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Showing posts from September 9, 2012

Prague with Fingers of Rain (Vitezslav Nezval)

When reading histories of Prague the modern poet named more consistently and enthusiastically than any other is Vitezslav Nezval (1900-1958). His 1936 collection ‘Prague with Fingers of Rain’ in particular seems to have a hold on the people of that city and its historians. Fingers are the subject, object and verb of the opening poem, ‘City of Spires’: Hundred-spired Prague With the fingers of all saints With the fingers of perjury With the fingers of fire and hail With the fingers of a musician With the intoxicating fingers of women lying on their backs With fingers touching the stars On the abacus of night Nezval is reminding us of all those, living and dead, who have lived in and built Prague, in keeping you might say with the ideological and literary expectations of his socialism. However, nature and its product the city also have fingers: With fingers deformed by rheumatism With fingers of strawberries With the fingers of windmills and blossoming l

The O-seal-that-so feature

The only thing better than reading a good poem is re-reading a good poem. Listening to the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins is to encounter in a small space a mind eager to make us aware of marvels. Aware, more aware, totally aware. It should be the hallmark of any writer of ecology that they reveal marvels. For although skyscrapers of scientific data should be enough to activate humans to protect the natural world, a more certain cause is to instil wonder. In his diary for April 8 th 1873, Hopkins wrote, “The ashtree growing in the corner of the garden was felled. It was lopped first: I heard the sound and looking out and seeing it maimed there came at that moment a great pang and I wished to die and not see the inscapes of the world destroyed anymore.” Inscape was one of his coinages, typical of a man who developed private theories to assist his thinking and writing. It means the thisness or whatness of anything, Duns Scotus called it quiddity, those characteristics of

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.