Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Making Hay

Back from Hay with my modest purchases:

A copy of David Gascoyne's 'Selected Poems' signed (as a gift) by his wife, Judy. When T.S. Eliot was asked which English language poets he had 'missed' failed to identify as important voices (and, therefore, not published by Faber of which he was the editor). He named David Gascoyne (and Kathleen Raine). Gascoyne left school at sixteen and went to Paris where he befriended the Surrealists and became one. (His 'Short Survey of Surrealism', written when he was only eighteen, remains one of the best, insightful introductions to the movement). His early poems are full of arresting images, piled up but in ways that hinted at future patterns as he journeyed from the 'unconscious' to an explicit, if tentative, Christian existentialism. I remember sitting in the bar of Dartington Hall, talking Buber and Berdaeyev with him: his quiet, probing voice, always questioning, exploring. He was mentally frail, always sensitive to breakdown, and had a painful struggle to overcome an amphetamine addiction (used as a treatment, become a curse). Security came in late marriage to a wonderful, nurturing woman and a Royal Literature Society pension!

Snow in Europe

Out of their slumber Europeans spun
Dense dreams: appeasements, miracle, glimpsed flash
Of a new golden era; but could not restrain
The vertical white weight that fell last night
And made their continent a blank.

Hush, says the sameness of the snow
The Ural and Jura now rejoin
The furthest Arctic's desolation. All is one;
Sheer monotone: plain, mountain; country, town:
Contours and boundaries no longer show.

The warring flags hang colourless a while;
Now midnight's icy zero feigns a truce
Between the signs and seasons, and fades out
All shots and cries. But when the great thaw comes,
How red shall be the melting snow, how loud the drums!

Christmas, 1938

A copy of 'Stanley Spencer by his brother Gilbert': a good artist on a great one - an illustrated memoir of a shared childhood, of similar influences taking different paths.

A copy of the fifteenth anniversary edition of Agenda. The best poetry magazine (in English) of the second half of the last century. This edition came after the death of the painter-poet David Jones and has the autobiographical fragments on which he was working at his death (and two essays of appreciation - on the art and the writing). Not since Blake had there been an artist who combined both vocations so completely.


A copy of 'The Way Things Are: conversations with Huston Smith'. Smith wrote the best introduction to world religions (that still sells and sells and sells). He is a lucid defender of the 'sophia perrenis' with a great turn of phrase (that has made him a periodic performer on PBS in the US)

A copy of 'Searching for the Emperor' by the Italian novelist by Roberto Pazzi. I bought this because it is a re-imagination of a failure to save the Tsar in Ekaterinburg (a period of history that has always arrested my imagination, even before I knew I would have anything to do with Russia) AND because I continue to search for a modern Italian writer to like! (With the exception of Eco's 'Name of the Rose', including Eco's subsequent novels, this has been, to date, a litany of failure)!

A copy of 'The Deer Cry Pavilion: A Sory of Westerners in Japan 1868-1905' because how the 'West' encountered, understood and failed to understand the 'East' is a continuing interest (though usually I focus on India).

And, finally, (apart from a present) something completely different a (new) CD of Poulenc.

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