Sunday, 12 October 2014

Inventing Life / Perpetuum Mobile:
From Another Hotel Room

Legend of speed. Etching. George Szirtes (back in the 70s/80s)

A brief interruption to the poems from Druskininskai with two, maybe three more to go. I am in Manchester overnight to do some recording for BBC's The Verb. I am to talk about Frigyes Karinthy's highly popular, though now often criticised and questioned, translation of Winnie the Pooh in terms of both cultural and linguistic change.

I seem to be a kind of odd job poet of the media - a curious status - so I produce, to commision, an article or two about this or that aspect of poetry or translation, record a discussion of World War 1 poetry from countries other than the UK on radio; am commissioned (or rather was) to write a very brief film noir script in verse also for radio, to introduce Tarr's Sarantango to a cinema audience, to produce a piece on Jewish Budapest for a journal, to write an oratorio for one composer here, the text for an opera for another. None of this makes me rich or gravely famous.

Today in Manchester. On Wednesday to Nottingham to talk to two Hungarian writers about the state of Hungarian literature. On Saturday to Ilkley to read from the New Don Juan and to address a cultural meeting. Then to Ealing for a very unusual event where all the family gets to perform, the following Saturday to London to read at Rich Mix, then back to London to speak for Rimbaud at another London event, and, beyond that to do a reading in Norfolk, to come to London again for a book prize meeting then to jet off to Singapore for a festival then a residency. In between that I must spend an hour or so at Imperial College researching for some more commissioned poems, and also record a poem commissioned for Anself Kiefer at the Royal Academy, both in London of course. This is all in the next two and a half weeks.

I nearly always say Yes when invited to do something, generally for fear of never being asked again. The result is I am asked to do many things because people think I can do them. I am not sure I can but then I have to so it seems I can which then leads to more requests to do more things. So goes the perpetuum mobile.

I must have energy enough for all this because I seem to be doing it - and more. Maybe I just tick over very fast and always have. The poems I write are bred out of the same tempo, at quiet moments between the pressure. I can't tell, or at least be certain, about their long term weight and other people's evaluation of them often confuses me. I do know I have never been the slow meditative type: my meditations are intense and compressed.

Life too seems intense and compressed, of a glowing, almost white-hot brightness. I have grown to love it ever more without wanting to hold on to it for any time beyond its useful length. I know - and am fortunate beyond words to know - that I am loved by those I most care for. I know that the love is vital but that it is best based not on a puppyish craving but on consideration, kindness and a wild sense of the uncertainty of life, or indeed of anything.

This is a moment along the way, as are all moments. One invents life as one goes along, or it invents one. Hard to know which. One hopes to invent poems that can be part of life's own invention.

No comments: