Continuum – Allen Curnow – Analysis


The moon rolls over the roof and falls behind
my house, and the moon does neither of these things,
I am talking about myself.

It’s not possible to get off to sleep or
the subject or the planet, nor to think thoughts.
Better barefoot it out the front.

door and lean from the porch across the privets
and the palms into the washed-out creation,
a dark place with two particular

bright clouds dusted (query) by the moon, one’s mine
the other’s an adversary, which may depend
on the wind, or something.

A long moment stretches, the next one is not
on time. Not unaccountably the chill of
the planking underfoot rises

in the throat, for it’s part the night sky empties
the whole of it’s contents down. Turn on a bare
heel, close the door behind

on the author, cringing demiurge, who picks up
his litter and his tools and paces me back
to bed, stealthily in step.

Allen Curnow (1911 – 2001)

Title – continuum – something without ending, in relation to a poet – the continual creative thinking

S1 – The moon rolls over the roof … well of course the moon does not do that … a poetic personification … and quite rightly AC is talking about himself how he articulates the action of the moon … maybe he has been watching it for some time … in S2 we see the link of rolls over with the fact that AC cannot sleep. Presumably not able to sleep and being a poet decides to put pen to paper (does a poet ever stop being a poet the continual process in action).

S2 – Well AC can’t sleep, nor stop thinking about not sleeping, or anything else, nor to think thoughts – you can’t think thoughts – thoughts just come and when you are sleepy they can be all over the place … better to get out of bed and do something physical … barefoot it out the front

S3 – washed-out creation … an appropriate way of expressing the night surrounds as AC himself maybe washed-out not able to sleep

S4 – The moon dusts the clouds … AC queries whether this is the right choice of word to explain the effect of the moon. Dust implies a light colouring and often not seen until close-up, perhaps there is a better word, we will never know. One’s mine – this is AC’s dust poetic definition in opposition to the ‘dusting’ caused by the wind or something else unknown.

S5 – time varies one moment is many moments at times as he sits sleepless … only to be brought to attention by the chill of being outside with bare feet … the night sky empties it’s contents down … a clear sky perhaps a frost is coming … time to go inside out of the cold

S5 – closing the door on the creative process of the poet … demiurge = influential force, perhaps showing some modesty in regard to his creative self … it is as though this force is personified picking up his litter (paper that he has been using), tools (pen) and paces him back to his bed … closing the poet-self.

Allen Curnow is a re-known New Zealand poet who won the Queens Gold Medal for poetry in 1989 and brought New Zealand to the fore poetically. A link on Wikipedia.

I am reminded of the Ted Hughes poem ‘The Thought Fox’. Another night time poetic creation on the creative process. An internet link to analysis of this poem (courtesy of Richard Webster).

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
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)

An Unseen – Carol Ann Duffy – Comments

An Unseen

I watched love leave, turn, wave, want not to go,
depart, return;
late spring, a warm slow blue of air, old-new.
Love was here; not; missing, love was there;
each look, first, last.

Down the quiet road, away, away, towards
the dying time,
love went, brave soldier, the song dwindling;
walked to the edge of absence; all moments going,
gone; bells through rain

to fall on the carved names of the lost.
I saw love’s child uttered,
unborn, only by rain, then and now, all future
past, an unseen. Has forever been then? Yes,
forever has been.

Carol Ann Duffy (1955 –

S1 … Carol Ann Duffy uses few words and grammar to accentuate the way love is articulated in everyday life. Love, or perhaps intense feelings, is always associated with personal departure whether permanent or not and the return greeting after absence if there is one. This depart-return cycle is portrayed in the season of late spring the old becoming new again (old-new) expressing the repeat of nature; of love. S1 ending with the ubiquitous nature of love in terms of looking and seeing another from first sight to the last sight.

S2 … now we have specific circumstance – the departure of soldiers to war – ‘the song dwindling’ gives the impression of soldiers moving away into the distance and I do like the way CAD expresses their precarious situation – ‘the edge of absence’ and the likelihood of a permanent departure, likewise equating death as giving no future to the soldier – ‘all moments going’.

