Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Proust's sublime beings:

A recently encountered sentence in the fourth volume of Proust's A la recherche:
"...therefore one meets in polite society only a few novelists, a few poets, of those sublime beings who speak precisely about what one should not talk about."
Proust, p. 215 in Vol IV, Sodome et Gomorrhe (nrf, my translation).

This volume focuses on sexuality and some of it is decidedly dark. The inevitable suffering makes me a reluctant reader at times.The protagonist has a skewed relationship with a young woman, which involves lies of a various kinds.The writing grinds along and reading can be hard work.

But in the early part of the book - I have not finished it yet - Proust describes a meeting between two ageing homosexuals in a beautiful sequence of images: a man leaning against a door post, looking out from his workshop into a courtyard as another man passes by, who is a rich aristocrat with a reputation to protect. Their eyes meet and each recognises and desires the other. A slow dance ensues between them, a pavane where desire and fear are in conflict. The fear emanates from the lie they are obliged to live in 19th century Paris, the risk they are taking in reaching out to each other in a public place, in the light of day.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Consider the hands that write this letter

by Aracelis Girmay

Consider the hands
that write this letter.
The left palm pressed flat against the paper,
as it has done before, over my heart
in peace or reverence
to the sea or some beautiful thing
I saw once, felt once: snow falling
like rice flung from the giants' wedding,
or the strangest birds. & consider, then,
the right hand, & how it is a fist
within which a sharpened utensil,
similar to the way I've held a spade,
match to the wick, the horse's reins

Go to for the rest of this poem
it's worth it .

Aracelis Girmay was a finalist in the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry for her collection Kingdom Animalia published by BOA Editions in October 2011. Her first book of poetry was entitled Teeth and published by Curbstone Press in 2007. She is an assistant professor of poetry at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. Her current interests in poetry include poetry of the Americas, contemporary African American poetry, and poetry of the "political imagination."