Thursday, June 19, 2008

17. From A to B and Back Again - Michael Hofmann

That’s me two behind now, after missing yesterday. Ah well…

From A to B and Back Again belongs to the Absurdist school. It begins with the Northern Line whose tracks are like a “curving cicatrice” (a mark, impression, scar). It ends with a woman in a maternity hospital “on an empty drip” who shows the narrator her scars – “one in the metropolis” and the other in the “unconcerned suburbs.” In between, the narrator drops into the Barnet maternity hospital “by accident” and finds in there the woman with the scars, whom he calls “my love.”

So there are the cicatrice/ scars and the train journey/ metropolis–unconcerned suburbs connections. There’s the question of why he should drop into a maternity hospital “by accident,” given that his lover is in there. Why would she be on an “empty drip?” The hospital porter is illiterate but he and the narrator manage to find the lover’s name among the Os. All quite odd.

The language and rhythms are lively enough. But I don’t really know what this poem is getting at. It could be that it reveals a detachment in the narrator, that the images reflect his painfully superficial attitude to the woman and to other serious events in his life – his visit is accidental, the woman’s name among the Os makes me think of zeros, he’s made the journey from the metropolis (London, I presume) to the “unconcerned suburbs” of Barnet, mirrored in the woman’s body – maybe…these are all guesses.

I liked these lines:

There was Barnet, my glottal stop, trying hard
to live up to its name, colloquial and harmless and trite.

The line-break made me think something positive was coming, as did the first phrase of the next line – but the three adjectives that follow progressively destroy the place (poor old Barnet!). But it’s also the narrator’s stop and “glottal stop”, so he is implicated in his own description.

2 comments:

Background Artist said...
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Background Artist said...

gra agus siochainn..
i just came back to take it down.

pls forgive me for defiling yr lamp post mister M, i have been on a compositional bender, speculative and of the higher proofs, in df=raft form i suppose.

i can only plead a capacity for outpouring concrete poetry here at Poetry Concrete HQ, PC aware and, thus i apologise for causing any offence, i am but a harmless mooer, custodian of Alban lore, with a soh, some (ok many) do not care for, but i try to love and have a laugh, Hofmann is great, to be hinest i haven't read him..

please edit if textually discomforted, thank you very much, game on, language, imagination, fair wind, Immram to the otherworldly place and speculate, fail berthed in grace..love and peace..