Wednesday, 7 January 2009
The Crowd, Part 2
No attempt to show the central character as any more or less than he might be. The gum-chewing date. The awkward way he puts his arm around her on the bus. The disposal of the chewing gum. The casual cruelty and yet the pity. All the fun of the fair. The phantasmagoria. The snog. The exposure. The exhausted ride home. The preliminaries. The marriage, sudden, substanceless, questless. Fate winding and unwinding. It is not a quest but a survival-and-loss narrative, an extraordinary epic project: Mass Observation as tragedy.
It's not the Hollywood myth. Rooted in Upton Sinclair and John Dos Passos but not exactly critique, not ideology, instead a kind of lyricism partaking of both epic and tragedy. Theodore Roethke's poem Dolor, might have been written for it.
I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils,
Neat in their boxes, dolor of pad and paper weight,
All the misery of manilla folders and mucilage,
Desolation in immaculate public places,
Lonely reception room, lavatory, switchboard,
The unalterable pathos of basin and pitcher,
Ritual of multigraph, paper-clip, comma,
Endless duplicaton of lives and objects.
And I have seen dust from the walls of institutions,
Finer than flour, alive, more dangerous than silica,
Sift, almost invisible, through long afternoons of tedium,
Dropping a fine film on nails and delicate eyebrows,
Glazing the pale hair, the duplicate grey standard faces.
I loved this poem the first time I read it. There is something in it recognizable at a very deep level regarding the sheer, stubborn objectness of objects in a world where people too are objects, among crowds of objects.
My thoughts are still somewhat scattered and fragmentary. I have been writing poems, three in as many days, five in ten. And redrafting. Composition always slightly discomposes me.