Nigel brought in a poem entitled: ‘words ousted by sensation,’ which after careful consideration, he shortened to ‘Seagulls.’ That was a wise move on his part as the poem was indeed about Seagulls! The poem ended with a craving ‘for dead fish,’ which is as you’d expect from such critters that ‘hunger for sin.’ Nigel made a couple of final cuts to the poem to polish the finished text.
I very much like the idea behind Sadayo’s poem, Byron’s Muse. She described a statue of Athena’s Daughter - cradling Lord Byron in her marble arms. The narrator mentions how this statue resembles a beautiful waitress she knows. She realizes the muse is the same spirit as the one who inspired Byron. This reminds her of the lost love of Athens’ Daughter. It was a lovely idea and quite a charming poem.
Eluned this week brought in a sophisticated poem, The Art of Painting. In 34 words – 2 stanzas and a couplet, she described a seventeenth century painting, painted by the Flemish painter Johannes Vermeer. In a few broad brushstrokes, she depicts the beautiful and sensuous nature of the work. Eluned’s pithy choice of words illuminates the stanzas with a powerful, sexual charge. I was very impressed by this poem. The narrator manages to distil the concentrated and passionate silence that passes between the artist and his subject. What I particularly liked about this short poem was that I wanted more; however, I knew to add one more line to the text would have knocked it out of harmony. It’s cleverness lays in the fact that the narrator knew exactly when to stop – leaving us in a state of unspent anticipation, she draws the reader into speculating about the deeper layers of the painting, its rich subtext and the relationship of the artist with his model. Very cleaver. As the old adage goes, less is more.
After these first few poems the mood considerably darkened. Heather brought in a poem with the ominous title: Granny’s Cough Got Worse That Year. I suggested to her that perhaps the title: Bristol Chainsaw Massacre might suit it much better! We were treated to a 1950’s slaughterhouse that existed in the post war slums of Bristol. A truly frightening and disturbing poem from Heather’s pen. She described the scene so well, I could actually see a family of turkey killers bedecked in Santa hats, amidst: ‘splatters of blood and fleas and fluff.’ I imagined the old widow in a long black dress and shawl – wielding a massive knife, listening to Bob Hope on a scratchy gramophone. I could see her as clear as day – slitting the throats of those poor squealing creatures – a terrible cackle coming out of the corrugated shed. Grisly! Talk about getting ready for Christmas – that one put the creeps up me – good and proper.
Marc gladly contributed to the morbidity of themes reminding us of our mortality. In his poem, Low Winter Sun, the poet looks upon his world tiredly with ‘half past eyes…’ that sees, ‘no warmth, no joy.’ We knew where the poem was taking us – it
was taking us to our graves! For as Marc reminds us, we have nothing, only: ‘shallow days of hope’ stretching out before us. In the poem, The Returning, we are shown that ‘the flowering beauty of / maturity,’ is a prelude to death – our death! The poem points out - how in the end a man is like a wounded fox who crawls back to his lonely hole to die… (I’ve made a special promise to myself that if I must die it will be sometime after Christmas lunch in a sci-fi future many years from now).
High spirits indeed! I’m so glad that I did not bring any of my own work to this week’s Distillery, I could not have taken it! I think if I’d have read out the last one I wrote, Marc would have challenged me to a game of Russian Roulette and I might have accepted. It would have made a great link on Facebook:
Chinwag’s Deer Hunter Challenge:
“Bring both your words and ammo to the Aber Art Centre and spin that barrel with your host Mike Smith and his special guest Eminem with his gangster rapper friends… Steady your nerves, grab a shot whiskey from the Distillery and lets bring in the New Year with a bang!”
The final poem we reviewed was Nigel’s Poem the mystagogue. To be fair Nigel wrote a far superior poem than he intended to. What the poem was about was any ones guess. It did however, have an hypnotising affect on the reader – the more you read it the more you thought you understood it, only to realize that you hadn’t understood it at all. It was very cleaver indeed. Anyway, I looked up the word mystagogue in the Oxford Dictionary and this is what it said:
“A wise teacher who is difficult or impossible to understand and who is regarded as baffling to those without specialized knowledge (that’s us!). From Greek musterion; related to MYSTIC. Also from Middle English: via Latin from the Greek etymology: agogos ‘guide.’”
I find confessional poetry the most touching of all.
It is clear to me that the mystagogue is not a Mr Men character as Marc postulated, but a strange teacher that sets riddles to his students (do we know anyone who fits that description?) Marc’s explanation certainly sounded the most plausible and intelligent one to me. I could almost see the little blue man trying to suss out the meaning of life in a world that makes less sense than our own.
I knew instinctively the key lay in the final couplet of the penultimate stanza:
sling shoots the musing mind into
If I could work out what Nigel meant by ‘mystoricity’ then I could decipher the text and win myself a pint of beer. Indeed, if I could pronounce the word correctly, I’d win a whiskey chaser. Anyway, I looked up the word and it is a ‘modified noun that forms a mystery.’ So whatever Nigel was trying to tell us was ambiguous from the start. It however, most certainly had something to do with, ‘nothing/of something yet/ everything.’
It’s the kind of mystery, you need to be drunk to solve… The kind I like!
Quite simply, Nigel is saying that he is a teacher of wisdom and after careful consideration – he hasn’t a clue what the Hell it’s all about! It reminds me of the prominent nineteenth century philosopher Hegel, who said on his deathbed that his philosophy was so cleaver, not a single person had understood it – least of all him!
Remember, Hegel wrote such engaging titles as: Phenomenology of Spirit. I often wish I’d come up with that title first! Obscurity often leads to knowledge, so thank you Nigel for that one – I’m still pondering on the deep mysteries contained within the elucidations of your text.
I find myself nodding my head in agreement, but I certainly feel that I came close that day to working out the big mystery we call life through the wise words of our very own mystagogue. It was an unusual moment of near clarity for me (which almost drove me into a game of Russian Roulette).
I came as close as possible for the human mind to penetrate the inscrutable riddles of life and with that knowledge firmly under my belt, I felt so much better (and in need of a good drink).
Lovely to see everyone this winter solstice, but I do confess to been exhausted at the end of our workshop. I think I was tired from thinking too much and a touch traumatized by Heather’s poem. However, I am glad to say that I am fully refreshed and ready for 2014 and another wonderful year of poetry and performance.
Merry Christmas to you all and a Happy New Year.