Thursday, August 31, 2006

Shoot the (Hermetic) Messenger: BBC2.

Last night, the BBC finally screened its controversial play. Originally it was to be called “Fuck Black People”—after the slogan that the lead character Joe-the-black-teacher writes on the walls of a comprehensive school, having been suspended for an alleged assault.

The final title invites controversy, as do the final words of the play, which fall like a challenge from the playwright, Sharon Foster and the director, Ngozi Onwurah:

“I’m not taking back everything I said. You don’t like the way I said it. So, shoot me!”

Before it hit the screen, Shoot the Messenger had already taken a round of bullets. The black press and various watchdogs were keen to unleash the dogs of war on the production. On the BBC’s website, clearly set up to counter screams of “Racist”, Sharon Foster attempts a nice damage limitation exercise, warning that people should be wary of shouting that word too often because when racism really comes along it might not be heard.

So, was the programme racist? That isn’t really the issue. Criticism should begin with whether the play actually said anything to become upset about.

The primary problem with Shoot the Messenger was television. On the stage, which allows more distance, the play would have come across more accurately. The structure of the play, as a black Everyman’s progress, would have been transparent. Theatre allows symbolic episodes and short-cuts. On the tv screen, the structure was confused: some bits seemed like soap opera, some like alienating episodes out of Brecht, and some like kitchen-sink docudrama. Consequently, the quality of the message brought by the messenger was uneven. The first twenty minutes of the drama saw Joe go from IT consultant, to idealistic teacher, to fallen man, to schizophrenic, to existential outsider. It was like watching a five act tragedy condensed into one. Probably this was deliberate, to avoid empathy, and keep the audience outside the character. But this intention—if that’s what it was—hit two major problems. Firstly, the acting of Oyelowo (Joe) was outstanding. Through the power of his performance, the cartoon character kept coming alive. The enslaved Joe became Prometheus Unbound. The message was usurped by the messenger and identification kept entering the play unevenly. Secondly, the climax of the drama focused on the resolution between Joe and Germal (Charles Mnene)--the symbol of Joe’s fatal flaw: self-righteousness. This was offered as a tragic catharsis. Both had died psychologically. It was supposed to be a scene of pain and revelation. But there was no emotional charge to make it mean anything at a felt level. How really had Joe or Germal come to this point? What was being accepted and healed? In the end, Shoot the Messenger became a series of tableaux…with some highly provocative statements and ideas. But how radical where these?

Was the drama a gift to the British National Party as claimed? Well. I doubt first of all if the BNF would have understood the play…it did require a mind…but having said that…how thoroughly did the play show the underbelly of the Black Beast?

Joe entered the play with “A call to arms”. He was going to be the solution to the failure of black male underachievement. Problem: the education system needs more black teachers and this is why the system fails. Actually, not so. Research has not shown that; what it has shown is alienation created by a flawed curriculum, racism by teachers towards black males, and entrenched institutional racism consequently.

Joe adopted a disciplined line of what he called “enforced education”. Problem: black males cannot handle discipline. Actually, not so. Research has shown that black male teachers are often no different to white teachers—they all transfer coercive patriarchal attitudes into the classroom and that is the root of conflict. The play picked up on this. But it also committed an over-simplification by presenting the conflict between Joe and Germal simply as black versus black. Joe is Nigerian. Germal is African-Caribbean. That produces a complex dynamic in the classroom connected to cultural expectations and hostility. The play, though it took education as the springboard for its drama, really did not know much about education and teaching. In its classroom scenes, the play even failed to critique one of the principal examples of institutional racism: where black males are positioned within classrooms.

Joe was presented as a “House nigger” in Shoot the Messenger. Problem: raising expectations are despised by blacks because it is seen as a sell out to white culture. This is a real issue in education and a cause of black male under-achievement, but it is only half the problem: the other half comes from institutionalised attitudes to black males as loose sexual guns waiting to go off. Too much was done too quickly in the first twenty minutes for a successful critique to emerge dramatically.

How radical were some of the view-points?

