‘Tsanga’ – Book Launch Poem

The following poem was written specifically for the Ebook launch of Tsanga in Canberra on 18 July. This book by Heather Powell describes her life in a Rhodesian recovery centre while working there in the years 1975-1979. This was during the Bush Wars when Ian Smith had declared independence and before the establishment of present-day Zimbabwe by Robert Mugabe. Tsanga was located in the beautiful eastern highlands of the country. Many of those treated at Tsanga were the result of landmines planted by those opposing the minority white rule of Ian Smith. An unorthdox approach based on laughter was part of the way taken to aid recovery (see the Lauch Invite below the poem).

At Tsanga1 (1976-1979)

pain is not black or white
pain has mutuality that threads its thorns
beyond the superficiality of colour and age

the war wounded and suffering disabled
had a commonality of understanding
that defined a special communion

damaged and partial, bodies without limbs
were challenged in the enormity of physical change
to find a unique resource in tragic adversity

Imagine being twenty and living in Africa
when a ‘biscuit tin’2 explodes in your face.
You wake up in a medical centre to be
discharged with paralysis in the left leg
and a brain injury that causes stumbling.
How would you feel your future fucked!

Welcomed at Tsanga; given-up by others
it’s hard to accept your predicament
but you gradually improve
encouraged by staff and exercise
and the friendship of others
less or more afflicted.

Out walking the scenic bush-mountain track
you fall on your knees to confront the ground.
Dick Paget3 bends down and face-to-face enquires
‘what exactly are you doing’ – you reply
‘just looking for my contact lenses, Sir’
and you smile as Dick laughs.

Then you break into laughter
and both of you can’t stop laughing.
At the bar in the evening others hear
this story, they too break into laughter.
Laughter, laughter – laughter abounds.
And for the first time – a total acceptance.

Richard Scutter May 2017

Footnotes
1Tsanga Lodge was a recovery centre set up by the Rhodesian Army in 1967
located in the beautiful scenic highlands of eastern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)
2Biscuit Tin – colloquial name for a roadside landmine during the Bush Wars in Rhodesia
3 … Dick Paget was the commanding officer at Tsanga

For those that may be interested in obtaining this ebook here is a link

And below is the Launch Invite …

TsangaInvite

Influence of the Internet, influence of poetry …

After another atrocity … where to now after such a vile act that everyone is finding hard to comprehend? How should we deal with those that foster terrorism abroad and how do we deal with the self-proclaimed terrorist Islamic State when any form of negotiation is impossible? Anger and fear may generate more violence in the form of retaliation and revenge. And unfortunately increased polarisation is inevitable. Annihilation of the enemy and from a distance to minimise personal loss is always going to be a short term band aid solution.

The long term solution will lie with succeeding generations – ‘the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world’. It is imperative that we instil in our children a sense of value and respect for life – their own life and the life of others – in particular to be inclusive of all peoples no matter what religion. Tantamount to this is the ability to think for oneself without being misled by the mob. Hopefully such values will stay with them throughout their days in that great endeavour to make the world a better place.

But to what extent can poetry influence the world … and for that matter, to what extent can any words or thoughts change behaviour and influence life. It is happening all the time of course … we all contribute in one way or another – your voice is important. Today the influence of the internet and social networking is a very powerful force … this is an issue that has to be confronted head-on especially when the internet is used to warp the minds of the young, the vulnerable, and those that have been damaged by drugs. Theresa May has recognised the extent of the problem in her address after the recent atrocity in London. How this is to be effected is another matter.

For those with a spiritual dimension, those who believe in a ‘living creator’ –

Song of the Universe

Every Voice
Endless Rapture
Your
Voice
Oration Instilled
Creating Eternity

Some days we may not hear great harmony. But in the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins … ‘The world is (still) charged with the grandeur of God’.

Enjoy the beauty of this day and the wonder of creation.

(based on an previous Post)

Words and Philosophy of Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf (1) … discussing Dalloway and the nature of VW’s writing …

Mrs Dalloway (MD) … To The LighthouseThe Waves … her mature novels …

… all about sensitive people living from one privileged moment to the next, passing through intervening periods of depression and doubt

Mrs Dalloway (MD) … from metonymy to metaphor … a multi-layered metaphoric stream of consciousness with a certain poetic lyrical flow … a new approach in writing by VW

And then thought Clarissa Dalloway, what a morning – fresh as if issued to children on a beach. What a lark! What a plunge! For so it had always seen to her when, with a little squeak of the hinges, which she could hear now, she had burst open the French windows and plunged at Bourton into the open air. How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning, like the flap of the wave, the kiss of the wave … (page 3 MD)

Lark and plunge … Life and death … to build up or to close in … these are the two contending forces in MD … Clarissa is touched by both as she moves through her activities in arranging a party on a glorious June day … her parallel opposite is Septimus Smith who disturbs her joie de vie.

Individuality and universality in irreconcilable opposition … each person seeks to be connected to the whole from which that person is alienated by individual existence

… different people in different places at the same time … layered together in an underlying communion … reflected in the individual’s actions in ways unknown … exploring the extent and influence of such impressions made on the individual consciousness …

did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely; all this must go on without her (page 9 MD)

somehow in the streets of London, on the ebb and flow of things, here, there, she survived, Peter survived, lived in each other, she being part, of the trees at home, … part of the people she had never met; being laid out like a mist between the people she knew best (pages 9-10 MD)

nothing exists outside us except a state of mind (page 62 MD)

the narrator is a consciousness born by the consciousness created from the characters in the novel … yet somehow apart … seeing all, knowing all perspectives … in the present as the present unfolds … including the present of the past remembered by the characters … the virtual present of the readers’ experience

unity, reconciliation, communion well up spontaneously from within the characterisation

the narrator is unknown but sensed by the characters … does the narrator have life outside the life of the characters and if this is the case then what is the nature of such individuality? … the vital questions.

