Saturday, 17 July 2010
Audio: Four middle period love poems
These are all short, and all from the same book, Short Wave (1984), now to be found in New and Collected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2008).
The schizophrenic in Against Dullness is a memory of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (a wonderful trailer, this), where the chair in Norman Bates's cellar spins round and we see the skeleton of the mother. There is a sense of horror haunting this, not just of external dangers but also of sheer habit, that 'dull, provincial sense'. The figure has just come in soaked by rain and is sitting in a revolving chair. As often, there is an apprehension that it is precisely fear that is at the back of love - the fear of loss, either through fate, or through habitude. No mortality: no love.
A Girl Sewing is also from observation. Here the figure threatens to become a universal, an imagined girl who might be a rival to the real specific one. I think I had some Dutch painting hovering at the back of my mind, possibly Vermeer, but maybe someone like Gabriel Metsu. This is just a faint memory of the circumstances.
Brief Sunlight is startled into being by the sheer fierceness of things. All those natural powers billowing in, taking over. Somewhere in there is an image that had come to me before, of a nuclear explosion, the Peter Watkins film. The explosion comes when we are in bed or in a shed of some sort
In Early Rising it is the sound of the early blackbird with her 'sculptured fioratura' that sets the poem off. It's the Keats nightingale moment. but then you realise the blackbird too is mortal. That is a winding sheet in the first verse: we're half dead, half alive, utterly distanced from ourselves.