Thursday, November 24, 2016

Garden Time

W.S.Merwin's Garden Time reads as perhaps a notebook of sketches for poems, which makes me think of Adorno's notions of 'late style', or perhaps as a single large poem, much in the way that several of Geoffrey Hill's recent books read: a large number of small lyrics that amass into a unified grandeur.

There is a strong Proustian current running through the meditative reflections.

Sometimes in the dark I find myself
in a place that I seem to have known
in another time ... 

These lines strongly echo the opening of À la recherche du temps perdu, but in Merwin's poem the nostalgia for the things he remembers is transfigured by the thought not only of whether they are still in the same place, but also the question

would they know me and have they been
waiting for me all this time

The book is full of single clear observations:

The rain stopped
you never hear it stop

and thoughts of stopping, ending, visiting a place for the last time permeate the texture of the poems.

as I stand eating the black cherries
from the loaded branches above me
saying to myself Remember this

which brings it's heartbreaking echoes of Dido's lament from Purcell:

When I am laid, am laid in earth, May my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;
Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate.
Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.

Memories surface and shift through the poems with the slight incoherence of dream. A poem which captures the memory of seeing dragonflies is infused with a childlike clarity of perception, but also brings this into a more adult observation of how the world we inhabit is changing irrevocably, using the dragonfly as an emblem:

now there are grown-ups hurrying
who never saw one
and do not know what they
are not seeing

What host of things are we not seeing?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The catch-cries of the clown

The clever man who cries
The catch-cries of the clown,
The beating down of the wise
And great Art beaten down.

W. B. Yeats (aged 54)