It’s finally got hot and muggy again, so it doesn’t feel weird to be writing about the heat. Conflicted hurray!
I haven’t been reading any poetry recently, alas, so no recommendations or opinions. Only prose. So much prose.
When I was writing down the germ of the idea for this poem, I texted Spuggy to ask if he thought it was too pretentious. He said he liked it, but he did also quote this song* at me, so the jury is still out on that one. YOU DECIDE.
I think I might play with this one a lot more, but I also think it’s an easy thing to make too clever-clever. Honestly, sometimes I like it and sometimes I think it’s quite juvenile, but I’m going to post it anyway because I should probably get used to this kind of thing.
Not a huge amount of poetry recommendation today, partly because I’m still stuck in the flytrap-sticky, rabbit hole world of Alan Turing and partly because the only other poetry I have read recently is by Adrienne Rich, and it’s not really my thing. In poetry as in prose fiction, I need a bit more of the surreal. I like a blurring of lines. There were lines I liked (“Your silence today is a pond where drowned things live/I want to see raised and brought dripping into the sun.” from IX of her Twenty One Love Poems) but in general it felt like captured moments played straight, rather than tampered with the way Tomas Tranströmer does it.
Maybe there isn’t such a thing as poems I like or dislike, only poems read at the right or wrong times. Who knows.
All I know is that you shouldn’t hold me to any of my lofty opinions when you read part 2 of It’s So Hot, So Very Very Hot.
It’s been a while. It’s been so long, in fact, that it’s no longer particularly hot in Frankfurt (though it will return to your regularly scheduled 28 degrees this weekend, apparently).
Let’s start with a recommendation of actual good poetry, as I think all these posts should. This is kind of a repeat of a stream of Twitter-consciousness, so bear with me and skip this if you’ve heard it before.
One of the few poets of whom I can say I’ve read pretty much everything he published. It started with a kindly soul lending me The Sorrow Gondola, which I read through in two mad sittings (one standing on a tram). I think I’ve said before how I’m not sure how you’re supposed to read poetry volumes – in binges or savouring each offering like a fine, limited edition truffle. Tranströmer, however, I like to binge on. A while after reading The Sorrow Gondola and being totally mystified (and intrigued) by it, I came to Tranströmer’s New Collected Poems on my much-vaunted reading list. This was while I was in the UK visiting home, after having left my phone in Germany, and the poems which had once been so opaque and weird suddenly became everything. The poems of The Sorrow Gondola are also in New Collected Poems, and when I got to them I read them as though it was for the first time. I was finally in the zone. It all made, if not sense, then feelings and images so vivid they were almost concrete. I was almost in dream-Sweden. I was almost between time. I was almost between dreams and reality, slipped down that crack where so many of Tranströmer’s poems take place (if you can say they have a place).
He has a poem about drawing a piano keyboard on his kitchen table and playing for the neighbours which is so weird it becomes universal. Surreally relateable. Don’t ask me how, but it is.
Highly recommend. Here are ten poems of his to get a feel for him, though you might need more to recalibrate yourself to his wavelength.
Thanks to a series of other things, I only just got round to having my birthday party, and you know what that means: curry buffet!
Wow, don’t sound too excited.
But anyway, a couple of people have asked me for the recipes, so here they are. They’re adapted because a) it turned out that the party-day was the hottest day in the history of the state, so I tried to make the recipes as light as possible (no thick sauces, small juicy vegetables) and b) the gamut of guests’ tastes ran from “Even a homeopathic chilli pill would set my mouth on fire” to “I want experience true pain”, so the spiciness of these varies quite a bit. Enjoy!
