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The World and I -- Laura Riding

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.
-- Laura Riding
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.


[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

24 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Jazza said...

I was just skimming through as I was looking for some comments on Browning, and i discovered that you have 1060 poems posted. That is huge, and if the comments on them all are as informing and derailed I'd like to say well done to you guys. I actually have no idead what the home page of this site is like :-) If you want to send me some info on Browning's poetry I'd much appreciate it (esp. The Bishop Orders his tomb at St Praxeds... My Last Duchess ... Porphyrias Lover ... Andrea del Sarto ... The Laboratory ... Meeting at Night ... Parting at Morning ) I think thats all... Thanks guys my HSC appreciates it.


Daniel Pritchard said...

I came to this/these pages looking for info on Browning's poetry as
I'm studying it for my HSC, and discovered that you have posted 1060
poems. Thats a pretty good effort. If the comments on each are as
informing and detailed I'd like to offer my hearty congratulations for
a job well done. If you could send me any info on Browning's poems
(esp My Last Duchess ... Porphyrias Lover ... Meeting at Night ...
Parting at Morning ... Andrea del Sarto ... The Laboratory ... The
Bishop orders his tomb at St Praxeds church) I and my HSC would
greatly appreciate it. Send to Ta


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