Saturday, June 07, 2008

7. Ancient Evenings - Michael Hofmann

So I’m onto the selection from Acrimony (1986), one of the most widely admired collections of that decade, and I can see why.

It starts with Ancient Evenings, a recollection of a relationship with a woman named Antonia. MH inserts the tone of romanticism, “but I had you – my Antonia!” into this plain style poem for comic effect. The images are astonishing – the friends being photographed under daft advertisement hoardings, the tins of soup the narrator boils in his kettle – still in their cans! – the ridiculously strong coffee he brews in the dark. And Antonia’s quietness, so great that “it seemed like an invitation/ to be disturbed.”

The poem never quite goes where you think it’s going to go, and the final image is one out of the top drawer of surprises:

..........................................…I sat us both in an armchair
and toppled over backwards. I must have hoped
the experience of danger would cement our relationship.
Nothing was broken, and we made surprisingly little noise.

What seemed like an important relationship meant next to nothing. I guess that’s what he’s trying to say. Also the experience of being young and ‘overheated’, but with no cement.


Anonymous said...

And the bit missing from that quoted final stanza sums up a crucial MH quality I think, as mentioned in the previous post:

"My humour was gravity .."

An interesting comparison with someone like Charles Simic, for example, whose dark elements are offset by a kind of weightless comedy. With MH the humour is usually a lighter shade of black and just as heavy as the rest.


Background Artist said...
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Rob said...

BA, stop posting long rambling nonsense. Please.

Rob said...

Andy, that's an interesting comparison. I like Simic and I don't think his comedy is always weightless, but yes, in much of his work it seems present as a form of entertainment.