Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Run out the boat, my broken comrades;
Let the old seaweed crack, the surge
Burgeon oblivious of the last
Embarkation of feckless men,
Let every adverse force converge--
Here we must needs embark again.

Run up the sail, my heartsick comrades;
Let each horizon tilt and lurch--
You know the worst: your wills are fickle,
Your values blurred, your hearts impure
And your past life a ruined church--
But let your poison be your cure.

Put out to sea, ignoble comrades,
Whose record shall be noble yet;
Butting through scarps of moving marble
The narwhal dares us to be free;
By a high star our course is set,
Our end is Life. Put out to sea.


Alex Niven said...

I left my collected Macniece (one of those classic '60s Faber editions) in a taxi in Manchester at the end of 2008. Also in the bag were me ipod and a Simone Weil book. I'm not sure about this atemporality stuff, but this incident did seem to acquire some sort of neurotic significance in my head - lots of things seemed to go to shit soon after that, and for some reason I kept thinking: "if only I hadn't lost those Macniece and Simone Weil books ..."

Re. his politics. It's weird. At Oxford (perhaps predictably) he's very much the doyen of a vaguely conservative tendency, I think perhaps because of his unionist roots and stylistic orthodoxy. I've always loved him though - seems to fit into a disparate mid-twentieth tradition of formal-ish poetry that's nonetheless jagged and full of rushing energy - Lowell, Berryman, even Dylan Thomas and Hart Crane. My pet theory is that the profusion of water imagery in all of these guys has to be related in some way to the fact that they were all raging alcoholics. I seem to be a bit obsessed with water innit?

While we're on a poetry tip: love the new Ezra Pound-toting profile pic! I wonder Carl if you've heard of Basil Bunting, the Newcastle modernist poet and chief disciple of Pound? He's been pretty criminally ignored (shockingly, to the preferment of poets like Betjeman and Larkin). Think you might dig it - his major work was called Briggflatts, set in a Quaker meetinghouse near Sedbergh. It's really good stuff. But then I would say that as my research is on Pound and Bunting ...

Alex Niven said...

Jesus H. Christ this is fucking weird. As I was writing this I just got one of those emails from Amazon where they recommend books to you. Guess whose Collected Poems it was?

Dominic said...

I guessed Auden ("Burgeon oblivious of the last / Embarkation of feckless men" has that particular ring to it), but I suppose Macniece isn't too far out. In some respects and on some occasions the better poet.

Basil B. is very good, used to be discussed regularly in Agenda alongside Geoffrey Hill and David Jones. I think William Cookson regarded him as more or less the equal of Pound; significantly less of a fasho, too.

W. Kasper said...

Alex - I've been meaning to check out Simone Weil. Where's the best place to start?

Despite the fact that I have a degree in English Literature, poetry has always been an utter blind spot for me. so much so, that I get most of them mixed up. I get more from religious texts, despite being militantly agnostic.

Is this a disability?

Alex Niven said...

If it's religious stuff you're after, Weil should do it! The book that I lost was a Penguin modern classics "introduction" or "reader" - a bit on the steep side which is why I haven't replaced it but perhaps available second hand on the net.

Dominic - yes there was an Agenda special issue of BB sometime in the early '80s. Cookson was a fan but his co-editor Peter Dale couldn't stand Bunting. Are you a fan of Barry MacSweeney? I was thinking of doing something about his Pearl poems on the '90s blog.

carl said...

Ha that's not Pound,, it is in fact the Japanese edition of Rip It Up which i'm comically pretending to read even though i don't actually understand a word!!!!


Macniece's spirit is clearly at large!
and coincidentally i'm currently writing a novel about the ghostly return of a neglected writer who partly returns via the internet...yeah.. that sounds bloody awful dunnit...

any more sightings of Macniece out there..

i've not read Basil Bunting though am an admirer of Pound (and Larkin)

a guy i used to live with in Barcelona, Billy, (who you'll be familiar with in fictional form, Alex)was a Macniece fan and he's now a published and admired poet

his stuff's here...

wish he'd get in touch! ah well...

y'know i also used to read a lot of poetry.... and for some reason today i downloaded a Conrad Aiken E-Book....

hmm... looks like my hiatus is over..

Alex Niven said...

Shit, could've sworn it! Another surreal turn of the screw.

I like that guys stuff. I could never quite work out which was Billy and which was Brian (presumably this was an intentional Tweedle Dum/Tweedle Dee thing).

Can't do Larkin. Like "On an Arundel Tomb" but most of his stuff is just very boring light verse that ticks all the right middlebrow boxes: nostalgia for an England that never existed, cynicism lightened only by sarcasm, accessible but with high-cultural kudos. He's like a poetic equivalent of the Beatles heritage legacy thing, but without the good aspects of the Beatles.

W. Kasper said...

Nice pat description of Larkin - and his appeal probably, too. I find anyone I've met who's enthusiastic about him is into a mildly 'cheeky' but containable 'Englishness' (mainstream Britfilm, Morrissey, guitar indie, BBC 2 comedy, YBAs, elderly Labour MPs) but distrustful of any innovation or 'pretension'.