1) Christianity is a kind of mental enslavement. Well, that’s not exactly news. James Baldwin studied that in detail throughout his novels. And a reading of Douglass shows how Christianity provided a slippery rationale for slavery.
2) Single mothers are bad parents who “Give more time to their [children’s] names than who should father them.” Yes, that is a contentious issue, but it has been well-aired elsewhere by the media.
3) Black people need “to get over slavery”. That has been argued forcibly for quite some time and how the teaching of slavery should be turned into what slavery teaches everyone about the importance of self-worth.
4) “Black people are cursed”. Well, that particular line goes back centuries.
5) There is a difference between the old and the new. “They went to church. We [men] go to prison”. A nice irony, swapping one institution for another, but again, that has been argued for sometime. Though Shoot the Messenger spent a lot of time on the problems of males, it never really probed what these problems were; bell hooks has written far more heretical things about the black dis(community) than appeared in this play; and why black men are driven into prison.
6) "Bring back slavery. We were good at that, at our most productive. This freedom shit isn't working." Indeed, but that is rather a philosophical issue than a specifically black concern. Being alone on the streets, as Joe put it is "strangely freeing", as he entered Beckett's world. There is nothing like being up-and-in yourself to realise that you are really down-and-out. Finding salvation outside the institution of a white capitalist suprematist society/racism is incredibly hard: trying to live outside the institutions of religion, family, education, work, relationship is enough to institutionalise anyone. And the play did raise that question well and suggest some reasons why black males are more likely to suffer mental illness.
7) Women suffer because they must live up to the “Black is beautiful” message and that causes low self-esteem. The same is true for black men who must live up to an erotic image imposed by white culture…yet that went unsaid. Racist commodification of the body goes deeper than women wanting to straighten and supplement their hair. This vital issue seemed politically nostalgic rather than hard-hitting.

"So shoot me! "What for? For opening Pandora’s black box of race secrets? Hardly. For a lot of deep and original observations about race and achievement? Not really. For being racist? Never. But as thought-provoking drama, Shoot the Messenger was a terribly important piece of television. It's a long time since I've watched anything with total concentration more than once.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

How to Read?

Nick Hornby recently wrote an article entitled “How to Read”. That—once upon a time—was the title of a famous essay by Pound. For Pound, the title meant “What to read”, according to Old Ez. Hornby’s article in the Daily Torygraph (accidentally found via Gypsy Scholar via Chronofile) is more concerned with “What not to read”, according to Old Nick. The two versions of “How to Read” really represent the problem of reading in modern culture. Pound’s essay (yes, literary critics wrote essays back then) upholds literature: “language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.” Hornby’s article (the kind of fragmentary stuff written today by lad-lit authors) attacks any such idea on the basis that difficult stuff holds no pleasure and only puts people off reading. Ironically, Hornby also upholds the novel against the evils of television, yet as the Times Literary Supplement has pointed out with reference to Hornby: reading his work “is like reading television”, the experience is like reading a sparse script for a “sentimental film” suitable for relaxed television. “How to read”, in the Pound Era, meant learning what was valuable by encountering great works. The method resembled a walk through an art gallery with all the high moments of Art on the wall—exposure created the literary sensibility. In the Hornby Age, “How to read” moreorless equates with a walk through W.H.Smiths whilst obeying all the signs that say “LITERATURE BEWARE”, so avoiding exposure to anything remotely challenging. Neither method really addresses the statement “How to Read” because that does imply a methodology, some sense of how meaning is derived pleasurably from reading or even how pleasure is extracted meaningfully. Perhaps, both are needed to re-instate reading as a valid human activity.

The problem with Pound’s method is that it inevitably creates an elitist list, a fascism of reading. With Hornby’s method, the problem relates ultimately to a liberalism of reading whereby anything commonly fashionable will do. Meandering through Borders and Waterstone’s, today, I simply surveyed the difference between prose and poetry. Waterstone’s had 20 shelves and 6 tables given over to general novels…two shelves to poetry; Borders had 24 shelves and 5 tables for general novels…two shelves for poetry. The relative lack of poetry illustrates the extent to which the popular now leads, the degree to which Hornby’s belief in simplistic language dominates. When he talks of honing down the language of the novel, Hornby is really discussing the removal of poetical language from the novel—taking out anything that might challenge the reader—as if the erasure of simile, metaphor, complex characterisation, psychological and philosophical depth is no worse than removing additives from food. It is troubling that we have not developed a democracy of reading with, to borrow a phrase from Whitman, a democratic vista, such that we still exist in a culture within which individuals feel that they have to read Ulysses or read the Da Vinci Code, or have to have a favourite book. Neither the high camp nor the low camp seems to show much respect for the intelligent Common Reader. Of course, there are novelists, thankfully, who do not prescribe to either extreme, who refuse to be limited by style: authors such as Patricia Duncker who accept that language should match what you want to say, and what you want to say creates the language you use. The worst novelists today are those that try to write literature and produce precocious garbage and those who try to write journalism and pass it off as precious jewels. Duncker’s recent novel, Miss Webster and Cherif, for me, is worth reading simply because it treats the reader as worthy of the effort needed to write well.

