Guest poem submitted by Victoria Field:
(Poem #1513) Poetry Reading
Almost too diffident to choose, His hand skims his slim paperbacks; Matronly arses in tight slacks And grey men trying to look sage, A dozen scattered round the hall, Sit patient as the poet um's From page to page before he comes To something low-keyed, trivial, He might, um, read. His voice, a moth's Slow stuttering flight. My brain grows numb. This is the English idiom: Reserved free verse, laconic, slight. Two hours of this and I can't smoke. I sip the complimentary plonk. My eyes stray to the double-doors; If only Anna's 'drunks and whores' Frequenting Petersburg's 'Stray Dogs', Herself among them, skirt worn tight, Would burst in with their fug of smoke, And show him what poetry's about! I think of Alexander Blok, 'The tragic tenor of his age', His eyes like an electric shock; Of Osip Mandelstam, that verse Which sent the Kremlin mountaineer Into a paroxysm of rage And him to labour camps and death From typhus near Vladivostok. I think of how his widow knew Each line of his entire work By heart; though scarcely dared to sleep For fear she might forget a line. Of course it helped her that he wrote In metre, the device by which A poem can memorise itself. For poems without form we keep Having to reach up to the shelf. His voice still flutters like a moth. I could have stayed at home to wank. I fix my gaze upon the wall Of the bleak assembly hall, Seeing, in well-typed Roman, verse - Or so it looks; it can't be worse Than his; I blink to clear my eyes... No, it's 'In the event of fire.' That's droll... We have his poetry, There's no fire that it can't control. Imagine -dear God!-memorising This poet's work! There's just one line Of his I love, and know by heart; Almost sublime, and as surprising As, through black clouds, a harvest moon: 'And now, um, now... perhaps... to end...' Not yet. Not yet. Stalin, old friend, Send in your thugs. An instant burst. Then bury him in some silent wood.
Note: Stray Dogs - a cabaret in pre-Revolutionary Petersburg noted for poetry and dissipation. D. M. Thomas is a poet, novelist, translator and biographer who is best known for his controversial novel 'The White Hotel'. His first stage play 'Hell Fire Corner' (see www.hellfirecorner.com) has just closed its first ten day run in Truro. He is Cornish, not Welsh, and no relation to Dylan Thomas - more details on his website www.dmthomasonline.com . He has a new poetry collection forthcoming from Fal (see www.falpublications.co.uk) entitled 'Dear Shadows', a large section of which deals with the cultural and personal changes experienced by the Cornish over the last century, through poems illustrated by old family photographs. Emigration, loss, sport, religion, bereavement and humour are among the themes. It will be his first new collection of poems since 'Dreaming in Bronze' was published in 1981 although 'The Puberty Tree', his Selected Poems published in 1992, contained some new and unpublished work. This poem, from the new collection, posted with his permission makes reference to Stray Dogs - a pre-revolutionary St Petersburg cabaret frequented by Anna Akhmatova and her husband Nikolai Gumilyov. In answer to the query about the word 'holocaust' in the translation of Lot's Wife, that word would not have had the same connotations in the early 1920s and in fact the first two lines of that stanza literally translated are something like 'who will mourn for this woman, she who is the least of the losses'. Best wishes, Victoria Field.