Monday, 5 July 2010

Audio: Four Sonnets from 'An English Apocalypse'

Still playing with audio. I recorded these four sonnets together because they follow each other in my 2001 book, An English Apocalypse.

Four Sonnets from' An English Apocalypse'

Three of the sonnets have names referring to colour. I wrote several colour sonnets, some of them sonnet sequences. There are eleven such in the book.There are seven more in Reel (2004), but the series began back in Portrait of My Father in an English Landscape (1998) that contains another seven, and continued in The Budapest File (2000) where there are four more.

Strange I had never counted them. It seems there are twenty-nine of them, but since half of them are sequences the actual number of sonnets is much higher.

The colour sonnets began one day in London when C was visiting Cornelissen's, the famous old colour merchants to buy paint and inks. While she was ordering I was gazing at the jars of pure pigment and one particular one fascinated me. It was called Monastral Blue and it reminded me of something I couldn't place. That was what did it. I wrote a poem that turned out to be a sonnet, but unfortunately turned out not to be very good. Others followed. I bought colour charts and contemplated individual colours. I suppose the series must have continued through some three or so years.

The sonnets here are all single and all deal with experiences of England.

The Ropes referred to my first days in England where I went along to cub scouts in Westgate, Kent, and tried to learn to tie knots. The idea of learning the ropes came later, once I was more conversant with idioms.

Payne's Grey simply reminded me of sea and clouds and foggy evenings attending football matches

Sepia: The Light Brigade was based on memories of slightly muddy walks in the fields in Hertfordshire and how we would meet other people as we went. I was also thinking of fields as palimpsest - the fields under the field - and of the soldiers moving into open view in the Great War, the war that was so much at the heart, or so it seemed to me, of the English imagination.The Light Brigade refers to light but also to the well known charge.

Copper Brown is just an old coin dug up in the garden. The terrible importance of money when you have little. The annals of the poor. 'Pounding' is of course a pun that happened along.

From 1998 onwards I was preoccupied with the subject of England - what it was, what made it, what part it had become of me. I am still preoccupied.

This set is going into the Links on the right too, as an archive.


James said...

These are excellent, and it's good to hear the spoken voice WITHOUT vuvuzelas in the background for a change. (Though I admit to becoming fond of the things. Sound of the summer and all that).

George S said...

Thank you, James. Glad it works. I wonder if this is the way you would have done it.

Vuvuzelas can be provided. Ezra Pound used to accompany himself on a drum, Ginsberg with bells. (I could try an accordion).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. I have really enjoyed listening to you read your sonnets and timely too, as I have been researching sonnets. My favourite of the four is Sepia: The Light Brigade. Love its tone and wisdom.

Gwil W said...

Great news that you have an archive. I can listen when I like without having to hunt round the web. I'm constantly amazed by what people can do with their computers.

J.Marles said...

These are great.

The name "Payne's Grey" takes me right back to my childhood watercolour set. Those traditional pigment names (Rose Madder, Burnt Umber, Chrome Yellow, Cinnabar, Ultramarine...) are poetically suggestive, while the self-conscious would-be "poesy" of the Dulux catalogue (Daffodil White, Paradise Green, Jazzy Orange) just falls flat.

George S said...

They were lovely names - Cerulean Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Naples Yellow, Solferino Violet. In fact those are all sonnet sequences, but then there was also Phthalo Blue. Raw Umber, Brunswick Green, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna (another sonnet), Lamp Black. Chinese White (another sonnet)... etc.