Marechera's Poetry.

In 1984, Marechera gave an interview to Flora Veit-Weld (the text of which appears as an epilogue to Cemetery of Mind). Most reviews of Marechera’s poetry come from generalisations made by writers which relate to what they think his poetry was about. Here is an attempt to look at what he actually thought himself and try and understand the implicit sources.

At the start of the interview, Marechera associates and then disassociates himself from Eliot. Marechera states that is the “poet’s job” (M) to find as Eliot put it, in 1919, “ a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.” (E). He re-terms “objective correlative” (E) as “verbal correlative” (M). That could be a half-recollection of the term, or it could be something more pointed: Eliot’s emphasis on the objective as a code for the subjective, physical for mental, was taken over from Poundian Imagism. In 1913, Pound developed Imagism into Vorticism which placed emphasis on the verb, action within the image—verbal manifestation. Quite possibly, Marechera implies that emotion seeks its correlative in action, in the moving image. Marechera’s objection to Eliot’s objectivism is quite simple, in one respect, however: Marechera sees its weakness: a writer may have a “feeling” (more complex than an emotion) for which there might be no obvious objects capable of creating it.

For Marechera, poetry is a “retreat from physical reality” into philosophy. Here, the human exists no longer and the soul takes over. This shift into metaphysics is rather startling, not at all where the opening discussion seemed to be going. Marechera feels this retreat as a withdrawal into invisibility—into the “invisible poet” (M). The term “invisible poet”, by implication, once more returns into the framework of Modernism. When Kenner used this phrase, in 1959, of Eliot, it was used to mark a shift from the poem as the creation of a real person, one easily identified, into a realm of Poundian personae such that the poem became the creation of a unifying consciousness. From Marechera’s perspective, this withdrawal into invisibility allows the poet to illuminate “things from within as from without out”(M). A double illumination? This borders on how Langer described the process by which symbolism is made in Mind: nature is transformed subjectively by mind and mind is objectified metamorphically by nature. The “objective correlative” is half of imagination and imagery. The other half is the subjective irrelative. Marechera sees poetry as coming from an invisible centre, a self, an individuality which “you can’t really find in Africa”. His view-point, here, again is Poundian, but also older than Pound, as Pound well knew and acknowledged. (The roots are in Reniassance Neo-platonism). Pound wrote “the stone is alive in my hand”. Nature is not dead. It isn’t simply moulded by the sculptor, subjected to the mind’s conscious design. It knows the design that the mind seeks and so allows itself to objectify an idea. The light of the mind is already in the light of nature. Marechera compares poetry, through simile, to a kaleidoscope. This isn’t quite what happens, but it is a way of linking to the process of poetry. The physical world can be shaken and shaken into new coloured patterns. Objects endlessly transform. What must be noted, however, is that Marachera says that this method fits “physical environments” (M) “rather than” (M) “mental environments (M). The mind is not best imagined as a kaleidoscope: he does not view the mind as directionally mutable. Marechera appears to be alluding to Modernism all the time, yet his thoughts do not appear to simply coincide. It as if there is something he can’t relate in the language of Modernism. Its European logic of perception, developed obviously in Eliot’s aesthetic “objective correlative” and then re-designed in the psychological critical principles of Richards, in 1929, is not in Marechera’s blood.

When Marechera upholds the view that poetry is a “musical notation” (M), well, that is a re-statement of Modernism; both Eliot and Pound played endlessly with the relationship between music and poetry, the sound qualities if the image, but when he upholds the link between poetry and music rather than “a reasoned linguistic structure” that is another direction. The disorder of poetic language returns, seemingly, to the kaleidoscope. Though the physical landscape can be endlessly structured into logical symmetries, the mental landscape is known through randomness. And that is why the logical, consciously selected “objective correlative” of Modernism is flawed. Not only can it not represent some emotions it also cannot represent the mind at work.

