Updated: Sep 15

A Book of Luminous Things. An international anthology of poetry edited by Czeslaw Milosz

I should just award this anthology 5 stars and move on, especially since my hands are intent on non-compliance. But that great 'deadener' – habit, is stronger than disease, and my capacity for saying nothing of any consequence to no one, remains undiminished. I think back to the lucky audiences who’ve endured my presence and voicings for 50 or 60 minutes, and I’m proud to realise that they were ahead of their time. They intuitively practiced extreme social distancing. It’s easy to laugh, though not literally- my first speech therapy session is today.

I’ve been a fan of Czeslaw Milosz’ poetry for a while. Ted Hughes pointed me in his direction via Al Alvarez’s Faber Book of Modern European Poetry. With minimal knowledge of Milosz’ work and his compatriots Wislawa Szymborska and Zbigniew Herbert, I was inspired to lurch towards a TEFL job in Poland. It turned out to be my first rehearsal in performing to a reluctant audience. I was the only person in a town of 70,000, that didn’t speak Polish, apart from a Canadian pastor who was evangelising through, and two Americans I witnessed one night at a karaoke. But I wasn't that desperate to break cover.

There were many tower blocks there and they were named after poets, I lived in Ul Konipickiej (she came second in the competition to write the Polish national anthem). I was holed up in a top floor flat reading The Captive Mind, mystified to what I was actually doing with my life. I soon found out that the students I tried to teach, were oblivious to the products of the poetic propaganda. What was I expecting? I honestly don’t know.

However, I was more confident that A Book of Luminous Things would deliver on its promise. And I was not disappointed. In the introduction he identifies science and technology as having caused a 'deprivation' that 'pollutes the natural world' as well as the 'imagination'.

The world deprived of clear-cut outlines, of the up and down, of good and evil, succumbs to a peculiar nihilization, that is, it loses its colours, so that grayness covers not only things of this earth and of space, but also the very flow of time...Since poetry deals with the singular, not the general, it cannot- if it is good poetry, look at things of this earth other than as colorful, variegated and exciting...poetry is therefore on the side of being and against nothingness.

In The Middle Of The Road – Carlos Drummond de Andrade

In the middle of the road there was a stone there was a stone in the middle of the road there was a stone in the middle of the road there was a stone. Never should I forget this event in the life of my fatigued retinas. Never should I forget that in the middle of the road there was a stone there was a stone in the middle of the road in the middle of the road there was a stone.

Translated- Elizabeth Bishop

Epiphany is an unveiling of reality...This poem is like a joke and we are inclined, first, to smile, yet a moment of thought suffices to restore a serious meaning to such an encounter. It is enough to live truly intensely our meeting with a thing to preserve it forever in our memory.

I always got the sense that Milosz knew more than other poets. That wisdom is revealed in the brief notes on selected poems. He values conciseness and simplicity. Through these qualities the poems achieve a certain register, a luminosity. And they, like the editor, persuade through their lack of strenuous persuasion. Which brings me back to speech therapy. My 'outside voice' is fading so I have to practice loudness. This makes me appreciate when someone else can see beyond the surface.

Going Blind – Rainer Maria Rilke

She sat just like the others at the table. But on second glance, she seemed to hold her cup a little differently as she picked it up. She smiled once. It was almost painful. And when they finished and it was time to stand and slowly, as chance selected them, they left and moved through many rooms (they talked and laughed), I saw her. She was moving far behind the others, absorbed, like someone who will soon have to sing before a large assembly; upon her eyes, which were radiant with joy, light played as on the surface of a pool. She followed slowly, taking a long time, as though there were some obstacle in the way; and yet: as though, once it was overcome, she would be beyond all walking, and would fly.

Updated: Aug 1

In writing this blog I’ve learned at least one thing: writing is better than not writing. It’s taken too long to be able to make that blindingly simple observation. I’ve spent most of the years and the few lives on offer, not writing. I suppose I had to learn how to suspend my own critic.

I’ve learnt another thing. Seamus Heaney and WB Yeats seem to be working away in the background. I see them as guides in helping to understand an art that I care about. Others might see them as perpetuators of patriarchy or worse. Sometimes the cyber security software slows things to a standstill. Why I remember their words is not because of their biogs.

My primary aim is not in critiquing poems, instead celebrate the fact that writing opens the potential for celebrating what is.

Existence is a function of relationship – Alan Watts

I’m interested in the way poems can come from somewhere bigger than the self.

I had wanted to write about ‘cut-through’. (Stares at the screen for minutes, mouth open) Just that sometimes I suspect that I don’t ‘get’ things, I otherwise would. But there’s no doubt about the impact of Anne Boyer’s Garments Against Women. I ‘get’ things but the difficulty lies in the clear communication of such reception. But Anne Boyer’s Garments Against Women makes an impression. Not a palpable impact. Rather a wholesale reorientation of the world.

A world is in fact the projection of meaningful patterns onto the surrounding space of lived experience, and the sharing of a common code whose key lies in the forms of life of the community itself - Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi

Demystify inspiration. Is it Metoo time for the muse?

Garments Against Women made me want to watch less television.And I did.


My attention is compromised

Yeah but isn’t everyone’s?

Maybe but my attention isn’t what it used to be.

I know, I’m the same…

Fuck off and get Parkinson’s, then we can struggle to talk.

But I do have Parkinson’s

Do you?

Yeah, of course I do.

A law that exceeds the bounds of law

What is that law but poetry

Anne Boyer

For better, further reading:


Updated: Jul 29

Out in the bay, calm, the shiver of wave, palette of shale, turquoise and silver

And the subtle outlines of trails that trail off from cloud shadow and water currents

From movements above and below, an unshakeable feeling, this urge, to trace the arcs

Outlines and flat blobs in the sea, the water scarred, the subtle delineations that seem

Meaningless to anyone else but me, this prepossession ephemeral yet careworn creased

A scream shattered and the fragments ooze into the sluice and slice of the sea

The loose shapes rest and wax and wobble outwards of themselves towards

Dispersal or are lost in the tumult of external pressures from coming Atlantic storms

Roughening up but presently this tempered scene is key to some matutinal secret

A dispensation from other wasted mornings yet still inured to the lack of answer

Thus putting such a premium on some sort of utterance, a twist and shout even

But demur tending to downplay performance, always turning down a dance

For pointless appointments under the pretence of paying the rent outstanding

And now I shiver, in my right hand, spiritedly and fail to play the piano in the air

When asked politely, a few weeks with Mr Keys who lived near The Hole in The Wall

But I never had the feel for it, I could throw a stone or kick a ball for hours however

My Disordered Movement proved, my fate pronounced, an unshakeable shake

I’m branching off and I’m branching out to see if I’ve the scope to sue for music.

To dispel any obscure argument for ignorance, to outgrow once and for all

All the wet dreams of adolescent idolatry, instead hold in abeyance the answers

To the bland demand of meaning, instead say some words for the drowned souls

Untaxed, unsolicited and dismiss, as Fletcher in Porridge does, those who blather

As ‘all wind and water’ and endeavour to cut the nets, to let slip the truck with

The mackerel skies, to allay the rub of obsolescence, to throw a party.

Martin Sharry. 2014.

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