Sunday, July 31, 2011

Off the Shelf Archive ~July

The archivist has been even more remiss than usual in replenishing the shelves this month. Let's blame it on the mind-melting heat. But she has been reading a lot of poetry in her thirst for some cooling and some relief. Ruth Mowry, of syn-chro-ni-zing, posted an excerpt from  a poem by D.H. Lawrence  accompanied by some deliciously cool paintings of  ocean scenes by Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida earlier in the month, a post which got me back into reading Lawrence's rebellious and ingenious poetry, so I've decided to share two of his shorter poems I particularly enjoyed this month while broiling in the heat.

Most know Lawrence (1885-1930) as a novelist, the author of the shibboleth-defying Lady Chatterley's Lover, which in my childhood always had the dubious rider "banned in Boston" following it around, and for which he spent the latter half of his life treated as a pariah by the literary establishment. He also wrote several more ambitious novels, novelettes, short stories, essays, critiques, plays, and innumerable poems, and his contemporary reputation is of a writer whose 
" ...collected works represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanizing effects of modernity and industrialization. In them, Lawrence confronts issues relating to emotional health and vitality, spontaneity, and instinct."  as wikipedia puts it.

So without further ado, this link will take you to the Off the Shelf Archive for August where Won't it Be Strange---? and The Gods! The Gods! by D.H.Lawrence are preserved for re-reading.

As usual, the former selection, three short poems by the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, appears below for a final read before going into the archives. Feel free to comment on either selection here, as comments are disabled off the main page. (And suggestions for next time are always welcome.)

Three Short Poems by Anna Akhmatova

Lot' s Wife

And the just man trailed God's shining agent,
over a black mountain, in his giant track,
while a restless voice kept harrying his woman:
"It's not too late, you can still look back

at the red towers of your native Sodom,
the square where once you sang, the spinning-shed,
at the empty windows set in the tall house
where sons and daughters blessed your marriage-bed."

A single glance: a sudden dart of pain
stitching her eyes before she made a sound . . .
Her body flaked into transparent salt,
and her swift legs rooted to the ground.

Who will grieve for this woman? Does she not seem
too insignificant for our concern?
Yet in my heart I never will deny her,
who suffered death because she chose to turn.
Everything’s looted, betrayed and traded,
black death’s wing’s overhead.
Everything’s eaten by hunger, unsated,
so why does a light shine ahead?

By day, a mysterious wood, near the town,
breathes out cherry, a cherry perfume.
By night, on July’s sky, deep, and transparent,
new constellations are thrown.

And something miraculous will come
close to the darkness and ruin,
something no-one, no-one, has known,
though we’ve longed for it since we were children.
You Thought I Was That Type
You thought I was that type:
That you could forget me,
And that I'd plead and weep
And throw myself under the hooves of a bay mare,

Or that I'd ask the sorcerers
For some magic potion made from roots and send you a terrible gift:
My precious perfumed handkerchief.

Damn you! I will not grant your cursed soul
Vicarious tears or a single glance.

And I swear to you by the garden of the angels,
I swear by the miracle-working icon,
And by the fire and smoke of our nights:
I will never come back to you. 
by Anna Akhmatova 

Image: Portrait of Anna Akhmatova, by Olga Della-Vos-Kardovskaya, 1914


  1. These are new to me, and I love them! Thanks, Hedge.

  2. Glad you liked, MZ. Fireblossom first brought her(Akhmatova) to my attention--I like her style a lot.

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  4. Mmmmmm. Thank You.
    Beautiful. Love that cherry perfume
    & the boldness and righteous anger of "You Thought I Was That Type"

  5. Lawrence is a fine choice, and an old favorite.

  6. nice on lawrence...a poet i know, even in my infancy of poetry...did enjoy this last months thanks to shay i guess...smiles.

  7. It was wonderful to read the D.H. Lawrence again and just to sit and read some poety and be transported, if only for a little while. Thank you, hedgewitch.

  8. I LOVE THIS: "And something miraculous will come
    close to the darkness and ruin,
    something no-one, no-one, has known,
    though we’ve longed for it since we were children."

    ...and it will indeed come!

    Thanks so much for helping me find this...

    Roger ☺

  9. You're welcome,Roger. It's an amazing poem, especially since it was written in the blackest days of Stalinism. And something did just takes longer sometimes than we'd like

  10. Thanks for the link, Hedge!

    I'm one for whom poems by Lawrence were new until only recently. I appreciate his candor and fresh eye. I like the two you've chosen a lot. You can imagine the first puts me in a realm I like daydreaming about, and though it isn't fluffy and soft the way we think of babies' arrival, it's why I like him so much. Yes, won't it be strange when that new creature arrives! And you chose a Sorolla painting with it that I really fell for when I was getting acquainted with him last month.

    And OK, the second poem 'The Gods! The Gods!' is lovely and reminds me of the movie we watched yesterday, 'City Slickers.' (Hey, we're on vacation.) There's a scene when Curly, the gruff cowboy guide talks about seeing a woman in a field that is like that woman at the spicket, and seeing her in his mind is enough for the rest of his life.

    To redeem myself after watching that movie, I watched 'Georgia O'Keeffe' with Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons, a wonderful biopic. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. I had hoped I'd see something of Lawrence's Taos ranch, but that was the only disappointment.

  11. And You Thought I Was that Type was rockin'. Knocked him back on his ass.

    Granny read me DH she was a fan but then what less could you expect of a woman who left home at 18 on her own and never went back. That would have been 1906 (that she left home, she waited until about 1960 before she read his work to me)

  12. @twm: very cool on your granny's part, but she was a role model many would envy. Glad you enjoyed both selections.

    @Ruth: I thought you might relate to that first poem of Lawrence's. I think it touches at the mystery of all new life. It is something that is brokered through the divine, how a new human takes form among us. Georgia O'Keefe is a particular favorite of mine--as you'd know if you could see the room I'm sitting in right now. ;-) I'll get that film in my Netflix queue ASAP. Thanks for reading.

  13. To be honest, I've never actually read any Akhmatova - I see now how grievous an error that's been. So many talented poets, so little time to divide between them all, oh dear oh dear...wonderful choice to draw up for us my friend!

  14. Thank you, Chris. Really good to see you come by. Hope all is going well with your move.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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