By arguing that there is no difference between prose and poetry, Marechera once more follows Pound and Joyce: charged writing is simply speech intensified. But what fascinates Marechera is something more than the logic within the illogic of the stream of conscious technique—Ulysses, for all its eccentricities—is shaped by a logical, concentric mind. All the rejoicing in language comes from the unified consciousness of Joyce. What rather fascinates Marechera is the “enchantment” of language, the reverberation of language, as in his own Black Sunlight, that moves thought towards disorder, “psychotic insanity”. Why? Because the abnormal society that Marechera sought to critique in poetry and prose would require an abnormal language. (The uneveness in his poetry, its annoying register breaks and irregular dictions, challenge the very notion of poetry, in the West, as polished…).

Poetic commitment, according to Marechera, is double. It is a commitment to the world inside the self and outside the self. The “visible poet” is committed simply to the last of these: the poem is a message to be delivered. The “invisible poet”, however, is not the logical antithesis, a poet committed simply to the self. Marechera illustrates the “invisible poet” by referring to Soyinka and Okigbo. Of these, Okigbo is the most revealing—a poet who knew the metric of Eliot, who faced his self, the tensions of a dual education—yet broke with Eliot to write a poetry of dissonance and dissidence.

As an “invisible poet”, one not split by inwardness and outwardness, but living the unification of the two, Marechera’s extensive comments on language and education make a lot of sense. Though he previously placed Soyinka as an “invisible poet” (one who has more to offer than those who look back innocently to a pure Africa before colonialism) there is a note of anxiety when he describes Soyinka as “a cerebral poet” (M). There is an awareness that as much as he appreciates Soyinka, the existential clash between colonialism, neo-colonialism, contact with European and Western values, Soyinka is not poetically in a place that Marechera wants to inhabit. The “invisible poet” is not a fixed ideal, it has specific levels, levels of discrimination, differences without hierarchy.

When the question is put, “Do you start writing a poem with a specific feeling or idea?” Marechera’s response is emphatic. The poem does not begin with an idea (mind). It begins with “the first line” (M) -- a point where inside and outside already exist. The poem begins with something physical, never as a conception waiting to be nailed into place. It then becomes a matter of “abuse”. Interestingly, Marechera finds in writing the exact opposite of the existentialist Beckett. As a conscious writer, one requiring absolute control over the written word, Beckett preferred to write in French then translate into English. Thinking in a second language brought a conscious discipline to his work. Marechera reversed the whole of this process. English was his second language. It made him too conscious. A disciplined language was unwanted. So, his writing in English became an argument with consciousness and English had to be roughed up so as it learnt to say what he wanted to say. To the Modernists, most noticeably Pound, language paralleled sculpture. Polished form reached its height with the work of Gaudier-Brzeska. In Marechera’s work, there is a different awareness of how language is sculpted. To Western eyes it might seem to be uninformed, lacking in polish, but really what exists is an unpolishing, and re-informing. As with African sculpture, Marechera is not afraid to leave the marks of craftsmanship, his creative actions.

In discussing the love-sonnet, nothing really develops, not until the subject matter of the Amelia poems enters. The fictive “Amelia” is White and Marechera, of course, was Black. Veit-Weld pursues the obvious inter-racial line, puzzled that Marechera did not explore this more. His response is direct and existential: a relationship is a relationship and loving people of the same race is “an incest” (M). His statement about race, here, seems perfectly in line with his approach to poetry. He isn’t interested in binary splits or being confined to one side of an equation. He is more interested in love and its “very personal and intimate kind of terror” (M) and the multiplicity of forms that result. The “emotional chaos” (M) experienced in a “concrete way” is poetical theory being lived.

The 1984 interview, like any interview, does not amount to a poetic ideology. As with any interview, it is a dialogue opened and closed by the interviewer’s questions. It would also be wrong to commit an intentional fallacy and start to read insights from the interview into Marechera’s poetry and create a canon of poems that fit his statements. What does exist in the interview, however, is a record of an unusual intelligence at work, and a clear sense that Marechera’s poetry existed in relation to an intellectual and experiential mindscape. To either call him a genius and avoid analysis or view him as a Beat hobo and deny synthesis is to do him a considerable wrong.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Heading South/Vers le Sud

A stimulating study of who controls desire.