S3 … interesting how a Church service in the rain with inscriptions to dead soldiers is implied indirectly by CAD’s words … and how love’s child is uttered and then unborn – a telling statement to the death of the young … who have no future and their future is their completed life – now in the forever … they are the forever has been … love is always the forever has been.

A very poignant poem defining grief and the suffering of those left behind. Grief comes in many shapes and sizes. Those that went or go to war usually have some expectation that things may not turn out well and they may not return. But life is fragile and the unseen can always occur, a car coming round a corner on the wrong side of the road. The atrocity in Manchester last week was totally unseen. An alien philosophy carried out by a warped mind contrary to the natural flow of decency and respect for humanity. My heart and thoughts go out to all those families in grief. For so many young people their future forever has been.

The Unlucky Christ – Peter Porter – Analysis

The Unlucky Christ

Wherever they put down roots
he will be there, the Master-Haunter
who is our sample and our
would-be deliverer. Argue this-
there were men before him,
as there were dreams before events,
as there is (or perhaps is not)
conservation of energy. So he
is out of time but once stopped here
in time. What I am thinking
may be blasphemy, that I
and like him, one who cannot
let go of unhappiness, who has
come closer to him through suffering
and loathes the idea. The ego now,
and must be like a ministry,
the sense of being chosen among men
to be acquainted with grief!
Why not celebrate instead
the wayside cactus which enriches
the air with a small pink flower?
Some people can take straight off
from everyday selfishness to
the mystical, but the vague shape
of the Professional Sorrower
seems to interpose when I try
such transport. The stone had to roll
and the cerements sit up
because he would have poisoned
the world. It has been almost possible
to get through this poem without writing
the word death. The smallest
of our horrors. When they saw him
again on the road, at least they knew
that the task of misery would be
explained, the evangelical duty
properly underlined. Tell them
about bad luck, he said,
how people who get close to you
want to walk out on you,
tell them they may meet one person
even more shrouded than themselves.
Jesus’s message at Pentecost
sounded as our news always does,
that there is eloquence and decency,
but as for happiness,
it is involuntary like hell.

Peter Porter (1929 -2010)

Everybody has heard of Jesus and many have had some introduction on Christian philosophy. So perhaps JC can be considered to ‘haunt’ life. Where haunt is to trouble, disturb or worry people. And indeed there were men before him without any specific knowledge on the life of JC akin to ‘dreams before events’.

PP, who was known as quite a depressive person, strongly identifies with the suffering and unhappiness in the life of JC. As if he, like JC, was chosen to be acquainted in this way –
                             ‘the sense of being chosen among men
                              to be acquainted with grief’

Grief is endemic in life – perhaps PP thinks he has had an undue share. His mother died when he was quite young and his first wife committed suicide leaving two young girls needing support. For those who know the poetry of PP unhappiness is a feature of many of his poems. PP stating that he has a stone of unhappiness caught in the lining of his pocket (see his poem What I have written I have written).

It is common to think of JC as the Professional Redeemer rather than the different perspective of being the Professional Sufferer.

But why not celebrate other aspects of life that are not linked to suffering? –
                               ‘the wayside cactus which enriches
                                the air with a small pink flower’
I think one reason is that we are often caught in a non-acceptance of death and want a life continuation. Perhaps we worry too much!

However JC did complete his ‘almighty task’ The cerements sit up being burial clothes. And his suffering was explained – did have a purpose. Life eternal. Nice that PP, a writer,
properly underlines the evangelical duty.

But PP is hung up on bad luck – and continues in that tone mentioning those that have been close in life and then they deceive. Perhaps inference can be made to his Mother’s early death or the suicide of his first wife.

The last line states his position – there is no control on happiness, happiness is involuntary and he has been fated. He has chosen to concentrate on the negativities – I think this is an unfortunate life-script.

And although JC was perhaps the most unlucky of all men there is one consolation he had support from the most powerful and we do not know how this manifested itself in his life experience on earth. I think JC did say ‘my yoke is easy’ but maybe this is quite hard for us unknowing mortals to understand.

PP a distinguished Australian poet who based his life in London and was at one time a candidate for the Professor of Poetry at Oxford. A Wikipedia link.

