Thursday, 28 May 2009

Totleigh 4

The fourth day - the day when a certain spiritual and intellectual tiredness normally sets in. I talk in high energy mode and am continually attentive, furthermore my mind is alert, but inside I am sleepy. I am easily moved by things people say or write, then I yank myself back into proper critical mode.

And yet it is unavoidable. People are normally the epidermis of an occasional meeting. Here several layers of skin are suddenly shed - not in the 'confessional' sense, but in that you find out what concerns people. Their dimensions deepen suddenly. Their lives seem at least as substantial as your own. They are not people with a romantic idea about being poets, they want to write because language is what they have and they want shape and meaning, much as you yourself do - and, as it inevitably turns out, there is much to give shape and meaning to.

This is anthology night when students choose two or three poems from books to read. The poems vary and range from the grand to the little, from the funny to the profound. One student, who was a doctor, reads John Berryman's XIVth Dream Song. It runs right through me. "Literature bores me, especially great literature bores me". And the truth of that, the necessary and salutary truth of it, goes deep down without ever making great literature less great. On the contrary it makes it tragic and the slightly crazy, sprawling, yet perfectly cut poem that finds it boring becomes tragic in its turn.

Part of me doesn't give a tinker's cuss about Oxford and its professors of poetry. It bores me. It is, as Blake would have put it, something else besides life. And what's that Marianne Moore line about poetry?

I too dislike it.

And yet, by showing a perfect contempt for it, as she does in the poem, you find it does after all have value. It can even be great literature.


dubois said...

Is Totleigh a real place? It sounds like a word you just made up, a fictional place, although I believe you are there.

Poet in Residence said...

Hi George, I've written a cool thing about you and your bottle of J. - it's called 'Bukowski Night'. Charles Christian already has it "on the top of the pile" ;-)
And what's more I've told him to take you to Greenwich Village next trip. I reckon you might need it by the time you've got through at Totleigh. Exeter's good. Try 'The Imperial' (Witherspoons) and for a walk The Red Rock Cafe' at Dawlish Warren.
In Vienna tonight Rati Saxena is on at Cafe´ Kafka.
By the way I've now dug up Dylan Thomas and posted him 1st class to Oxford. They've never forgiven old Dylan (did he really say 26 Jamesons and that's a record) for sending TS Eliot a curt 2-lines of suspect content for his contribution to the famous anthology.
Keep your bardic pecker up.
Best, Gwilym

George S said...

It's real enough, Dubois. We're a few miles from Okehampton. Totleigh itself is a village of about three houses. Nearest other places are Sheepwash and Hatherleigh (I may be spelling that wrong). Full quaint address of centre includes the lines: Sheepwash, Beaworthy. It doesn't get more English and Middle Earth-ish than that.

And thank you, Gwilym. I steal the odd twenty minutes at the office computer here - morning, late afternoon and about midnight. There isn't the time to chase things up or to explore websites. There is no TV, no radio, no newspaper, so it is more or less isolated.

On the last watch I check out BBC news and that's about it.

Poet in Residence said...

" is more or less isolated."

Robinson Jeffers I believe ;-)

as for Rati Saxena - she's big in India.