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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Moonlight on Sewage

New from Carol Rumens: Blind Spots (Seren). On a cursory first dip (though I’ve seen many of its poems before), I think this is something new and very striking for CR to have written. I am especially taken with the long opening sequence, ‘Thinking About Montale by the River Hull’. Montale, readers of Larkin’s letters may remember, was the ‘Eyetie’ whose good fortune in the Stockholm lottery drove Larkin to splutters of indignation, but the arranged marriage between the two (the poems consist of versions and responses to Montale, with occasional ghostings and flittings from Larkin) makes for a combustible mix. These obscure earth-bound flashes are certainly not the fizzles of a wet match, to paraphrase ‘Piccolo Testamento’. From the sequence’s concluding poem, ‘Word Flashes: A Montale Lexicon’:

Girasole (Sunflower)

Great stars, beheld, not seen, scentless, seedless –

Mosca, too, with her strained, frayed retina,
has fields planted with your whirling gold

Cortile (Courtyard)

It was always important not to enter because
It was always important not to shut the gate

I Fantasmi (Ghosts)

Song, moonlight on sewage, louse of history, who,
deafened by the manic shelling, whimpers
again, begins to sing you, my no-longer song?

Goodbye to the stain that was the customs house, goodbye
to foundry, fish-scales, waves: the opera-singer
prepares the sails of his voice for a different cosmos.

The students have never heard, nor heard of, Gigli.
The tall wheat of the octave is not yet sown.


On another note, I find it thrilling to see Montale’s Ligurian landscapes, which were such a part of his appeal to me when I first read him as a teenager, transplanted to the so seemingly different estuarine sludge of the river Hull, which has become such a sacred site to me in recent years.

I recommend this book warmly.

And on another note again, blogger seems to have cancelled the option for right-justifying paragraphs of prose. Pah!

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