Wednesday 27 August 2008

The Singing

I found another book by CK Williams at the library, which includes his early poems, before he wrote in elongated lines. The most evident quality of his early writing seems to be pain.

I found the poem below and the photo on the website of the Blue FlowerArts (an agency representing among others Paul Muldoon and Charles Simic.) The formatting is all wrong, more about that below:

C.K. Williams, Poet


I was walking home down a hill near our house
on a balmy afternoon
under the blossoms
Of the pear trees that go flamboyantly mad here
every spring with
their burgeoning forth

When a young man turned in from a corner singing
no it was more of
a cadenced shouting
Most of which I couldn't catch I thought because
the young man was
black speaking black

It didn't matter I could tell he was making his
song up which pleased
me he was nice-looking
Husky dressed in some style of big pants obviously
full of himself
hence his lyrical flowing over

We went along in the same direction then he noticed
me there almost
beside him and "Big"
He shouted-sang "Big" and I thought how droll
to have my height
incorporated in his song

So I smiled but the face of the young man showed nothing
he looked
in fact pointedly away
And his song changed "I'm not a nice person"
he chanted "I'm not
I'm not a nice person"

No menace was meant I gathered no particular threat
but he did want
to be certain I knew
That if my smile implied I conceived of anything like concord
between us I should forget it

That's all nothing else happened his song became
indecipherable to
me again he arrived
Where he was going a house where a girl in braids
waited for him on
the porch that was all

No one saw no one heard all the unasked and
unanswered questions
were left where they were
It occurred to me to sing back "I'm not a nice
person either" but I
couldn't come up with a tune

Besides I wouldn't have meant it nor he have believed
it both of us
knew just where we were
In the duet we composed the equation we made
the conventions to
which we were condemned

Sometimes it feels even when no one is there that
someone something
is watching and listening
Someone to rectify redo remake this time again though
no one saw nor
heard no one was there

I am not sure about the alineas here, and indentations are missing, because I could not format them onto the blog page.

The poem is not in my recently acquired book, this is the way it is laid out on the website, in a narrow-ish column, so chose not to change anything. I suspect that in a book the poem would be laid out in his well-known style - I have tried to reproduce it by reducing the font-size to make it fit in the width of the blog-page, but am unable to find a way to force the second and fourth lines to indent, which they should:

I was walking home down a hill near our house on a balmy afternoon
under the blossoms
Of the pear trees that go flamboyantly mad here every spring with
their burgeoning forth

To return to what is attractive about CK Williams' poetry: I like the lack of punctuation, the thoughts running into each other, the strange places he chooses for his line breaks, and how interesting the story is. He achieves the effect of writing the way one might talk, personally, effortlessly. He shows how to write a poem about everything and anything, as long as there is truth in it.

It is what I find most interesting about him, this catching of thoughts which do occur to us, but which we usually let go, hardly aware they have passed through our minds.

As a result, I wrote a poem about the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games, which I had watched to the end in appalled fascination.

About the name Blue Flower - here is a quote from Blue Flower Arts home page: the name comes
...from the unfinished short story “Heinrich von Ofterdingen” by the 18th century German poet and philosopher Novalis. The young hero's quest for the blue flower, his Poetry, then became a symbol used by the Romantic poets for the soul's unfolding...

This connects up with Penelope Fitzgerald's The Blue Flower (Flamingo 1996), which purports to be the story of Novalis - a wonderful novel and a highly praised choice for the Booker Prize.

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