VW’s great discovery (2) … ‘tunnelling process’ … to dig our beautiful caves behind her characters … humanity, humour, depth … the caves connect

VW philosophy … miraculous joy of the moment rises out of the commonplace, not from some transcendental source …

How moments like these are buds on the tree of life (MD page 31)

Foolishly, she had set them opposite each other. That could be remedied tomorrow. If it were fine, they should go for a picnic. Everything seemed possible. Everything seemed right. Just now (but this can not last, she thought, dissociating herself from the moment while they were all talking about boots) just now she had reached security; she hovered like a hawk suspended; like a flag floating in an element of joy which filled every nerve of her body fully and sweetly, not noisily, solemnly rather, for it arose, she thought, looking at them all eating there, from husband and children and friends; all of this rising in this profound stillness (she was helping William Bankes to one very small piece more and peered into the depths of the earthenware pot) seemed now for no special reason to stay there like smoke, like a fume rising upwards, holding them safe together. Nothing need be said, nothing could be said. There it was all around them. It partook, she felt, carefully helping Mr Bankes to an especially tender piece, of eternity; as she had already felt about something different once before that afternoon; there is a coherence in things, a stability; something she meant, is immune from change, and shines out (she glanced at the window with its ripple of reflected lights) in the face of the flowing, the fleeting, the spectral, like a ruby; so that again tonight she had the feeling she had had once today already, of peace, of rest. Of such moments, she thought, the thing is made that remains forever after. This would remain.

(To The Lighthouse … pages 113-114)

References …

Mrs Dalloway and To The Lighthouse … contemporary critical essays … Edited by Su Read. (New Casebooks – Macmillan)

Footnotes …

1 … Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941

Father Sir Leslie Stephen …educated by her father’s magnificent library … member of ‘The Bloomsbury Group’ … lived in the cultured world of the London intelligensia… bisexual … relationship with poet Vita Sackville-West … worked with husband Leonard to found the Hogarth Press … depressive – suicided

2 … Leonard Woolf – A Writer’s Diary: Being Extracts from the Diary of Virginia Woolfe London 1953 pp 59-60

Virginia Woolf Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Woolf

Forgetfulness: Billy Collins

Forgetfulness

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Billy Collins

I did have some very meaningful comments on this poem … I think I know where I put them … you will just have to wait … that slow realisation so beautifully articulated above as I search the mind … I think I know where they are, no not there Ok … maybe after breakfast …

Westminster Bridge and Wordsworth

William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was born in Cockermouth in the Lake District in England, an area known for its exceptional beauty and Wordsworth will always be remembered for his association with the countryside but he also had a great appreciation of the city as in his well-known sonnet …

Composed upon Westminster Bridge
September 3, 1802

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty;
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

William Wordsworth

Words can colour objects in different lights. It is up to the mind to be so influenced.

There was a shadow on the bridge last week. Here is some sunlight to bring back the majesty of Westminster Bridge and precinct to full glory. Feast your mind on the beauty of these words.

A link to more detail on this poem 

The Journey of the Magi by T. S. Eliot

The Journey of the Magi by T. S. Eliot is a favourite Christmas poems. It is what I might call a factual poetic view of what the journey would have been like. At the same time giving latent links to events described in the bible. And of course giving the full implication of the birth of Christ.

Here is a link to this poem and more discussion

 

Two ‘Voices’ – Cavafy

‘Voices’ – Cavafy and editing

The Greek poet Constantine Cavafy was a perfectionist, obsessively refining every single line of his poetry. He did not like his early work and changed his early poems by making them free of adjectives. He rewrote the poem ‘Sweet Voices’ with a poem simply titled ‘Voices’. It is interesting to compare the two versions … see below …

Sweet Voices (1894)

Those voices are the sweeter which have fallen
forever silent, mournfully
resounding only in the heart that sorrows.

In dreams the melancholic voices come,
timorous and humble,
and bring before our feeble memory

the precious dead, whom the cold cold earth
conceals; for whom the mirthful
daybreak never shines, nor springtimes blossom.

Melodious voices sigh; and in the soul
our life’s first poetry
sounds — like music, in the night, that’s far away.
(translated by Daniel Mendelsohn)

Voices (1904)

Imagined voices, and beloved, too,
of those who died, or of those who are
lost unto us like the dead.

Sometimes in our dreams they speak to us;
sometimes in its thought the mind will hear them.

And with their sound for a moment there return
sounds from the first poetry of our life—
like music, in the night, far off, that fades away.
(translated by Daniel Mendelsohn)

Constantine Cavafy (29 April 1863 – April 29, 1933)

I prefer the adjective-free version. The reader is left to create his or her own adjectives – there is no need to define the voices as sweet, melodious, or melancholic… the reader perhaps remembering specific voices of those that have been dear to them, whether died or lost … ‘sometimes in its thought the mind will hear them’ … no more needs to be said … this one line is sufficient.

A poem is a perpetual Lazarus … dead meat … only coming alive when it is read … and when a poem does come alive the poem is not merely the words on the page but an extension involving the reader … the poem is a unique combination of both poet and reader. In the above the reader component is all important.

A link to Cavafy on Wikipedia … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_P._Cavafy