Sentenced to Life – Clive James – Analysis

Sentenced to Life

Sentenced to life, I sleep face-up as though
^^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^^ ^ ^
Ice-bound, lest I should cough the night away,
^^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^^
And when I walk the mile to town, I show
^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^
The right technique for wading through deep clay.
^ ^ ^^ ^ ^^ ^ ^ ^
A sad man, sorrier than he can say.
^ ^ ^ ^^^ ^ ^ ^ ^

But surely not so guilty he should die
Each day for knowing that his race is run:
My sin was to be faithless. I would lie
As if I could be true to everyone
At once, and all the damage that was done

Was in the name of love, or so I thought.
I might have met my death believing this,
But no, there was a lesson to be taught.
Now, not just old, but ill, with much amiss,
I see things with a whole new emphasis.

My daughter’s garden has a goldfish pool
With six fish each a finger long.
I stand and watch them following their rule
Of never touching, never going wrong:
Trajectories perfect as plain song.

Once, I would not have noticed; nor have known
The name for Japanese anemones,
So pail, so frail. But now I catch the tone
Of leaves. No birds can touch down in the trees
Without my seeing them. I count the bees.

Even my memories are clearly seen:
Whence comes the answer if I’m told I must
Be aching for my homeland. Had I been
Dulled in the brain to match my lungs of dust
There’d be no recollection I could trust.

Yet I, despite my guilt, despite my grief,
Watch the Pacific sunset, heaven sent,
In glowing colours and in sharp relief,
Painting the white clouds when the day is spent,
As if it were my will, and testament –

As if my first impressions were my last,
And time had only made them more defined,
Now I am weak. The sky is overcast
Here in the English autumn, but my mind
Basks in the light I never left bebhind.

Clive James (1939 –

Clive James wrote this poem in 2014 at a time when his health had deteriorated to the extent where time is a very precious commodity. Walking into Cambridge was a great effort. The person he met on this walk was Germaine Greer and she describes this meeting when she selected this poem for the anthology ‘Poems That Make Grown Women Cry’. She does not specifically recall asking CJ whether he aches for his Oz homeland but she certainly remembers the meeting. Germaine Greer was a contemporary of CJ from his Cambridge University days.

Looking at the title ‘Sentenced to Life’ … well that is one way of looking at life for we are forced into life … but to what extent it is a ‘sentence’ is another matter. Of course it is very much a play on words for one who has made much of life through writing and words … whether or not CJ has been happy with his ‘sentencing’ is another matter. But according to his website writing was very important for completion of the translation of Dante’s Inferno kept him alive. In a BBC interview broadcast on 31 March 2015, James described himself as ‘near to death but thankful for life’. However, in October 2015 he admitted to feeling ‘embarrassment’ at still being alive thanks to experimental drug treatment.

It is a very will crafted poem with flowing pentameter rhythm and a rhyming scheme ‘ababb’. CJ is very appreciative of ‘poetic skill’ and I recommend reading his ‘2006 -2014 Poetry Notebook’ for an excellent discussion on poetry.

Looking at the poem –
S1 – his health situation is explained … ice-bound equating to frozen (a death position) …
he feels sorry for himself … a challenge to walk into town  … (from the GG commentary on this poem he was walking into Cambridge for breakfast)
S2,S3 – he doesn’t mind death because his race has been run … but his sin, his guilt is being faithless … note – he was thrown out of the family home by his wife after he admitted on a TV show that he had been having a relationship with another woman for eight years – being true to everyone (is this possible) – but he has to come to terms with his failing health and lack of mobility … this gives a new emphasis on life … a lesson to be learnt
S4, S5 – so now he has an appreciation for all the little things he never noticed … he has time to count the bees … he sees things in detail as he watches from his room
S6 – the recall of his birth homeland sunset is not affected by his health problem, his mind can still be trusted … in glowing colours, sharp relief
S7 – so in answer to the question of whether he had an ‘ache for his homeland’ … he gives a clear description of the Pacific sunset from memory – this is sufficient perhaps … ‘heaven sent’ … he is thankful for the power of his mind
S8 – in this way his homeland is forever meaningful … will always be with him … despite the overcast environment – sky and health … his mind basks giving sunshine to the few remaining days

To what extent do expats ache for their homeland origins – to what extent can memory compensate for any ache?

