The first half of the tenth in this series. I hope there will be a part 2.
I am having real trouble with Grace Lake (a.k.a. Anna Mendelssohn). I began at the level of meaning and quickly realised that was going to be a non-starter. So I looked at form, structure, content (other than meaning), sound, and didn’t make any headway into what she might be doing. I thought about politics – maybe the reason her poems made no sense to me is because she has deliberately gone out of her way to make sure the poems make no sense – she has made the decision that language/syntax is a masculine/bourgeois/white construct that has emerged from a dead tradition, and she has tried to re-engage people by undermining everything about it. Could be. But I don’t really know.
I found a kind of review of one of her pamphlets (by Andrew Duncan, discussed earlier, at number 5), but to be honest, it didn’t help me much. Here’s a paragraph from it:
“Lake is a social poet, writing against something always being said. A lot of people, in the sixties, found the style of Marx and Freud about as credible as a speech by Harold Wilson; most of the poets who began in that decade, you could say, were attacking official knowledge. The problem was then to create a poetry which was simultaneous and constantly shifting and irrational but never falsifiable, seductively fluent, never slipping back into informativeness to explain what was going on, and, if Lake has found the perfect answer, it shouldn't be too hard for us to remember the question.”
What I’m going to do is post a poem by Grace Lake below. If any of you have any thoughts on how to read it (i.e. not on what it means exactly– but on how to approach it) please let me know. Wild guesses, ideas (informed or not) are welcome. It might give me a clue as to how to read the rest of her stuff. What I really need to do is read this book by Tony Lopez. I expect he really would know how to read Grace Lake. If anyone knows him and wants to direct him here, please do.
Here’s the poem (edit - I've now removed most of the poem, but left a little to illustrate Grace Lake's style):
there being no books allowed at table
took to minor anti apartheid reminders
on envelopes in christmas work
and reveries upon custard
ladled out from giant vats
by pasty girls in white stitched caps
a painting struck my dream the other night
within a frame of three grooved wooden white
behind a partly revealed green foliage
custard came to light as delicious paint might
I didn't really get anywhere with Grace Lake and it wasn't for lack of trying, but of course, if any of you readers like what you’ve just read, then buy her latest book!