Saturday siren -
on Sunday sheets the scent of
a new beginning.
If you read my first blog posting you will, hopefully, have worked out that the usual format is to be something written by me, followed - below the jump - by some exposition on / discursion as to my inspiration (those are the polite ways of saying "crazed rambling" aren't they?)
I'll post that below the jump so that if you would just like to read my words and put your interpretation on them, then you can do so without me having to write:
*** SPOILER ALERT ***
in the middle of the posting.
Below the jump I will also include suggestions as to other writing / artworks / music / film / TV / radio / architecture (and the odd recipe for all I know) that have a connection (at least in my mind) to the posting and that are meaningful to me - in the hope that you might find meaning in them too.
My employer has always been a big sponsor of the arts, though they, the 1%, have like the 99%, had to tighten their belts of late. At the peak of their arts sponsorship, five or six years ago, they actually employed an Arts Coordinator with a staff, who not only looked after arts sponsorship, but also organised activities for employees such as poetry competitions, photography classes, a singing group, etc. Enlightened or what?
The above senryū was one that I entered into their poetry competition.
The mood I was trying to capture was that moment, when, half asleep, you reach out in bed and tense as you realise the lover you expected to be there beside you isn’t.
But then, if you are lucky, you feel the warmth of the bedclothes or catch the scent of their perfume, their shampoo, or whatever, and sigh as you relax back into the pillow knowing that your lover is gone, but not for ever.
I wrote this senryū thinking about the early days of my relationship with the beautiful, dark-eyed siren who ensnared me one November night, and who later became my wife.
I recently discovered the poetry of Vikram Seth (who I knew of previously only as a novelist). He has rapidly become a favourite of mine, and thinking about being in bed alone puts me in mind of the poem "All You Who Sleep Tonight" from his 1990 collection of the same name.
Now, your High School English teacher probably told you not to try to read poetry as if it were autobiography, but they also probably told you to write about what you know, and some of what you know is deeply personal, so as my senryū above shows, sometimes poetry is (give or take a little artistic licence) autobiographical.
I hope therefore that you will forgive me if in considering "All You Who Sleep Tonight" I take the view that the poem could be read as autobiographical (give or take some artistic licence), and I do find it hard to believe that, when so many of Vikram Seth's poems are on the topic of love (new love, absent lovers, losing love, lost love, past love, love unconsummated), at least some of it isn't written from the heart.
So whilst the poem is addressed to "All you" I can well imagine it to be deeply personal.
In the first half of the poem I imagine the writer alone in San Francisco, missing an absent lover, whilst in the next three lines of the poem I can just as easily imagine him mentally kicking his own backside for moping when the "The whole world shares" his sadness.
But what of that last line, the one that always threatens to reduce me to tears (and sometimes does)? Is it just a continuation of the previous three, saying snap out of it, there is always someone worse off, is it a reversal, a return to the self-pity I imagine in the first four lines, or is it - devastatingly - a calm statement of fact that, for some, life is, and always will be, lived alone, without warmth, without comfort, without love?
Okay, having thoroughly bought the mood down, let me try to regain some of the joy I feel when I re-read "Saturday Night (Sunday Morning)" by injecting some humour. The haiku that began this posting was written with my wife in mind so I shall close by commending to you her favourite poem: "Bitcherel", by Eleanor Brown.
"All You Who Sleep Tonight" is from the collection "All You Who Sleep Tonight" (1990), published by Vintage. "Bitcherel" is from the collection "Maiden Speech" (1996), published by Bloodaxe.
"All You Who Sleep Tonight" Copyright © Vikram Seth (1990). Extracts used under the principle of "Fair Dealing".