. I love that.
'A Blues for Nenna Nyama (d. 8th July 1986)' makes me realise how little I know of what it is to be from the different parts of America and its society. How big it is, how ungraspable compared to our little space, with small rocks and nearby coasts, Even our moors and wildernesses are small. Just 3 legal systems, not 52.
It suddenly opens up at the line 'This is too civilised', though the rhyming has emerged a bit before. If I were to let myself write all over the pages I could follow the structure much more closely. This is where the neatness of the book stops my thinking. I am not yet able to break into it with my biro. If I were to photocopy each page that would help. I do that with poems I have been given by other people to comment on prior to submission for publication.
That's not entirely true, I have given in and numbered the pages.
'Allotment Fox' - poetry itself, shouting in the night for a partner, the essential listeners/readers, but each one alone for a while to consider the writer's call. Look at this post: a-genuine-stink-of-poets-own-fox
I look forward to parts 2 and 3.