Sunday, January 04, 2009

Plane Trees, Robinson, and After Dark

It’s been a busy Christmas and New Year period. Aside from family get-togethers, I’ve been working through most of it, but have managed to write a poem (not quite finished. Or, at least, I’m still not happy with it). I’ve also been reading, mainly my staple diet over the last few months – Zbigniew Herbert, Wallace Stevens, Denis Johnson, James Schuyler and W.S. Graham.

Over the last few days, I’ve also been reading a little Roy Fisher. His ‘Wonders of Obligation’, which opens his The Long and the Short of It: Poems 1955-2005 is really startling and I’ve also enjoyed some of the poems from his City sequence, especially ‘The Sun Hacks’ with its lines:

On the first bus nightworkers sleep, or stare
At hoardings that look out on yesterday

I love that description of the hoardings. Anyway, I read in one of City’s prose sections:

Faint blue light dropping down through the sparse leaves of the plane trees in the churchyard opposite after sundown, cooling and shaping heads, awakening eyes.

I then picked up James Schuyler’s Collected and, opening it at random to the poem, ‘Buttered Greens’, read at its beginning:

makes shade
acid blue
leaf work
of elms
they fell first

blown under
a big plane
tree lying
on tuftedness
the pattern
of its later

A happy coincidence to have plane trees and indeed blue light/blue shade in consecutive, unrelated poems - both very good ones.

I also re-read Weldon Kees’s four ‘Robinson’ poems last night. Quite brilliant, especially Robinson itself. As a portrait of alienation, a meditation on absence, a blend of reality and surrealism, and a multi-layered puzzle of an ending, you can’t beat it. Never a poem I could get tired of.

In the late hours, I’ve been skipping through Haruki Murakami’s novel, After Dark, which manages to be well written (and, I can only imagine, very well translated), gripping and hugely entertaining.


deemikay said...

Thanks for the link to Robinson. Kees is a stranger to me... or, at least, just-a-name.

apprentice said...

Funny how these little co-incidences/connections occur.

I think trees take on a different life in the city, especally at night

rossw said...

Happy new year Rob!

I was wondering if you're reading Denis Johnson's poetry? I've really enjoyed what I've read of his fiction and non-fiction and know he writes poetry but have never got round to reading any of it. I imagine it's good though. He comes up with some cracking images in his prose.

Rob said...

I have to give ABJ credit for pointing me to Kees and Johnson. I'd read a few poems by Kees before, including a couple of the Robinson ones, but it's only lately I've read him in more depth.

Ross, yes, it's Johnson's poetry I'm talking about. It's quite idiosyncratic, often flawed, but often simultaneously brilliant. His book of collected poems is called 'The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly' - that title alone might offer a glimpse into what the poems are like.

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