A Single-winged Bird: Poems A Short Novel One-way Emails
He's full of promise and love's sore oath Oh he's pink-tipped to the lip with it. He bargains with sailboats, plans voyages. He's Zephyrus hoping for Flora And pussy eared. When I am away He takes his daytime dance Upon my kitchen floor, trailing soil, flirting With sunlight and always searching for wind In the arid desert heat, trapped by double glazing.
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The panda is one of the cactus species, and is quite commonly kept as a house-plant. I nearly wrote 'house-pet', because the familiar name for the plant is 'pussy ears', and the poem plays beautifully with the name and with the animal associations.
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- Poem of the week: Look for Me by Vladislav Khodasevich.
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I am not sure this is an inscape - who would recognize that the thing described is a cactus, without the title? I like the bold opening, making comically inflated claims for the powers of this small stationary plant; and I like the sense that 'pussy ears' is pent-up behind double glazing, restless and frisky. The poem is interesting formally, with its opening and closing lines so strongly marked out, framing the panda as if on the window-sill.
This is lively, experimental writing, ingenious in its linguistic playfulness. This is poetry of spectacle. There is a real attempt to grapple with sheer energy and momentum, as well as with the mind-boggling idea of motion through space. The poem is most successful in the two lines beginning "pure fission It was a bold move to use end-rhyme, and to include so many feminine line endings: I looked for a regular rhyme-scheme but could not find it. Phrases I found weak were "gradually revealing" and "climbing imperceptibly".
I am not clear what the poet gains by omitting capital letters, since the sentences are punctuated. Nor am I entirely sure if the caesura before the final word in each line is intended, or an accident in formatting. Fortuitous or otherwise, it highlights the falling rhythm of each line.
Hesitantly, her mother indicates a very sensible tea service. A stroke of blue under the porcelain of her ear darkens. Her forehead is a fretwork. In the jaw a clink of bone china. Pink glaze bleeds through skin. Her glare is magnesium. Then gradually the varnish of her eyes brittles in the flare, the gaze scumbles, shifts to anywhere but here. She turns away, her hair a slumped lattice.
Later, I watch her spinning grey silk to globes. Each finger sparks as she whirls into the wheel, flying clear to light a vacuum. Her lips describe a perfect rim. This is an inscape in exactly the sense that Hopkins meant it, for everything in the appearance and actions of the potter declares that her vocation is her identity: The transformation of the woman into porcelain has a fascinating, uncanny power. The details in this poem are crisply observed; and the conceit is intricately sustained throughout. I am reminded of some of Craig Raine's early Martian poems.
I love the word "scumbles" and the image of hair as "a slumped lattice". I wondered at first about the extra line at the beginning of the first stanza, but I see now that it roots fantasy in the real world and provides a clever contrast.
Winters in the garage, concrete walls go two shades dimmer, and it's freezing in this, his chosen desert. Wind will always spit dust around our bones, and he can type in mittens open at the curving seam to keep the fingers free. I used to wonder what he lived for at the city's edge, where gemstoned businessmen lean on horns, eyes closed till evening. This morning, between paragraphs, it's clear: Of all the poems, I find this the most enigmatic. The relationship of speaker to subject is left unexplored. The circumstances of the subject are clearly important, doing much more than setting the scene, but they are only half spelt out.
Arthur lives an austere life, yet he clearly has something the "gemstoned businessmen" do not have - the freedom to be himself, to pursue his writing "in this his chosen desert". The inscape towards which the poem leads, in the final stanza, is striking: The sound of the axe is like the peal of a bell. The trueness of his aim and the cleanness of the sound together convey all that the speaker admires in this figure. Each stanza represents the stage in an unfolding thought, and the poem slips almost casually from one stage to another.
Everything about the poem is at once charged with significance and understated, intriguing the reader with its strange elisions. It is never still, this without form which wanders beneath stone without lifting, or shifting. The teasing trickle in a bosom crevice, the tingle jingle on a roof tin, free falling like a bird outside its wing,.
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The opening lines are arresting in their obliqueness and lyric beauty. Is this a poem about melting frost, or time, or process? A mysterious entity "without form" is tracked though 12 lines of pure sound, as though movement itself were being caught on the page. Note the internal and slant rhymes - "lifting" and "shifting", "tingle jingle", "rushes" and "brushes", "scores" and "tour", "pleats" and "sweet" - which keep our ear attentive, listening for a delicate patter like rain drops. The reader responds primarily to the sound-system of this poem, inhabiting its linguistic medium with no expectation of strict referentiality.
