Guest poem submitted by Vivek Narayanan:
(Poem #1060) The World and I
This is not exactly what I mean Any more than the sun is the sun. But how to mean more closely If the sun shines but approximately? What a world of awkwardness! What hostile implements of sense! Perhaps this is as close a meaning As perhaps becomes such knowing. Else I think the world and I Must live together as strangers and die - A sour love, each doubtful whether Was ever a thing to love the other. No, better for both to be nearly sure Each of each - exactly where Exactly I and exactly the world Fail to meet by a moment, and a word.
This may not even be one of the best Laura Riding poems that I've read, and it's probably also one of her least "difficult". All the same, I still think it's a really neat little machine, which brings in some of the best things about her shorter poems: teasing paradoxes and minimalist recursive rhythms, the irrefutable resonance and "truth" of the lines, the force, the fierceness, the way the poem seems to enclose all that there is, the sense of absolute timelessness in her tone and language (as if it could have been written in the 19th century, the 21st, or on both sides beyond), the ease with which the complex philosophy flows (those elusive third and fourth lines), and the music, the music, so completely present without being intrusive. This poem is partly about the question of precision, which Riding had thought more about than probably any other poet-type of her time -- Robert Nye, champion, lifelong devotee and editor of one selection of her poems, tells a lovely anecdote about her in her later years, when she once described the chocolate sundae she was eating as "pebbly". Riding was one of those revolutionary and ground-breaking female modernists -- Mina Loy, Djuna Barnes, the more famous Gertrude Stein -- that have somehow still been left in the shadows, as Emily Dickinson was in her time. She was Robert Graves' lover for a while and, I suspect, a major influence on his later poetry. She almost always comes on strong and rarely makes herself vulnerable or fragile in her work, so in that sense, I suppose, her genius is the exact opposite of Elizabeth Bishop's. "Laura and Francisca" is a long mind-blowing Riding poem well worth reading, about the idea of place, about what it means to live in a place as opposed to visiting it, about tourism, painting and foreign exchange rates as well. Riding was also far ahead of her time as a philosopher-- her book, The Word "Woman" anticipates Third Wave feminism -- though she refused to let her work be included in anthologies of "women's poetry"-- at a time when the first wave was still finding its feet. Vivek. [Minstrels Links] Emily Dickinson: Poem #92, There's a certain Slant of light Poem #174, A Route of Evanescence Poem #341, The Grass so little has to do - Poem #458, The Chariot Poem #529, If you were coming in the fall Poem #580, Split the Lark Poem #687, Success is counted sweetest Poem #711, I'm Nobody! Who are you? Poem #829, It dropped so low in my regard Poem #871, I felt a Funeral, in my Brain Poem #891, A Doubt If It Be Us Poem #950, The Cricket Sang Robert Graves: Poem #55, Welsh Incident Poem #298, The Cool Web Poem #467, Like Snow Poem #515, The Persian Version Poem #564, Warning to Children Poem #663, A Child's Nightmare Poem #763, Love Without Hope Poem #840, The Travellers' Curse after Misdirection Poem #1031, Wild Strawberries Elizabeth Bishop: Poem #639, One Art Poem #734, In the Waiting Room Poem #999, Casabianca