Ice cream was no longer on sale in the foyer –
the end of kindness…I thought about mortality,
and cried for my father’s inevitable death.
From ice cream to an end of kindness to mortality. That’s the conclusion of a poem on light music. At first I thought the leap was too much, too easy. But I’m now coming round to it. I’m not sure whether it’s further irony, the sentiment of the music bringing out such thoughts? Or whether MH is deliberately reacting against the light stuff and filling his head with something heavier? Either way, the lines made me think again about what I’d read up until then.
And a double-bill today. The poem l’an trentiesme de son eage is about the relationship between Katherine Mansfield and Ida Baker. KM is in a sanatorium suffering from tuberculosis. She is continually irritable with Ida, her lover, criticizing her appearance, her personality, her lack of intellectuality. Life there is cold and miserable. She buys flowers etc for her husband Murry, even though “he is in England, advancing his career/ as a man of letters.” She writes to him, “I love you more than ever now I am 31.”
It’s quite prosy, matter-of-fact, few verbal fireworks, dispassionate. The poem works partly because of its intense underlying sadness – the love KM expresses for her husband who isn’t there, and her criticism of the woman who sticks around. “It’s hardly the scandalous lesbian affair/ you read about, but a sad, bitchy one.” I suppose it’s what often happens – people are nastiest to those who are least likely to reject them because of it.
No particular line jumps out at me from this poem, but the overall effect is pretty sobering.
Yesterday, I chickened out of discussing the title, as I am no Ezra Pound expert, but it’s worth noting that the phrase “l’an trentiesme de son eage” comes from the end of the first section of Pound’s poem Hugh Selwyn Mauberly (although Pound may have borrowed it from somewhere else?):
Unaffected by "the march of events",
He passed from men's memory in l'an trentiesme
De son eage; the case presents
No adjunct to the Muses' diadem.
I don’t know enough to be sure of how that connects to MH’s poem. KH has just passed her 30th year. I find it quite ambiguous. She is out-of-time, someone who was her own person, unaffected by the prevailing currents? I’m probably barking up the wrong tree entirely. I really don’t know.