The free, associative quality of the writing makes a remarkable poem, close to music. Hawk by Diana Adams Hook-nosed bandit, dazed red shouldering the ledge. Violin by Sheila Black You must use the body - its curves, its hollows, the spring of the sound, which brings back what is absent, what has been and is now gone, fading. Fog by Helen Cadbury Earth-sweat, sea-breath, hangs about, cold-shouldering street corners, disconsolate, untouchable, smothers horizons, pockets whole villages, sprays dirty thumb-smudge graffiti on city walls, in ditches, spits chill onto the woollen scarves of citizens, who shrink into their coats, avert their gaze until the cloud-fall sighs and heaves itself away - a slow unfathomable fade - to hide in low valleys and the shadows of churches, waiting to muster when the day's back is turned.
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Lizard by Martha Close Each morning, strobed in the flicker of the kitchen light It speeds a steep slalom up the wall above the sink, This fir-cone fat one dislodges dust and air and Its firm tail flails a hectic pulse to its lair behind the fridge. Patience by John Curry In balance, purposeful, precise, you race with deft and sudden steps, keep just behind the leader for half a lap, to feel his pace then burst. Helter-skelter, your limbs and lungs and heart are tiring fast; you reach the line - and now you've won. But you say little hung on winning.
I watch your face, sinewy in thought, relax and grin. Always like this, you man of action, whose days made such events as led to me, and me to borrow your story. One thing I don't have to guess. Still in your chair, white haired; I watch your steady eyes, blue as the open sea and flecked with the patience of coral.
Spiral Staircase of the Old Hotel by David Jalajel It breathes, this staircase, when a breeze ruffles its latticework. It spins lightheaded from terrace to terrace, not tenable for walking on, but displayed for the sheer spectacle it creates, for the roving eye it entices upwards with all its interlacing steps.
There are ages of history written into its wrought iron - its smelting in some smoky Victorian forge, its polishing by perfumed hands and the sweaty palms of over-eager lodgers, odors of scandal reeking like whiskey from its dust, the fall to the death of one fine lady descending in haste to her lover, who dared with glamorous intent to glide upon its shivering bones when a breeze called from below.
How to photograph the heart by Christine Klocek-Lim You remember how the lens squeezed unimportant details into stillness: Succulent by Rachael Lloyd There's a god perched on my windowsill. There's a panda on my windowsill who thinks he's a god. Saturn V by Henry Moon ignition Even more helpful a comparison might be WB Yeats, who was only 20 years older than Khodasevich, and also died in I wonder if Khodasevich who left Russia in and finally settled in Paris ever came upon the Irish poet's work.
Like Yeats, Khodasevich resists the stylistic ferment of his age: One of the pleasures of this Selected is that Daniels's English versions avoid the impression of "light verse" which can sometimes result from a translator's adherence to formal prosody. Poet-translators not infrequently dodge this hazard by the innovation, known, ironically, as "imitation", which allows a radical re-casting of the original. Daniels finds a balance: Daniels loses the Alexandrine, preferring consistency with the iambic pentameter. Otherwise, he retains the metre and ABAB rhyme-scheme of the original, and, in the second and third stanzas, the alternating feminine-masculine endings which are such a feature of Khodasevich's melodiousness.
The "edginess" comes in where Daniels rhymes on a minor word in an enjambed sentence: The Khodasevich line is more traditionally shaped. But Daniels is surely right to use a method that prioritises the rhyme-sound.
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He works close to original word-meanings, too: And it seems that "sunray" and "ray" are being used to fill a lexical gap in English: Look at Me is an intensely personal poem relating to the the suicide of Khodasevich's friend, Muni Samuil Viktorovich Kissin in March, Muni had saved Khodasevich from suicide in , and the latter "reproached himself terribly for being unable to save his friend in return". The poem Lady expresses more directly Khodasevich's self-scourging guilt over Muni.
Look for Me filters the longing for connection with his dead friend obliquely, by making Muni himself the speaker. The monologue evokes a glimmering, edge-of-vision sense of his continuing but elusive presence — as "vanishing wings", "a sound, a breath, a sunray … ". While spring, of course, is the season of rebirth, the images of fire suggest that Muni's recovery for Khodaevich will be as painful as touching fire. The hands stretched into "the restless flame of day" in the second stanza are "trembling".