“From birthday to death-day we continue to collect and weave together the materials of our minute private universe, as a bird builds its nest “

“From birthday to death-day we continue to collect and weave together the materials of our minute private universe, as a bird builds its nest “

From the always interesting First Known When Lost here is a post with a wonderful piece of 0rose (rather than poetry, FKWL’s usual beat) by Walter de la Mare:

“As for our waking traffic with the world-at-large — and how infinitesimal a fraction of that is solely ours — what a medley this appears to be: loose, chancey, piecemeal, formless. From birthday to death-day we continue to collect and weave together the materials of our minute private universe, as a bird builds its nest, and out of a myriad heterogeneous scraps we give it a certain shape and coherence, wherein to lay our treasured brittle eggs. But how little life itself respects the rational, adapts itself to our convenience, discloses its aim, explains the rules — despite the fact that every thread of it that is ours is weaving itself into a gossamer fabric thinner even than dreamed-of moonshine, which we call the Past; and which, when in recollection we attempt to record and arrange it and to give it something of a pattern, we shall call autobiography. Nature, inscrutable mistress of her vast household, even although man assumes himself to be her fairy godchild, shows him a fickle favouritism, destroys him if he ignores her, and is indulgent only if he obeys to the last iota her every edict, her every whim. She is; she perpetuates herself; as if she herself were bemused and in a dream — with her seasons and her weather, her greenery and stars and her multitudes; creating, destroying, never at rest.”

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“The Sonnet Is Dead”, a sonnet by Joanna Cleary

From the Summer 2018 issue of Temz Review here is a sonnet (of course) by Joanna Cleary. I like its ironic treatment of contemporary lit crit certainties. And of course, the poem itself subverts the title:

The Sonnet is Dead
By Joanna Cleary

The sonnet is dead; we’ve talked it to death.
Love is complicated, political.
And what could be more complicated than
a sonnet? They are always ironic,
my professor said sternly to the class.
Always. The idea is ironized
in the sestet. I was still half-asleep,
retracing my pen over the octave,
thinking that it first could have been written
on a day as rain-splattered as today,
and the poet could have walked home slowly
with both feet wet from stepping in puddles
as sunlight appeared in the sky again
to touch water drops shining on cobwebs.

David Monacchi: “Fragments of Extinction”, the sounds of vanishing nature

With the prospect of mass extinction in the news, it seems a good time to reflect on the loss of soundscapes. In Ireland, the corncrake and the curlew were once the background sounds of daily life; now they are nearly vanished.

I have posted before about nature recording artists such as Gordon Hempton and Chris Watson who have captured soundscapes in the natural world that one hopes will not vanish altogether. I came across David Monacchi and his Fragments of Extinction project.

Monacchi records (and streams) soundscapes from the dwindling number of intact, untouched forests around the world. What makes his work especially compelling is the clarity with which he illustrates how these ecosystems have a panoply of harmonious acoustic niches, across species and genera. The best way to get a sense is this short video:

https://vimeo.com/306680713/description

“I am missing too many important things/because I don’t know how to read.” -‘If I Knew Braille’, a poem by Holly Day

From The Writing Disorder

If I Knew Braille

 

If I knew Braille, perhaps I could read
the graffiti of purple-mouthed limpets clinging
to old, sea-washed boulders
the secret Bibles of zebra mussels clinging to dry-docked boats
the last, profound gasps of snails and slugs dried out in clumps
on the sun-baked pavement in front of my house.
There may be language in the teetering piles of droppings

the rabbits have scattered throughout my yard
written in squirrel on the skin of half-nibbled tulip bulbs
lifted from the ground and carried into the trees
in the fresh pattern of teeth marks gnawed into the table leg
by the dog. I am missing too many important things
because I don’t know how to read.

Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art”, the poetry of loss, and bereavement

The poetry magazine Magma has a call for submissions for a special issue on Loss. The deadline is April 30th – so you better get writing if you want to enter (or dust off a poem you’ve prepared earlier…) The Call For Submissions is itself a nice little essay on the poetry of loss, and features Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art”, new to me:

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

The essay/call is worth reading, although I would dispute that “Grief following bereavement is one of western society’s last taboos. ” I am not a fan of the last taboo trope. And surely rather than being “one of western society’s last taboos” it is a fairly recent taboo. Think of all the rituals of bereavement such as wearing black for a period of time, various religious services. Certainly in Ireland much of this is intact. Often people from other countries remark on the social, even celebratory nature of Irish wakes and funerals. And the body itself is very much a presence at these. In so far as grief after a bereavement is a taboo it is quite a new one and a product of a particular historical and social circumstances.

“the only wisdom within our grasp during our stay in the insoluble mystery of who and where and when we are is the wisdom of humility?”

Comment sections have a bad press, and one can understand when even the most innocuous YouTube video can have all sorts of rabid anger unleashed below. Sometimes, however, comments can do what they supposed to do in the early years of the Internet; be a genuinely illuminating conversational source, a place one learns even more from the wisdom of crowds (not a phrase that has been getting much airing in recent years, has it?)