Going alone to the cinema is something of an indulgence, against that dreadful restriction – the social norm. So, it was somewhat surprising to find myself in an urban cinema full of single people, all nicely spread out in their isolation and tucked into their red, plush seats where the only brief topic of conversation was the warmth of the cinema on a wet and cold summer night in the United Kingdom (not at all remarkable and not really worth remarking on except as an excuse to make brief contact and set the limits of inter-action). There was only one couple there that evening, something that became significant at the end. of the evening. The film that we had all come to experience was Heading South/Vers le Sud. Starring Charlotte Rampling and Menothe Cesar, (who won the new actor award at the Venice film festival for his performance in the film) Heading South is about three women, Brenda, Sue and Ellen and their search for inter-racial liaisons in the sinister Haiti of Duvalier. Reviews of the film, in the UK, but not the USA, have been lukewarm. Peter Bradshaw, in The Guardian, has described it as a “softcore piece of provocation” and politically na├»ve and Mark Kermode in the sister-paper, The Observer on Sunday, “cultured and slightly tiresome”. For them, as males, it was a film about sex-tourism, not a particularly wholesome thing to encourage; and here was there first misunderstanding. As they looked at the film through a modern, journalistic lens where the film paralled the current desire of white USA and UK women for inter-racial sexual holidays in Jamaica, they completely missed the real resonances of the film. Haiti is not Jamaica. The Caribbean islands are not one black mass—anymore than every country in Africa is the same—but the Western imagination, as Eshun demonstrates perfectly in Black Gold of the Sun, does not do specifics well. And Heading South is a film all about specifics, as Ellen points out contemptuously to Brenda when she dresses the film’s central beloved like a “black man from Harlem”. Black men are not all the same, though that is one of Brenda’s erotic errors. There is also another problem with Kermode’s and Bradshaw’s approaches: it is so damned male! And Heading South is about women, about their desire for love and sex—an alleged predatory attitude that makes Bradshaw morally indignant and self-righteous. These two film critics, rather than seeing how the film critiques duplicity, only impose their own male double-standards.
At the centre of Heading South is Legba, a beautiful young black male who is as sexual as the god he represents: the orisha Eshu transformed into Voodoo’s god of deception and communication. And self-deception is the central concern of the film, a point made firmly in the opening scene. A mother, at the airport, is trying to give her beautiful daughter away to a patriarchal stranger, for in her eyes a woman needs to be protected: beauty and sexuality are a single curse. She issues a warning: “Beware! Can you tell the Good mask from the Bad mask? We all wear a mask”. And Ellen, Sue, Brenda do indeed wear masks, as does Legba who must be all to all of them. Heading South is much more than a film about inter-racial attraction and crossing the colour line. It is a subtle study of racism and its connection to sexuality. “Why do black men seem different here?” enquires Brenda, at one point, “Is it because they are at home and closer to nature?” She remains unaware of what Fanon would have termed the biological myth and how, for her, the black male is no more than a penis. The script of the film is remarkably tight and structured—as taut as that of a play—and like Legba, the double-dealer, images continually double throughout the film. The film’s ensemble playing is wonderful, especially the relationship between Ellen-Eddy (a teenage male who looks upon Legba as his father) and Brenda-Eddy. Eddy is the innocent fool of Shakespearean tragedy, the childish, comical aspect of Legba/Eshu whose simplicity reveals the border-lines. When Brenda flirts with him in a dance, Ellen responds with a biting “cradle-snatcher”, and Legba, like a humorous father, picks him up and throws him into the sea to cool his sexual heat. But most revealing is the doubling between Ellen-Legba and Brenda-Legba. If Brenda loves Legba because of how he looks at her, so Ellen loves Legba because of how he allows her to look at him. The sexual mirror and its fantasies are intriguingly different. There is one point in the film where Legba dances with Brenda. Ellen observes from the sidelines, watching the stiff Brenda try to dance. Control prevents passion. But then, to the watcher’s surprise, Brenda draws away from Legba and absorbs herself in her own dance. As the Haitian band plays, Brenda’s dancing becomes a voodoo trance, and Legba, embarrassed by her actions, draws away and requests the band leader/priest to play a more civilised, quieter, partner dance, one where the male might take control and lead. Legba senses that Brenda’s sexual fantasy has become fanaticism, it is wilder than his masculinity can control— is self-induced and religiously inspired: her mask of puritanical repression conceals a demonic expressiveness.
Heading South is not (as Kermode states) a “parable of personal and political exploitation” of the male. “Parable” is absolutely the wrong word, as is his patriarchal focus on how women lead men astray. The film is a finely crafted myth that takes apart religious presumptions and looks at the double-nature of desire. Like Haiti, under Duvalier, where politics, sexuality and spirituality mixed oppressively, Heading South is a study of rules, permission and permissiveness: how individuals try to hide control and by their controlling reveal the evil inside Western civilisation and its supposed superior respectability. Civil savages and savage civilians wear masks of death. And, of course, death and sexuality are intimate bedfellows. The art of dying has been a favourite pun for orgasm since the times of Donne and Rochester. The relationship is also deeply situated in mythology. The Renaissance, following its hermetical roots in Greek mythology, saw Eros and Thanatos as dual-forms of one aspect: the unloosening of the body's chains, the freeing of the divine soul. Amor is a god of Death in profane and sacred ways. Following an actual event during filming, the director of Heading South inserts a telling phrase into the film's climax...this is passed almost like a secret hermetic code by Albert (the restaurant owner who feeds the white visitors as they feed their desires) to the inspector of life, Ellen: "The tourist never dies." The phrase's surface message is that the white tourist is always protected, their wealth and power prevents them from becoming the victims of tragedy. The deeper meaning is that those who spectate/tour might die sexually, orgasmically, but they are afraid to enter the fictions that they create fully, for their sexuality, then, would be the death of all they know. Love would kill.
At the close of the film, people left silently, drifting into the night’s darkness, apart from the young couple: sadly, the girl-friend was weeping in the arms of her sheltering boy-friend. The romanticism of the film had been too much. It spread a real unease and showed how badly the film had been mis-understood and placed within a simple, reductive, heterosexual frame. Rampling’s wonderfully portrayed character, the matronly, but not maternal Ellen, would have been scathing about this emotional performance—such a lack of imagination, of intellect, of intelligent emotion—such a fear, as she phrases it in the film, of the “presence of pain” and the real paradoxical dimensions of existence.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Marechera's Poetry.

