Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Food for the Soul

John Waters once said: "We need to make books cool again. If you go home with somebody and they don't have books, don't fuck them." This is a rather crude yet reasonable statement. Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code and Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-trilogy don't count as literature. Ditto biographies and autobiographies of people under the age of 50 and cookbooks with more photos than words in them. Children's books do count as literature.
Britain celebrates National Poetry Day on October 6th. Poetry is a foreign language, a beautiful way of expressing oneself, a clever play with words and a natural home to hidden meanings.
I'm in a habit of learning a poem by heart every now and then; a habit that has stayed with me since the military-style school days, when teachers forced us to memorise poems in different languages we were then learning, recite them in front of a classroom, giving marks not only for remembering the lines correctly but also how expressive and creative we were.

Michelangelo's love poems
I recently had a chance to study a few original manuscripts of poems by Michelangelo, which he had dedicated to a young Roman nobleman Tommaso de' Cavalieri. Michelangelo, mainly known as artist, was also a poet. In his late 50-s he fell deeply in love with Cavalieri and dedicated a number of sonnets to him.
I wonder whether Michelangelo, had he been born in more recent times, would have sent a text message to Cavalieri on his mobile phone, saying: "i luv u" or written something similar on Twitter or Facebook. The lucky artist is spared such modern banalities.

You know that I know, my lord,
That you know that I come here to enjoy you nearer at hand.
And you know that I know,
That you know who I really am.
Why then this hesitation to greet each other even now?
If the hope that you give me is true,
If the great desire that has been granted me is true,
Let the wall raised up between these two be broken down;
For hidden difficulties have a double force.
If in you, my dear lord, I love only what you most love in yourself,
Do not be disdainful, for it is simply one spirit loving the other.
What I long for and discover in your lovely face,
And what is badly understood by human minds,
Whoever would know this, must first die.

Carol Ann Duffy - the grande dame of poetry
In 2009 Carol Ann Duffy was named as the first female Poet Laureate in the 341-year history of the post in Britain. Duffy, whose responsibility it now is to write about royal events, is a great modern poet, intelligent, clever, brutally honest, erudite and funny. Her poems are taught in schools at GCSE and AS levels.
I have collected all her books, including the pensive early work which may be difficult to get hold of, and would highly recommend Selling Manhattan, Mean Time and The World's Wife. Rapture is a collection of poems in which Duffy documents her love affair with another woman; sort of De Profundis by Oscar Wilde. Duffy has published poems for children too, which make entertaining reading for those adults who haven't lost their ability to be curios about life. This poem is called Mrs Darwin:

7 April 1852
Went to the Zoo.
I said to him:
Something about that chimpanzee over there reminds
me of you.

1 comment:

Nikos said...

I was curious to read the translation of the zoo couplet but was thwarted!