It’s been a while since I linked to anything on First Known When Lost,  Stephen Pentz’s gem of a blog. First Known When Lost is made by Mr Pentz’s individual sensibility; his affinity with nature and with poets deemed unfashionable.  I have discovered much from him, especially conquering my prejudices against writers who I had not actually read but had generally absorbed a critical antipathy to. And when the online world seemingly has transformed from an exciting frontier of creativity to an echo chamber of hype and hate

The comments on First Known When Lost are of a very high standard and Mr Pentz is scrupulous in replying to comments.

This comment from Bruce Floyd (with a bit of Eliot also)  is worth reading in its own right. For me, humility is at the root of science and religion and art and indeed any human endeavour. Anyway, here is the comment:

The second part of Eliot’s “East Coker”–from the “Four Quartets– clearly asserts that the knowledge gained from experience is of “limited value.” Eliot, late in his life, understands that the “autumnal serenity / And the wisdom of age” are not to be found..He concludes that “The only wisdom we can hope to acquire / Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.”

We stand pitifully mortal and profoundly ignorant under the stitched heavens, certain that our perception of our the universe, of our purpose, of ourselves is an illusion. Stevens tells us to beware of “the lunatic of one idea.”

The ideologue, his strident cries rending the stillness, howls into a vacuum. When the wisest know next to nothing, should not we cease our blustering and at long last [realise] that the only wisdom within our grasp during our stay in the insoluble mystery of who and where and when we are is the wisdom of humility?

from “East Coker”

What is the late November doing
With the disturbance of the spring
And creatures of the summer heat,
And snowdrops writhing under feet
And hollyhocks that aim too high
Red into grey and tumble down
Late roses filled with early snow?
Thunder rolled by the rolling stars
Simulates triumphal cars
Deployed in constellated wars
Scorpion fights against the Sun
Until the Sun and Moon go down
Comets weep and Leonids fly
Hunt the heavens and the plains
Whirled in a vortex that shall bring
The world to that destructive fire
Which burns before the ice-cap reigns.
That was a way of putting it – not very satisfactory:
A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion,
Leaving one still with the intolerable wrestle
With words and meanings. The poetry does not matter.
It was not (to start again) what one had expected.
What was to be the value of the long looked forward to,
Long hoped for calm, the autumnal serenity
And the wisdom of age? Had they deceived us,
Or deceived themselves, the quiet-voiced elders,
Bequeathing us merely a receipt for deceit?
The serenity only a deliberate hebetude,
The wisdom only the knowledge of dead secrets
Useless in the darkness into which they peered
Or from which they turned their eyes. There is, it seems to us,
At best, only a limited value
In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge inposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment
And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been. We are only undeceived
Of that which, deceiving, could no longer harm.
In the middle, not only in the middle of the way
but all the way, in a dark wood, in a bramble,
On the edge of a grimpen, where is no secure foothold,
And menaced by monsters, fancy lights,
Risking enchantment. Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly
Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.

“When I landed in the republic of conscience / it was so noiseless when the engines stopped./ I could hear a curlew high above the runway.”

From the Republic of Conscience was written by Seamus Heaney in 1985 at the request of Mary Lawlor, then head of Amnesty International in Ireland. While I find it perhaps a little bit too cutely virtuous as it goes on, I do love the opening image – or rather soundscape. To hear the curlew, you need

I

When I landed in the republic of conscience
It was so noiseless when the engines stopped.
I could hear a curlew high above the runway.
At immigration, the clerk was an old man
who produced a wallet from his homespun coat
and showed me a photograph of my grandfather.
The woman in customs asked me to declare
the words of our traditional cures and charms
to heal dumbness and avert the evil eye.
No porters. No interpreter. No taxi.
You carried your own burden and very soon
your symptoms of creeping privilege disappeared.
II
Fog is a dreaded omen there, but lightning
spells universal good and parents hang
swaddled infants in trees during thunder storms.
Salt is their precious mineral. And seashells
are held to the ear during births and funerals.
The base of all inks and pigments is seawater.
Their sacred symbol is a stylized boat
The sail is an ear, the mast a sloping pen,
The hull a mouth-shape, the keel an open eye.
At their inauguration, public leaders
must swear to uphold unwritten law and weep
to atone for their presumption to hold office
and to affirm their faith that all life sprang
from salt in tears which the sky-god wept
after he dreamt his solitude was endless.

III
I came back from that frugal republic
with my two arms the one length, the customs woman
having insisted my allowance was myself
The old man rose and gazed into my face
and said that was official recognition
that I was now a dual citizen.
He therefore desired me when I got home
to consider myself a representative
and to speak on their behalf in my own tongue.
Their embassies, he said, were everywhere
but operated independently
and no ambassador would ever be relieved.