‘Leaf-fall hides the summer’s rot
reducing from the whole to part.
Leaf-shed: taking us all apart.’
from NORMANDE JOURNAL 2015
Perhaps I am feeling as if I have been taken apart over the last few months, now, at last, I begin to feel more mellow, more as if I can remember, interrogate and even integrate the world.
So first to Porcelain. I have just finished reading ‘The White Road: A Journey into Obsession’ by Edmund de Waal. He is a potter whose love of white, of porcelain and of the means of displaying, opening up and inviting in the audience brings the reader deep into the heart of the history, the extraordinary obsession and the heart- breaking anomalies of white ceramic pottery. It is a wonderful book. It opens the eyes of the heart to the wonder of white. He quotes Wallace Stevens ‘Here being visible is being white/Is being of the solid of white, the accomplishment/ Of an extremist in an exercise…’ and I go back to The Auroras of Autumn and find such energy, such infolding into meaning under words. And here we are, Autumn Equinox and the colours fading, blending, the white of winter on the horizon. Reading a very, very good book changes me at some root level – as if I have been given a window into understanding.
Then Penelope Shuttle writes ‘and stamped on the sands/in white wheels and patches/salt unfurling/in shapes like ghost sails’ Bardsea Sands – more white and I am pulled along in another rhythm as I read ‘Four portions of everything on the menu for M’sieur Monet’, Penny’s new pamphlet (Indigo Dreams). The title poem inspires – celebrating an artistic life in which everything has meaning, everything is needed and contributes to the whole. Both obscuring and defining Monet ‘…unlike Turner /does not resort to the trick/ of making the world taller, buildings,/ mountains, waterfalls, / but like Turner and Whistler / he offers us / (and so will Dufy) / a world (a Thames) of radiant precision.’ The ‘radiant precision’ in this poem and others in this book of poems of place and ‘Heath’ the collaboration of Penelope Shuttle and John Greening across Hounslow Heath re-starts my own writing again.
I am starting to write longer poems, series of poems about places, people, my life abroad (a word that has ambiguous meaning – both spreading out and being within the new) and starting to link my own internal experience with the places where I was changed, where life took turns. What is difficult is keeping both the exuberance and the confidence. I have four pamphlet length sets of poems at the moment. One I am still working on and it is what is filling my head with images and emotions. The other three I am going to send off on some literary journeys and hope that they might end up in some place where people will read and enjoy/re-act to them. At the same time I am working on sending out poems to magazines. It requires a different kind of discipline to revising, re-working, new writing and thinking. It is a discipline I need to revive from the time when deadlines, accuracy, presentation and timing were important. The problem with the reading and re-reading of poetry magazines is the over-load of new images, ideas and clever inclinations in words that rush, teeter and spill across the page. It seems important to keep reading the new but at another level it is a bit dis-spiriting to see how much there is in print, in performance and interaction and how removed I am from these ‘happenings’.
I have had to go back to raison d’etre – to ask myself why am I in the unpolluted light of rural Normandy, in my room filled with books and facing the orchard that changes through the day, through the month and the seasons? It is about finding ‘radiant precision’, opening up the eyes to both Nature and its roots and to seeing detail in flowers, birds and trees. Something about the particular defining the sweep of past experiences of countries and people, something about the spreading rhizome of words that connect and interact.