Tuesday, February 2, 2010

TS Eliot... and more Feb. 1, 2010

When I say hourglass, what do you think of?
egg timers, the sand adopting various speeds as it squeezes from one bulb to the other, memories of watching it in church, or silently observing it mark time on the kitchen table as naughty children.. I read the opening lines of Hayden Carruth's poem, Testament (on Writer's Almanac in Dec. 2007, but appeared again in Narrative)

So often it has been displayed to us, the hourglass
with its grains of sand drifting down,
not as an object in our world
but as a sign, a symbol, our lives
drifting down grain by grain,
sifting away — I'm sure everyone must
see this emblem somewhere in the mind.
Yet not only our lives drift down. The stuff
of ego with which we began, the mass
in the upper chamber, filters away
as love accumulates below. Now
I am almost entirely love. I have been
to the banker, the broker, those strange
people, to talk about unit trusts,
annuities, CDs, IRAs, trying
to leave you whatever I can after
I die. I've made my will, written
you a long letter of instructions.
I think about this continually.
What will you do? How
will you live? You can't go back
to cocktail waitressing in the casino.
And your poetry? It will bring you
at best a pittance in our civilization,
a widow's mite, as mine has
for forty-five years. Which is why
I leave you so little. Brokers?
Unit trusts? I'm no financier doing
the world's great business. And the sands
in the upper glass grow few. Can I leave
you the vale of ten thousand trilliums
where we buried our good cat Pokey
across the lane to the quarry?
Maybe the tulips I planted under
the lilac tree? Or our red-bellied
woodpeckers who have given us so
much pleasure, and the rabbits
and the deer? And kisses? And
love-makings? All our embracings?
I know millions of these will be still
unspent when the last grain of sand
falls with its whisper, its inconsequence,
on the mountain of my love below.

And then, Prufrock... reading aloud the Italian and translation...
Is this how you would start a love poem?

So here is the speaker in the 8th circle of hell, or is it we, with a deceased loved one,
or any of the fraudulent... and evening is etherised and these hissing adjectives
half-deserted, restless, sawdust, tedious, insidious, join the sibilance of sky, streets, retreats, restaurants, oyster-shells, question, visit.

There is something absolutely delicious in pronouncing the first stanza -- and I had people repeat words from the 2nd to feel how the tongue manages the labials in yellow, licked, lingered, let fall, how "slip" prepares "leap", how the tongue curls around the sound of "curl".

Comments of note: Annie: how when she went to college in the thirties, she thought the poem was a waste of her time; Charlene imitate Carl Sagan, "Do I dare disturb the universe"... and Jim thinking of Eastern philosophy and our interconnectedness.
Joyce making a connection with the Peach Boy;

We tried out suggestions to explain only two appearances of "The Women come and go, Talking of Michelangelo" and worked the uneven line, rich rhymes, end rhymes, repetitions, the mosaic effect.

Just as in Burnt Norton, time is past, present, future.
Speaking with such conviction "there will be time"
and the play, "In a minute there is time/ for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse."

I have known them all already...

A proustian evocation with the magic lantern and we all enjoyed imagining the shadows of 1910 and our own subconscious currents a whole century later!

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