Reading: First Memory by Louise Gluck

Louise Glück (b. 1943) is an American poet born in New York. Numerous awards, appointed Poet Laureate in 2003. Her poetry is neither confessional nor intellectual and considered among the purest writing in English poetry today. Her subject matter is often desolate and depressing, yet poetically brilliant. I read a short little piece of wisdom that made me go ‘hell yeah’ today:

First Memory
Long ago, I was wounded. I lived
to revenge myself
against my father, not
for what he was–
for what I was: from the beginning of time,
in childhood, I thought
that pain meant
I was not loved.
It meant I loved.

What is it with all these fathers? Why is their voice so important? What does it mean, the Voice of the Father in our times when the ‘big Father’ in the sky has fewer takers every day? She writes ‘revenge’, this is not the desire to ‘prove’ yourself to the father that is so effective in manufacturing an obeying populas, as Hollywood knows.

Revenge it is, but out of self-loathing, not out of hatred for someone else. I subscribe to this psychological insight, it is something we all have to come to terms with, I mean all of us who had an authoritarian character, a ‘head of the household’ as a father who may or may not have ‘done things’.

It meant I loved. Wooha! This poem is extreme ellipsis, so it fits for everybody. Some reader might see the father beating her, an other simply a man who was always absent. All readers are supposed to be confronted with their own love. I like that.

Reading: First Memory by Louise Gluck was originally published on Meandering home


Reading: Turns by Tony Harrison

Britain’s leading theater and television poet is Tony Harrison (b. 1937), who is celebrated of the twentieth century’s true working class poet. He is a translator, director, playwright who says that all is implied in the job description: poet. I read ‘Turn’ about his passed father, where the class consciousness becomes visible:


I thought it made me look more ‘working class’
(as if a bit of chequered cloth could bridge that gap!)
I did a turn in it before the glass.
My mother said: It suits you, your dad’s cap.
(She preferred me to wear suits and part my hair:
You’re every bit as good as that lot are!)

All the pension queue came out to stare.
Dad was sprawled beside the postbox (still VR) ,
his cap turned inside up beside his head,
smudged H A H in purple Indian ink
and Brylcreem slicks displayed so folks migh think
he wanted charity for dropping dead.

He never begged. For nowt! Death’s reticence
crowns his life, and me, I’m opening my trap
to busk the class that broke him for the pence
that splash like brackish tears into our cap.

The last lines of this sonnet are powerful, integrating vulgar (lower class) English with a clear sense of metre, confident rhyme and rhythm, and a classical sounding finish. ‘Trap’ means mouth and ‘nowt’ means ‘to no degree’. The worthy silence rounded the life of Harrison père. His son became an acclaimed man of latters, but describes himself as a busker and beggar to the upper class.

A VR postbox refers to Queen Victoria (postbox put up between 1853-1901). So there dad lied, his initials on the inside of his cap, Brylcreem slicks (magazines?) on display, that make folks think he wanted some donation, like someone put AdSense on his funeral page (perhaps my interpretation is too ‘modern’).

So, he did a turn to look if the working class cap suited him. In life, he made a turn away from the working class, he made use of the upward mobility like many of his generation. This turn made him more conscious of what it means to be working class. The turn is a nicely chosen metaphor here.

A dense poem that manages to play with and bridge that gap between ‘classes’. Impressive. I will practice some reticence before I open my trap.

Reading: Turns by Tony Harrison was originally published on Meandering home

Two types of religion

A father can call the deepest motivation of his child
the tentative and most fragile design of his heart
morally reprehensible. So he summons the energy
that will self-destroy his child.

There are two types of religion
In one, there is a Father and He shall forgive you
In the other, you shall forgive the Father
Our religious energy flows between two generations
in either direction.

We must live free from the filthy desire for redemption.

Two types of religion was originally published on Meandering home