Skip to main content

Reading the modern fable called ‘The Museum of Innocence’ by Orhan Pamuk

The reader’s home has rooms of objects from a life
Tile from a basilica, ink-steam postcard from a bath-house
Though rarely ever arranged to retell that life
In careful chronological order. Rather they arrive
Photographs of yalis, landscapes of Byzantium
To be moved around, some prominent, some subtle
Passenger liners like passing thoughts, terraced and framed
On tables and ledges and cabinet shelves and desks
Alive to the owner and in no-one’s mind, a museum.
As if, never mind. Istanbul, the same last week
And before the computer and the invention of the camera.

Seven hundred and thirty-four pages of sexual desire
Aroused, teased out, prolonged, refused, promised, fulfilled
Compels the reader through pleasure and ecstasy and satisfaction
And guilt, jealousy, longing, fear, secrecy, and loss
Loss we do not expect even as loss takes over early
As life goes on with all its daily advances and setbacks
As if, never mind. Istanbul will still be the same next week.
What’s she ever done for you? his mother asks him
As late as page six hundred and sixteen
As we ask long after, pondering on was there a moral,
What was she thinking while having the time of her life?


Popular posts from this blog

Why did Dante write The Divine Comedy?

This is one of two short papers given by Philip Harvey at the first Spiritual Reading Group session for 2014 on Tuesday the 18 th of February in the Carmelite Library in Middle Park. He also gave a paper on that occasion, which can be found on the Library blog, entitled ‘A Rationale for Purgatory’ . Nadezhda Mandelstam recalls in one of her books how her husband, the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, would say that when reading poetry we can spend a great deal of time discussing what it means, but the first and main question about a poem is not what does it mean, but why was it written. That is the place to start. Here are eleven reasons that I offer quietly to help us think about this poem: Why did Dante write The Divine Comedy? You may have other reasons and these are invited. We will spend most of our time today looking at meanings, but also at why. I wrote these out as they occurred to me, so there is no priority order. 1.      He wrote the poem because of Florence. Many o

The Walk (Seamus Heaney)

This poem was read aloud at Janet Campbell’s funeral in Hamilton in Victoria in December 2006. Janet was a great lover of poetry all her life, a great reader of poetry, and she read everything of Seamus Heaney. Indeed, when she worked in Melbourne or London bookshops Janet would grab hold of Faber pre-publication copies of Heaney if they came into the backroom, and disappear for days, copying lines onto postcards for her friends, transferring lines into her lifetime of diaries. Diaries that were also a lifeline. Janet read everything, but Heaney was one of the regulars. Seamus Heaney keeps a tight line. He is rarely though completely opaque and the way into this poem is the word ‘longshot’. We only find in the second of the two poems that we are being asked to look at two photographs. Or, at least, poems that are like photographs. Or, better still, strong memories that have taken on in the mind the nature of longshots. The two poems in one are reminders of close relationships.

The Poetry of Rowan Williams

Rowan Williams delivers the twelfth John Rylands Poetry Reading last year   This is a paper given by Philip Harvey in the Hughes Room at St Peter’s Church, Eastern Hill, Melbourne on Sunday the 6 th of December as one in an Advent series on religious poets. The original title of the paper was ‘The text that maps our losses and longings’. Everything Rowan Williams says and writes reveals a person with a highly developed sensitivity to language, its force, directness, instantaneousness, its subtlety, indirectness, longevity. A person though may speak three languages fluently and read at least nine languages with ease, as he does, and still not engage with language in the way we are looking at here. Because Rowan is unquestionably someone with a poetic gift. By that I don’t just mean he writes poetry, I mean he engages with the life of words, their meanings, ambiguities, colours, their playfulness, invention, sounds. We find this in those writings of his that deliberate