Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Last Night In Aguascalientes---Writing

This is not my usual kind of post, given my emphasis is elsewhere, namely writing for writing's sake minus diversions and digressions taking me to other subjects, normally that topic being taxi in all its tattered clothing.  Sincerely then this is when I suggest you take a break if taxi is your sole interest, because, after next weekend's taxi travails, I will be back to taxi tried and true.

But if you are interested in knowing the real me, the self that doesn't care a lick about taxi driving, then stick with me and read poems not only by me but also John Clare (1793-1864), George Meredith (1828-1909), and Christina Rossetti (1830-1894).  Time permitting I will also include the last stanza taken from Thomas Hardy's (1840-1928) "The Oxen" and a poem, though it was never intended as this, WH Auden's (1907-1973) "Petition" which I see as an appropriate prayer or wish for all my brethren cabbies.  Writing and associated endeavors is my breath while washing dishes, bus driving, psychology, driving taxi have all been dumb labor, something to pay the bills.  There was, for an extended time period, when I read and performed in varied setting, included having my writing accompanied by interpretive dance.  I was in my early and mid-20s and didn't understand the opportunities that were given.

One of my last featured poetry readings, in 2003, occurred in that northern California town recently devastated by fire, Weed.  While divorce and illness have provided major setbacks,  I have not forgotten who and what I truly am.  I am now shopping my new book in a way never attempted, finding salesmanship onerous and distasteful but whatever is necessary is what I will be doing.  The payoff is great, and the alternative unmentionable.  Like finding a difficult address, I am sick of the wrong turns.

Back in February of 2000, I spent a month in northern Wales at my favorite literary haunt, once Saint Deiniol's, now (William) Gladstone's Residential Library.  During that time a gentleman with a newly minted PHD in Thomas Hardy, James Whitehead, was selling copies of favorite poems at the dining room entry way for 20 pence.  He loved good writing, something he lived for, and was at that juncture searching for a University teaching position.

Included in that series during my stay were the before mentioned Rossetti, Meredith and Clare, plus a contemporary British writer whose name I don't remember but somewhere residing in a box is what was then a recent volume.  His picture displayed a rather plump, upper-middle class Englishman in a white leisure suit, looking like the local parson out for a personal call, thus his omission is solely due to a faulty memory.

Then, perhaps as a going away present, there were copies of my poem, "To & Fro" next to the dining room door.  The reception was favorable from a very literate and knowledgeable group.  One old priest was once personally acquainted with C. Day Lewis (1904-1972).  It is an understatement to say that everyone was well read.  And today I am providing a very rough reenactment of that fabulous month minus my being nearly run over by a herd of rampaging sheep.  I'll let the good sheep roam freely the castle grounds while I remain confined to the blank page.

John Clare was a English farmer having a brief moment of writing glory then subsequently tossed back by the British Royalty to the rural rubbish heap.  His most well known poems were, like this one, composed in an insane asylum.

                                                             I Am

I am: yet what I am none cares or knows,
  My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
   They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death's oblivion lost;
And yet I am, and with shadows tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noice,
    Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
    But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
And e'en the dearest---that I loved the best---
Are strange---nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for for scenes where man has never trod;
   A place where woman never smiled or wept;
There to abide with my Creator God,
     And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untoubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below---above the vaulted sky.

                           John Clare                              

What a statement of sorrow that is!  Perhaps, like Van Gogh's keepers in southern France, they considered artistic activity to be therapeutic.  I suppose in a manner of speaking it is though still not preventing Clare's hallucinations.

Next on the poetic agenda is George Meredith, a writer much favored by one of my writing mentors, JB Priestley (1894-1984).  Meredith is yet another important writer assigned to literary oblivion unless of course you are rubbing elbows in Oxford.

                                                          Kinship with the Stars

Cold as a mountain in its star-pitched tent,
Stood high Philosophy, less friend than foe:
Whom self-caged Passion, from its prison-bars,
Is always watching with a wondering hate.
Not till the fire is dying in the grate,
Look we for any kinship with the stars.

                                      George Meredith

Christina Rossetti, along with her brother Dante Rossetti (1828-1882) was a great romantic caught up in the cultural nets that was Victorian English.  You might know this oft quoted poem.

                                           When I Am Dead, My Dearest

When I am dead, my dearest,
   Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
   Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
     With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
    And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
    I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
    Sing on, as if in pain;
And dreaming through the twilight
    That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
     And haply may forget.

                         Christina Rossetti

What a plaintive song, she another great individual whose life was cut short by illness and disease.  Try, try as we might, still we human souls are overwhelmed by sadness, or so it would seem.

And now a poem from Joseph (Joe) Blondo (1953 & counting).   Instead of "To & Fro" I present another metaphysical but one with a decidedly different tone.  Given I am on the road I left much of my library back in Tacoma.  I chose this poem because it is short.

                           God is

God is nice, thoroughly considerate,
allowing brief strolls in leafy gardens
alluring and confusing in both tendency
and practice, which of course is how it
should be when, undeserving of a single
breath, life opens swallowing you in one
momentous gesture of affection and
eternal good will.

                               J. Blondo

Hardy's poem "The Oxen" is my favorite Christmas poem even though I don't believe in Christmas nor Christ's modern attendant, Santa Claus. The word "barton" means farm yard.
The last stanza from "The Oxen":

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb,
  Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
    Hoping it might be so.

       Thomas Hardy

Ah yes, sugar plums and dreams of Christmas, where under a tree sat gleaming a miniature Yellow taxi!  No, Hardy did not write that and thank God for something.

I'll conclude with Auden.  Considered one of the best of an era I personally think at times he was too formal, his literary tongue dislodged by a silver spoon.  He was close friends with one of my very favorite poets, Louis MacNeice (1892-1963).  Check out his short poem "Bagpipe Music" and his long masterpiece, "Autumn Journal."  If you like poetry, you will be glad.


Sir, no man's enemy, forgiving all
But will his negative inversion be prodigal;
Send to us power and light, a sovereign touch
Curing the intolerable neural itch,
The exhaustion of weaning, the liar's quinsy,
And the distortions of ingown virginity.
Prohibit sharply the rehearsed response
And gradually correct the coward's stance;
Cover in time with beams each those in retreat
That, spotted, they turn though the reverse were great;
Publish healer that in city lives
Or county house at the end of drives;
Harrow the house of the dead; look shining at
New styles of architecture, a change of heart.

                                     Wysten Hugh Auden

As I said in the beginning, dedicated to all taxi drivers.  And if you gotten this far, congratulations, you now have a small introduction into my mind and psyche.  Scary? I hope not.




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