Saturday, 21 February 2015

War and Love - part 2/2 - When Life Looks Like Easy Street

2nd part of my review:


Psychomachia: 'frail, accidental, articulate' is a line which reaches out of its setting, perhaps because of the sequence of the vowels, or because it reminds me of the only line of the Qur'an I know, the first line. This is what I look for, diving boards to jump off without even knowing I was on one.

Triage took me to T S Elliot's 'Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats'. It took a while, but eventually I realised that this was what I was enjoying about the refrain 'when the kids go into survival mode the knives come out at night.'

In spite of the subject matter I spent quite a while with friends on Ginsberg's ashcan rantings, taking it in turns to read out each stanza week after week in the summer, so I became fond of the endless phrases and images of violence, and simply enjoyed the words.

Is this how people used to take their Bible readings after a lifetime of beautiful phrases about the battles and evil deeds? They turn into music, like a compost heap receives rotten fruit and peelings and produces sweet black soil.

The Ballad of Jimmy Roach is the killer poem of this section, to me the worst aspect is the insult to his name. It pains me when someone's name is anglicised and twisted away from itself. Every word from another language, including names, gets changed, but how can a person be unmoored from their name and not become smaller and more hidden, unseen, unheard, unspoken? At the word 'disposable' I realise that the poem has turned rotten.


I see many experiments with sonnets in the collection, in fact I have only just spotted the sonnetiness of An Infinite Universe.

There are three lines to each stanza, but their length means they run on, hiding the structure from my eyes.

Another love of mine is the use of repeated lines. The chorus arrives as the second line in each three line stanza. It then opens the final couplet.

Central Station Here I see simplicity and directness emerging from a louder flow of words. For example, see the shift as the poem moves from the terse compact actions and incomplete sentences of 'stack cordwood to burn' to the softer slower pace of the full sentence 'I gave you my broken soul'.

For me these two unmixable registers are the message of the collection. Neither one can include the other, they can only be extremely close to each other. Only children can contain both parents.

'from the Anglo-Saxon' thrilled me immediately. I keep on re-reading Wolf and Eadwacer because it seems impossible to work out who is speaking to whom, but not so impossible that I give up.

I keep on trying to work out how the poem comments on the rest of the collection, convinced that it is the key to it all somehow.


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