Mm, new books. An advantage of travel is finding new voices, whole communities that happen to be elsewhere speaking a dialect you can hear. Case in point, I came across The Wake Forest Book of Irish Women’s Poetry: 1967-2000 edited by Peggy O’Brien. It was at the Poetry Library in the Southbank Center, London. Here’s a picture of me there by the periodicals shelf.
The Irish anthology had poems by new-to-me Irish writer, Paula Meehan. p. 219 had a poem called “The Pattern” which had these lines,
She stares out as if unaware
that any human hand held the camera, wrapped
entirely in her own shadow
Although it carries the female as passive, cloistered into privacy and literally and figuratively dark, at the same time there is a criticism of the portrayal, hinging on that word “seem”. Is she instead an active participant in the construction of her own public caricature? Or is it a self-aware of a projected hope of the feminist of not seeing yet another iteration of the false-schmalz construction of female as unapproachable, distant and mourning the tragedy inherent to being second class citizen suicidal goddesses? Whose interpretation swirls like Balzac.
There’s something in that pivot from private moment on film to being deep inside self, under and inside a personal cloud and yet, perhaps, like a guard sleeping with an eye open, tracking the ones who watch. The language play of being wrapped in your own shadow, the mix of paradox and truthiness is interesting.
Meehan has put out a few books with 6 collections since the 80s. In her 2002 book, Dharmakaya, p. 24 in a poem called “the exact moment I became a poet”, she talks about the notion of women’s labour, the devaluing of home and factory work, how “the words “end up” robbed/ the labour of its dignity.”
Kerry Hardie is also in the anthology. She writes quietly, without the anger and frustration-edged sadness of Meehan, but Hardie’s lyricism has an intensity as seen on p. 261,
I have always been one for paths myself
the moles view
the flowers that stood
giving birth to themselves
There’s some sort of torque, such as brought out in her last collection, Poetry Library, the librarian pointed me to a new work, out just one month at that time, by Peter Riley. Greek Passages is 105 prose poems put out by Shearsman Books. I tried 4 bookstores to no luck in London. It did mean a pleasant search, including going to Foyles, which is kinda like Chapters where I picked up some TS Eliot to add to the Faber books selection of Nick Laird’s To a Fault which I picked up at the Writer’s Museum in Dublin. I checked at Any Amount of Books on Charing Cross Road, and Blackwell’s which had Bloodaxe titles including Basil Bunting’s Briggflatts (got it). Blackwell’s has a rack where people handwrote reviews as a dustcover around featured titles. There’s also the books-on-demand printing machine…
All interesting, but ineffective to the goal. I ended up ordering Riley’s book online. At least I’ll be able to read it again soon. In his words, “an erasure / across the forehead”. On p. 86 [and he uses slashes as part of his prose poem structure.]
/look/ at it there, the plurality shining in the night/seeking questions for its answers
It’s the sort of book that I can open to any phrase or line or page and it is evenly tight, thought-out, considered. Delightful relief to not have to read on fast forward, skimming to the good bits. His 4 vacations to Greece near Argos are pulled across time and space into wide and narrow contexts.
Something about a new place that brings new questions and new answers. For instance, in Trastevere, Rome, I found a bunch of essays by Octavio Paz in “Nearly on the Corner Bookstore”. There were shelves of classics, literary crit, heavily weighed towards British publishers but still, an English bookstore in Rome with well-chosen titles, rather than whatever comes along or more shelves, of, bless him, Muldoon, who seems to be in cahoots with Emily Dickinson to corner the monopoly of poetry titles in generalist bookstores.