Reading: Gracious living Tara by Tom Raworth

British poet Tom Raworth (1938 – 2017) was associated with the Black Mountain School. He won numerous awards with his poetry that, according to John Olsen, features an intense gouache of perceptions

Gracious living    ‘ Tara’
lonely as four cherries on a tree
at night, new moon, wet roads
a moth or a snowflake
whipping past glass

lonely as the red noses of four clowns
thrust up through snow
their shine four whitened panes
drawn from imagined memory

lonely as no other lives
touching to recorded water
all objects stare
their memories aware

lonely as pain
recoiling from itself
imagining the cherries
and roses reaching out

The first verse introduces many perceptions already, but we can combine them to a scene in early winter. We wonder about the number four though. In numerology, 4 is practical and down-to-earth. It stands for hard work, discipline, commitment, no-nonsense. Sure enough, the four cherries repeat in clowns noses. The image reminds me of a buried killer clown – Stephen King would like this poem.
“imagined memory” is vague and a little annoying. The imagery of the four thrust up noses is already stretched, but that is of course the poet’s intention.
The third verse is totally incomprehensible, the hard rhyme stare – aware should indicate a center of meaning. The staring objects remind me of Leibniz’ monadology. The monads ‘have no windows’, yet are ‘aware’ of the entire universe through the armonia prestabiliata.
But we humans are not like the objects, we do have ‘windows’ to the world and that is, we might say, how the pain gets in. That is this poem’s description of the human condition: we are recoiling in pain, imagining the objects, that are metaphysically cut off from, or shut out of the world, reaching out. To each other? To us?

Reading: Gracious living Tara by Tom Raworth was originally published on Meandering home

Reading: Writing a résumé by Wisława Szymborska

Fellow Dutch poet Martijn Benders mentioned a poem by the famous Wisława Szymborska that I didn’t know yet. I like it so here it is.

Writing a résumé
What needs to be done?
Fill out the application
and enclose a résumé.

Regardless of the length of life
a résumé is best kept short.

Concise, well-chosen facts are de rigueur.
Landscapes are replaced by addresses,
shaky memories give way to unshakable dates.

Of all your loves mention only the marriage,
of all your children only those who were born.

Who knows you counts more than who you know.
Trips only if taken abroad.

Memberships in what but without why.
Honors, but not how they were earned.
Write as if you’d never talked to yourself
and always kept yourself at arm’s length.

Pass over in silence your dogs, cats, birds,
dusty keepsakes, friends, and dreams.

Price, not worth,
and title, not what’s inside.
His shoe size, not where he’s off to,
that one you pass yourself off as.

In addition, a photograph with one ear showing.
What matters is its shape, not what it hears.

What is there to hear, anyway?
The clatter of paper shredders.

The dread of having to reduce yourself to a résumé. Especially the replacement of landscapes by addresses, of lived experience by dead facts, is a perfect poetic capture of the culture of bureaucracy. Intuitively, I would like to say that this is caused by a lack of meaningful community.

We can read this poem as a definition of such a meaningful community: It is where your pets and dusty keepsakes, your dreams and friends count rather than your de rigueur facts, diplomas and certificates.

What are the paper shredders shredding? Résumés. Modernity is a factory for everybody’s fifteen minutes of fame. When your résumé has been processed it says with a sterile and monotonous voice: “Next”.

I am so familiar with the sentiment herein described that I may not be the ideal person to interpret this poem. As a person who has freed himself from the need of writing and sending in résumés (although I have one for fun) this reminds me of how I can still meet very new people from the start and we get to know each other without reference to certificates and accomplishments.

Reading: Writing a résumé by Wisława Szymborska was originally published on Meandering home

You can look back but you cannot go back

The sun has climbed to the center of my life,
I feel the height. I am now allowed
to play my role. Ahead of me: the big afternoon,
the affirmations, the chiseling of cold metaphors,
the wisdom of oracles, the old belief
that we can tell darkness from the light,
the relief of amor fati, and I shade my time,
sloping in sight of the finish line.

You can look back but you cannot go back was originally published on Meandering home