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Atmosphered by Eléna Rivera (Oystercatcher Press)

Atmosphered by Eléna Rivera (Oystercatcher Press)

In her act of translating those fragmentary pearl moments which had originally belonged to Isabelle Baladine Howald, to which I referred in the last blog, Eléna Rivera revealed herself to be a poet: one who understands the contours of language. In translating the opening movement of ‘August’ she had written ‘Word is too brief’ as though to call up in front of us that memorable line from Bunting, ‘Pens are too light take a chisel to write’. In this companion Oystercatcher volume of her own poems, Atmosphered, that hard-edged clarity, graven, is evident from the opening ‘Holes. / In the ambit. / Cherished. In the box / Holes. In the container / Not alone in this.’

It is one of the abilities of poetry to bring a fresh sense of life to language. Communicating through sound as well as sight poetry weaves its traces in tone as well as stone, engaging our eyes with what Prynne referred to as the ‘pearl-bright moments of words moving along the currents of our changing times.’ It could almost be with that in mind that we read Rivera’s delicate tracery of thought:

‘My limits, my language—Mine?

mobile beyond all reason

Metamorphic above a given location

“A reed shaken by wind”

The intricacy of moving forward’

When contemplating our own limits, our own language, we have to question its provenance: whose language is it that I am using? As a friend of mine once put it the ‘awful thing about words is that you don’t know whose mouth they have been in before!’ Words are mobile, they are constructed of those standing emblems on a page ‘shaken by wind’, they move, as Prynne put it, ‘along the currents of our changing times’. However, in the breath of the poet they are also the ‘intricacy of moving forward.’ Currents and changing may well be inseparable from continuity.

These poems are delicate reassertions of an ongoing domesticity of existence:

‘Return. Returns.
The pain of—
Keep cleaning the closet—
Recurrence, vexation, pullulation,

or simply: Keep dusting’

The security offered by language is the flipside of the coin. Repetition of the well-worn epithet, worn thin by usage which may be increasingly commercial, may be unnerving to the acute sensibility of a user of language who has weighed out those tones and contours but

by the image,
that meeting place in language—
Snowed in—
Couldn’t move away’

Read these poems, they are striking and memorable!

Ian Brinton 16th October 2014.

Parting Movement, Constantly Prevented by Isabelle Baladine Howald

Parting Movement,  Constantly Prevented by Isabelle Baladine Howald

Translated by Eléna Rivera (Oystercatcher Press)

A delightful arrival from the Oystercatcher: a moving sequence of poems under the three headings ‘August’, ‘September’, ‘October’ contained beneath a cover which merges the almost tangible sense of loss in the ‘Creation of Adam’ on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with ‘Venetia, Lady Digby, on her deathbed’ by Van Dyck. Both paintings deal with stasis and movement, a recognition of the living and an awareness of the irretrievable loss of parting. The cover is of a statue, stone and movement, and is followed by an epigraph, “I have to find my place again and you have to move.”

The personal intimacy of these poems rests with the awareness of the gap between people:
‘Knowing you was never something I tried to achieve, even as
a child.
That’s the way I conceived of things right from the beginning.’

They remind me of Rosemarie Waldrop’s ‘Conversation’ recorded in Contemporary Literature, Vol 40, No 3, Autumn 1999:

‘what matters is not things but what happens between them. Or if you take the linguistic model, it is not the phoneme but the connection of phonemes that makes language, the differences in the sequence…The gaps keep the questions in relation.’

As Nikolai Duffy put it in her Shearsman publication Relative Strangeness, Reading Rosemarie Waldrop, ‘For Waldrop, poetry is the taking place of language in the spaces between words. Throughout her writing there is the sense that language can be experienced only as fissure, gap, aperture, an empty middle into which the possibility of meaning both enters and escapes.’
In ‘Projective Verse Charles Olson writes ‘At root (or stump) what is , is no longer THINGS but what happens BETWEEN things, these are the terms of the reality contemporary to us—and the terms of what we are.’ In ‘Aesthetic’ Charles Tomlinson writes about reality taking place in the space between things. In Howald’s ‘August’ the dominating sense is movement and stillness: fullness and emptiness: ‘The room resonates, without the furniture.’

Fragment 22:
‘A day of arguing, he had wanted to leave; in his backpack, his alarm clock, a flashlight.’

The clock presents an urgency of now whilst the flashlight suggests a stare into the future.

The fragments from ‘September’ give us a world of Beckett’s ‘Play’, the touching urns and the fragmented relationship conveyed lyrically to us as dismemberment, and Dante’s Canto V from Inferno with Paolo and Francesca:

Fragment 6:
‘I speak to him, he rarely answers but he listens.
In a certain way I love him, even if I never knew anything about
him, never wanted to know anything.’

The poet gives us a world of the suspended moment, as with Keats’s ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ or that painting by Van Dyke:

Fragment 11:
‘Constant parting movement, constantly prevented.
Slight gesture toward turning round, finally not doing it.’

Another echo for me is Anthony Barnett’s translation of Anne-Marie Albiach’s ‘An Object of Anarchy’:

‘A memory in the body, attempts the awakening of coded signs in a partially blind work.’

Ian Brinton 15th October 2014

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