So, I finished Burger’s Daughter by Nadine Gordimer last night. My initial impressions were unchanged – it’s a great, nuanced, complex story about identity. About how our upbringings shape who we are and who we want to be and who we don’t want to be. It’s about South Africa and how bad things can get, and how hard it is to shake off rotten institutions even with justice and rightness and the best will in the world. it’s about the blame we deserve and the blame we don’t deserve but which belongs to us nevertheless. I’m honestly surprised that I’ve never had this book recommended to me, so I’m recommending it now. I saw a reviewer had said it was a worthy book but with no joy or pleasure in the reading. I have to disagree with that. The writing is beautiful and Rosa Burger’s life is compelling and rich. Though the context in which it is lived is pretty bleak, I wouldn’t say it was a joyless book at all.
And now indulge me in another spontaneous poem, which is infinitely less serious than seminal South African literature.
I only have one more poem to share from this session. After this I’ll no doubt start moving some other old stuff over here though.
No recommendations today, as I just finished Grey and although I appreciated the closure on the series, you can just imagine a terrible stalking experience except the stalker is a billionaire and there you have it: you have experienced Grey. Congratulations.
I have, however, begun reading Burger’s Daughter by Nadine Gordimer. It’s dense and intense and a very focused read. The difficulty of the language – or rather the obscurity of the sentences – draws you in with that focus, to a world which I believe is (thankfully) unthinkable to most white, Western people of my age, and it makes you think about it. Crazy uncomfortable, but you can’t – mustn’t – look away. More as I progress.
And now for a poem.
Time to post the second-last of my poetry binge. Try not to be too sad.
Before that though, I have this much-vaunted reading list which is like my actual child right now. I’m never going to get to the end of it. On it go books of films I watch (so Sneak is a reading list KILLER) and the best-known, most prizewinning, or first book by any deceased author I haven’t read yet. That last one is in real time, or else I really would never get to the end of this list. Of course there are exceptions – any book recommended by a friend or anything that just really catches my eye goes down as well.
I mean right now I’m reading EL James’s Grey, so I’m not that much of a book snob, I promise.
But I just wanted to recommend more poetry, because honestly with poetry I just don’t know where to start, and it’s nice to keep a record of the things that I’ve liked. So, through my book list (and haunting the Guardian’s Books section at the slightest hint of boredom) I put down a book by Dermot Healy, called A Fool’s Errand. It’s a book-length poem split into “chapters”, and the theme is a flock of geese migrating from near his Irish home to Greenland and back. I’m glad I started reading it after I came to the end of my poetry-writing spree, because it is good.
The geese scene from TH White’s The Once and Future King was my favourite part of the whole book, and A Fool’s Errand just tapped right back into that scenery for me. Right back into that wet, cold, windy place, and the mysterious ritual of migration. The rising restlessness, the false alarm flights and finally the big lift-off, the amazing journey. Around this you see the geese from all angles, above and below, and Healy was a master of imagery. Birds as orchestra – or orchestra as birds? Simple things like a wind through a house slamming an open door become beautiful things, but always still simple, always just what they are. It’s gorgeous and you should read it.
My own feeble attempt is below, as always. Continue reading
Poem time again!
First, I want to leave a recommendation here, instead of just presenting my ridiculous free verse. It’s kind of like a “Here’s what you could have won” sort of deal.
I want to introduce you to someone I met for three weeks when I was 15.
So I was lucky enough to be invited to go to the very first NAGTY summer school, on a creative writing course. It was crazy fun, as you can imagine (I’ll probably reminisce about this more in future), and to be honest, most of us were just precocious. There was one girl who really stood out though, even then. Like, she was a poet (my genre of choice was trashy fantasy) and she was so far above my level it was like a wren looking at a condor. Even now I remember lines of the poems she wrote during those three weeks. She was really quiet, but I remember her laughing at the silliest things. She has almost certainly forgotten I exist, thankfully, so she won’t see my terrible poetry…
My own fledgling work will be hidden behind a readmore out of respect/shame.
I’m really enjoying messing around with poetry. I should be finishing off a story but stories are long and ungrateful and poems are short and manageable.
If you’re unfamiliar with my writing then Spuggy says this is pretty representative of my themes, and I can agree with that. Representative themes of the Dove school are ‘bones’ and ‘putting things into other things’.
Also I’m really sorry about the title.