From cold stones sparks of fire do fly
Notes on Poetry
Saturday, October 11, 2008
#6 of Kris Hemensley's The Merri Creek is out, or rather up. A poem by David Wheatley caught my eye; it's called 'Emil Cioran in Tatters' - an interesting title in that Cioran - the Romanian writer whose 1820 page Œuvres (Quarto Gallimard) & the 999 page Cahiers 1957 - 1972 (nrf Gallimard) are almost entirely composed of fragments and aphorisms, gnomes and apothegms - could be seen to have always been in tatters - pre-tattered, as it were. Tatters - torn scraps - was his considered approach. Wheatley's poem displays an appealing clarity in the language, and its dance of thought is engaging. The poem reads like a jazz improvisation over a selection of Cioran's remarks, and this brings with it something of Empson's 'puzzle-interest' or Elgar's Enigma, a game of 'spot the reference', so the twelve numbered stanzas (ordered in reverse like a NASA countdown or a microwave's metronomic progress) can seem like a quick quiz from the pages a popular magazine: 'Are YOU a real Cioran buff?'. I scored maybe 3 out of 12. Wheatley writes: 'I'd rather have been a plant, you bet,/ and spent my life guarding a piece of shit" which reminds me of Cioran's ' "One is in paradise only as a plant". A risk of the approach is that the underlying theme may strike some readers as more potent than the variation: to Wheatley's "Approach each day as a Rubicon / not to cross but to jump in and drown" I prefer Cioran's "Chaque jour est un Rubicon où j'aspire à me noyer" ("Each day is a Rubicon in which I aspire to be drowned"): that word 'aspire' hits and holds a high note in the sentence's melody, and packs much force into its punch. Similarly we may compare Wheatley's "Never to sleep, the insomniac's curse:" with Cioran's "Le paradis et l'enfer ne présentent d'autre différence que celle-ci: on peut dormir, au paradis, tout son soûl; en enfer, on ne dort jamais." (transl. André Vornic) ("The only difference between paradise and hell: you can sleep in paradise, never in hell.") Cioran died in 1995 at the age of 84 - in his youth he had been an active supporter of Nazi ideas - I wonder if he's sleeping.