Clive James (1939 – ) is an Australian author, critic, broadcaster, poet, translator and memoirist, best known for his autobiographical series Unreliable Memoirs, for his chat shows and documentaries on British television and for his prolific journalism. He has lived and worked in England since 1962.

A link to Clive James on Wikipedia

It is nice to look back and cherish key memories … those that still give comfort as we age … perhaps this is a natural process as we look back on life. Sharing such a moment from my life, reflecting back on my days in England before I came to Australia …

Stopping One Day

I remember one day in June.
The height of summer and the sun
still rising on one of those days
that calls all nature into song.

Biking the back lanes of the Hampshire countryside.
Stopping on a bridge over a stream
the clear sparkling chatter below, while beyond
the fields praising their contentment.

Extra-terrestrial Report – Michael Thwaites

Extra-terrestrial Report

Arrived at the heavenly mansions, the blessed Saint
(female on earth) was welcomed by St Peter
enquiring whom she most desired to meet.
Mother Mary? Positively no problem;
Let me conduct you. Presently, bathed in bliss,
they sat together, in light and joy and fun.
The Saint was charmed. Mother, how can it be –
you so divine, yet still so down-to-earth?
I don’t forget; and here I have my Son –
As a sword pierced my soul, he from the Cross
gave me in tender care to his dear friend,
my Son, my Son.
Yet there, as you have read,
he learned obedience by the things he suffered:
So did we all…
The Saint took courage, asked,
diffidently bold, Those pictures we so loved –
the Babe and you adoring: did we catch
ever a trace of not-quite-perfect joy?
Mother Mary twinkled – I was young:
I’d really wanted a girl.

Michael Thwaites

A novel theme for a poem and of course there are many departed souls where it would be entertaining to have a make-belief conversation – to really find out from the horse’s mouth so to speak the truth of the matter on a personal level. It is very appropriate that the conversation is female to female.

The thing is we are often conditioned to look at people in certain ways. This poem is made by the interesting twist of looking at the traditional mother-child Christ image in a more down to earth light. And let’s face it Mary was an earthly mother and I’m sure she had a few difficult times in the mothering of Jesus! But was he perfect in his response to his childhood mothering?

And perhaps Mary really did want a girl. And did Jesus really understand what it was like to be female? Perhaps JC the one male that truly understood the female! And what if a girl-Christ had happened – now that would be an interesting concept to explore!

Michael Thwaites (30 May 1915 – 1 November 2005) was an Australian academic, poet, and intelligence officer.

Michael Thwaites on Wikipedia

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 –

Easter Sunday – 2017 – Edmund Spenser

Amoretti LXVIII:

Most Glorious Lord of Life
Most glorious Lord of life, that on this day,
Didst make thy triumph over death and sin:
And having harrow’d hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin,
And grant that we for whom thou diddest die,
Being with thy dear blood clean wash’d from sin,
May live for ever in felicity.

And that thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love thee for the same again:
And for thy sake, that all like dear didst buy,
With love may one another entertain.
So let us love, dear love, like as we ought,
Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.

Edmund Spenser

Looking at the first eight lines of this traditional religious sonnet …

Easter Sunday is a special day … it is the completion of the work of JC … to give eternal life in the merger of broken humanity with divinity … with the emphasis on all humanity … and the possibility of living forever in felicity (happiness) – something that I have always regarded as a somewhat wishful thought … a very joyous day for celebration especially for those that believe in the resurrection and have a Christian faith.

The second component of the sonnet … the last six lines, mentions the one key element in the life of JC … the one key element being the love for all humanity … inclusive of all peoples …
And for thy sake, that all like dear didst buy’.
and when the life of JC is measured in all its enormity an ask for us to entertain others in likewise fashion …
With love may one another entertain

at Easter a call
to love as we are loved
but how to respond

… would that all peoples of the world work in love to a common end.