Saturday, October 18, 2008

Assorted Comments

You might want to get a cup of coffee before you start digging into this one. Like savoir faire, this one is all over the place. David Caddy wrote this and posted it at his blog.

The essay discusses the life and work of poet David Gascoyne (1916 – 2001).

Here is an excerpt:

[Gascoyne’s] concern is essentially with the boundaries and thresholds of consciousness, stemming from the discoveries of Freud, the surrealists, through the early existentialist movement, which Gascoyne splits into two separate groupings and sharply differentiates his perspective from that of Sartre’s, to Heidegger’s thinking on authenticity, being and time, to the frontiers of madness in Hölderlin and his novelist friend, Antonia White, and contemporary occult and magical practice. It is in the darkness of the last century that he set about trying to find some light, went mad, and recovered to re-read his past. After Judy Lewis rescued Gascoyne they married and he became part of the poetry reading circuit, reading to packed audiences at Cambridge, the Sorbonne and was later honoured by the French Government.

The essay looks at two poems in some detail:

Ecce Homo [excerpt]

by David Gascoyne

Whose is this horrifying face,
This putrid flesh, discoloured, flayed,
Fed on by flies, scorched by the sun?
Whose are these hollow red-filmed eyes
And thorn-spiked head and spear-struck side?
Behold the Man : He is Man’s Son.

Forget the legend, tear the decent veil
That cowardice or interest devised
To make their mortal enemy a friend,
To hide the bitter truth all His wounds tell,
Lest the great scandal be no more disguised:
He is in agony till the world’s end,

And we must never sleep during that time!
He is suspended on the cross-tree now
And we are onlookers at the crime,
Callous contemporaries of the slow
Torture of God. Here is the hill
Made ghastly by His spattered blood

Whereon He hangs and suffers still:
See, the centurions wear riding-boots,
Black shirts and badges and peaked caps,
Greet one another with raised-arm salutes;
They have cold eyes, unsmiling lips;
Yet these His brothers know not what they do.


The Gravel-pit Field

by David Gascoyne

Beside the stolid opaque flow
Of rain-gorged Thames; beneath a thin
Layer of early evening light
Which seems to drift, a ragged veil,
Upon the chilly March air’s tide:
Upwards in shallow shapeless tiers
A stretch of scurfy pock-marked waste
Sprawls laggardly its acres till
They touch a raw brick-villa’d rim.

Amidst this nondescript terrain
Haphazardly the gravel-pits’
Rough hewn rust-coloured hollows yawn,
Their steep declivities away
From the field-surface dropping down
Towards the depths below where rain-
Water in turbid pools stagnates
Like scraps of sky decaying in
The sockets of a dead man’s stare.

The shabby coat of coarse grass spread
Unevenly across the ruts
And humps of lumpy soil; the bits
Of stick and threads of straw; loose clumps
Of weeds with withered stalks and black
Tatters of leaf and scorched pods: all
These intertwined minutiae
Of Nature’s humblest growths persist
In their endurance here like rock.

As with untold intensity
On the far edge of being, where
Life’s last faint forms begin to lose
Name and identity and fade
Away into the Void, endures
The final thin triumphant flame
Of all that’s most despoiled and bare:
So these least stones, in the extreme
Of their abasement might appear

Like rare stones such as could have formed
A necklet worn by the dead queen
Of a great Pharaoh, in her tomb …
So each abandoned snail-shell strewn
Among these blotched dock-leaves might seem
In the pure ray shed by the loss
Of all man-measured value, like
Some priceless pearl-enamelled toy
Cushioned on green silk under glass.

And who in solitude like this
Can say the unclean mongrel’s bones
Which stick out, splintered, through the loose
Side of a gravel-pit, are not
The precious relics of some saint,
Perhaps miraculous? Or that
The lettering on this Woodbine-
Packet’s remains ought not to read:
Mene mene tekel upharsin?

Now a breeze gently breathes across
The wilderness’s cryptic face:
The meagre grasses scarcely stir;
But when some stranger gust sweeps past,
Seeming as though an unseen swarm
Of sea-birds had disturbed the air
With their strong wings’ wide stroke, a gleam
Of freshness hovers everywhere
About the field: and tall weeds shake,

Leaves wave their tiny flags to show
That the wind blown about the brow
Of this poor plot is nothing less
Than the great constant draught the speed
Of Earth’s gyrations makes in Space …
As I stand musing, overhead
The zenith’s stark light thrusts a ray
Down through dusk’s rolling vapours, casts
A last lucidity of day

Across the scene: and in a flash
Of insight I behold the field’s
Apotheosis: No man’s land
Between this world and the beyond,
Remote from men and yet more real
Than any human dwelling-place:
A tabernacle where one stands
As though within the empty space
Round which revolves the Sage’s Wheel.


Read the entire essay at David Caddy's blog. Go now.




"It is our goal to appreciate and improve our talents, to share our own work and to communicate the joys of poetry with others. Everyone's poetry is valued."
River Junction Poets Mission Statement



Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Andy Christ Birthday Reading

On October 6, I turned 42. To mark the occasion I hosted an event at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Saginaw, Michigan. A few special friends celebrated with me and made it a delightful evening together. We had an informal reading of a few poems from my chapbook. The picture here was taken that night. There were two other men in our group who I met that night; they decided they didn't want to be in the picture. I enjoyed hearing their comments on my poems etc, and hearing them read my poems was a treat. They also bought and signed a birthday card to me. I thought the whole experience was delightful. I will keep that birthday card in a special place and not lose it.

We started at 7:15 or so, then decided to go together to a nearby Bennigan's. Jack asked our waiter if they had anything special for customers on their birthday, and the waiter said yes. I was subsequently treated to a huge warm brownie drizzled with fudge and served with two scoops of vanilla ice cream - compliments of Bennigan's. Fortunately the waiter included five spoons with the dessert, and everyone was able to partake of the savory treat. To top it off, the waiter returned with the manager and other wait staff to chant a birthday greeting to me while I was sitting at the table with everyone. Fun!


"It is our goal to appreciate and improve our talents, to share our own work and to communicate the joys of poetry with others. Everyone's poetry is valued."
River Junction Poets Mission Statement