ought a poem to be? Answer, a sad
and angry consolation. That’s
beautiful. Once more? A sad and angry
Geoffrey Hill (The Triumph of Love CXLVIII)
Certain books, certain readings I come to, without any curtain of misunderstanding or obscurity, even if what they say seems to be difficult and obscure at the time. I wonder at this, at the way poetry catches the mood often long before the meaning. PN Review this month seems particularly to reflect this and the quotation from Hill is part of a short essay by Peter McDonald’s article on Yeats, Hill and anger. It sends me back to Broken Hierarchies – a book where the overused heft is the only word to describe taking it down off the shelf. Heft in every meaning of the word. And here we go again. I don’t know if it is the effort of trying to make sense of things global, national, personal or just the impotent anger and the sense that there is no sense in trying to make sense any more.
Well out of that morass of mis-meaning the sense of loss. This time of year, in Normandy, you can see very far. The hedges have been coppiced, trees de-branched their untidy limb s trimmed to hard knobs up high, un-shadowed trunks. Grass is beginning to grow across the fields but not high enough to comb in the wind, just lifting its head. Then , suddenly, there is colour and movement in the ditches. Outside the hedge the ditch is lined with painted celandine and opening narcissus and daffodils. Colour begins to bring shape to the tulips in their troughs, I look anxiously at the wisteria to see if it is beginning to bud. Then, as I riffle through the poem Broken Hierarchies I find,
‘the holding burden of a wisteria
drape amid drape, the sodden
copia of all things flashing and drying.’
and I am again in the land of loss. These last months how many of the poets I love have gone – Hill, Bonnefoy, and now Derek Walcott. I came late to Walcott but his rhythm and word spin holds me in a whirlpool of joy and I re-found John Berger and his special way of looking when his obituaries took me back to his books. Leonard Cohen and David Bowie whose music and words are part of my history have also gone. The trees lose their leaves but they come again and the ground and sky is pregnant just now with spring renewal – but with people it is different – all that remains is poetry as a sad and angry consolation. I always regarded myself as a steward of my houses and it has never before felt so hard to be leaving – but it is another sense of loss and a failure of will to want to move and change. However – my last blog had a strange corollary as someone I didn’t know sent an obscure message to all of my followers about her mother dying and some people misinterpreted this as my daughter writing to say I was dead. It is re-assuring that so many people have written to say how pleased they are that this is not the case and to say how upset they were to hear this mis-news. It was a sort of renewal and a spring of the soul if not quite of the body and I looked with attention and focus at the world around me – so glad to still be part of it. On the internet a house is advertised which shows wisteria crowding all over the front of it – perhaps it will be the one? So we move forward – hope eternal springing in all senses. How comforting hymns were when it was possible to believe and hope in what they said. Sometimes I find myself humming them to myself and wonder if it is a step too far to remember that underneath are the ever-lasting arms.
In French lessons we have looked at memory and read Marcel Proust and the madeleine in its original – so spare and powerful his writing in French. Conjugations sometimes settle into a pattern – maybe I am improving slowly. In the meantime I am going to rejoice – in lamb-like tumble and jump – in my head at least. Happy springing to you all!