Tuesday, 20 April 2010

That liberating sense of melancholy

This from yesterday when I was thinking about the implications of past tense and present tense in story telling, and eventually proposed that, while the past tense may be melancholy because it is over and nothing more can be done about it, it may yet be liberating because fables, fairy stories, magical tales, all happen at its non-specific depths, in dim distant places at dim distant times.

It helps of course that the past should not be too specific. Once you introduce the specific you are, in fact, projecting the present tense back into the past, eg On the 17th of February, 1836, on a dim winter afternoon in Rochdale, a man in a in a tall black hat was leading an equally black Labrador down Drake Street, past the costermonger's stall... The whole point is to take you there, so you might as well be in the present. That past is stuffed full of informants, as Barthes called them, all of which offer some guarantee that this is a real moment in a real place. That is not melancholy.

Then there is: Do you remember when we ran full tilt down the hill and we tripped and started rolling down towards the trees and the world vanished in a blur and you were saying something just as the rain started... Here we are entering a kind of hinterland in which the subjective has only just arrived before the whole thing is lost. I remember, and, in remembering, feel what I then felt.... the sensation of rolling, the feel of the grass, the sound of a voice and the touch of rain. There is melancholy here because the vanishing is the point. Vanished, gone, past.

But maybe there is a possible liberation here too, because memory has become a possession. We own the memory by interpreting it, by giving it some shadow of meaning. Poetry begins somewhere at this point. The melancholy, the ache of it, is something we can return to and reinterpret. It is like sinking ever deeper into the soil we stand on.

And, at some stage we might say, So there they were, rolling down the hill and the trees rushed to meet them, when their bodies broke apart, their heads in the branches, their organs passing into the trunk of tree, and their voices were no longer their voices but just rain and wind and grass, which is now at a point between fantasy and metaphor and could go either way, but whichever way it goes now depends on the imagination seeking its own truth, that is to say a meaning that seems a shadow of an experience.

And here we are in the realm of art, which, for a writer, is the realm of language. And that art might say, 'Hold your horses, you are taking too much of a liberty, this is too lush. Let's edit that again into something harder, sharper, like They started rolling down a hill. They rolled fast, but soon they reached the trees so they had to stop.'

And this reminds me of a time when I myself was a child, on a holiday of some sort in the hills near the city, and there was a cherry orchard, and we ate a lot of black morello cherries, and my mother was with us and she said, let's roll down the hill. Or I said it. Or maybe neither of us said it and it was just me rolling down the hill.

And that is over, whatever it was, which is melancholy, but see - it's at just that distance in time and space now, and has been a there long time, when I am free of it, so the whole thing resolves into the sense of rolling and the taste of black morello cherries and the sense of being a child with a different body and a different mind. And this set of factors could assume almost any shape that makes sense. A rounded independent shape. One of many other shapes that roll around in the spaces of the auditory imagination.


Coirí Filíochta said...
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Coirí Filíochta said...

I took the above poem down because I posted it for a third time elsewhere, after posting it here for the second time last night when I was rolling about cyberville spamming rot.

Though there were a few finds of beauty, eloquence and idiocy all bowled momentarily bathetic but with a joi de vie also, perhaps, er, one dunno if one's gorgeously indulgeable or a proper inconsequential foetry mental patient wrapped up so fuzzily in the naval of one's own logical cosmos, t'was but dream alone that made Simon Armitage shoot right up in one;s estimation last night after discovering his 9/11 poem.

I have to say, i feel a div now, only discovering three years after the event, that the Tribe of Simon is alive and well in my mind.

I watched Rufus recite it, after reading it, stumbling across it for the first time and being metaphorically blown away by Armitage's verbal nous, correctly himself and duh!, one just didn't know aye and Si sing the same song and all one can do now is whistle to my Yorkshire lurve, incognito, under deep mystical cover appropriating the identity of another citizen and comrade from the pool of Life and Love, whose song is double Oh - L - liverpool FC thinning on top in that uniquley Lancastrian institution of being t'other side of t'pennines lad.

PF is a poet on fire, I know that, and when he was proper wavy up top, luxurious locks and fresh of the winning Chelsea track, art t'was so unknownable then, when one was digging t'holes in t'road wunderin bout where my next line was being set, what datum and depth, ordinance and hard-core, thwack and clatter, three simple Simons went to islands in the footstep of You oh rosy cross of one's nature and calling: Do not forsake me red cross, banner above, my riches will fade beneath the blow of being sixth.

Oh L - I - -V - E - R - P - double oh ell Liverpool FC

Why did you forsake me, send me down the East Lancs rackedw ith guilt

To Manchester United and the Boss
of English soccer, oh bright life-pool, comely water why aye?