Reading the Intellect (2).
In 1982-83, Marechera wrote a number of poems that he published in Mindblast (1984). Supposedly, these were poems written after his return from so- called exile: exile assumes that a person belonged, not something that should be assumed in Marechera’s case! One of the poems from Mindblast, “The Poems Semantics”, seems to offer itself as a programme poem. The “seems” would appear to be the point under attack.

The Poems Semantics=The title, grammatically, is not possible. Surely, an apostrophe is required? “The Poem’s Semantics”? This is quite a problem with Cemetery of Mind (his collected poetry) which is assembled from un-revised manuscripts.
(after Rainer Maria Rilke)= “after”=Sonnets (1922) ie. I, i and II, xii.
Not the tree but the space (within
The eye) which contains the tree
= “Da steig ein Baum. O reine Ubersteigung!/O Orpheus singt!” “A tree rose up! O pure over-reaching!/Now Orpheus sings!” Almost as a Black Orpheus, Marechera casts his eyes on the opening of Rilke’s sonnet sequence, but with one crucial difference: Rilke’s poetic tree is auditory; Marachera’s is visual. His concern is the psychology of vision and poetry—I A Richards took exactly this line in Principles of Literary Criticism. Marechera’s tree is the link between the objective and the subjective, the tree in the eye.
the retina’s
All-encircling trajectory
=the neural sphere (of the eye) which links to the optic nerve and brain. The noun “trajectory” implies the imagined movement of objects seen by the eye.
…when I see
Not the tree
But the poem of the tree
=Poundian Objectivism aimed to look into nature and reveal the mind through this point of entry. Marechera proposes that within the natural object there is the poem waiting to grow. Vision finds mind growing within nature. There are no religious overtones to this idea (as in Hopkins). Marechera suggested that poetry was “a reorganisation of the objects around you in a new pattern, like a kaleidoscope” (Discussion with Veit-Wild, 1984). Not a phantasmagoria! Rather a process, like the retina’s, operating through patterned stimulation.
I looked again and again
Each time more fiercely--
=”fiercely”=a savage and strenuous act.
= What does this acknowledge? That nature is the parent? That (given the innocent apostrophe) the link with nature, through creation, brings a child’s state of innocent savagery.
The hollow vibration cast a brilliant green
On the aura of all I touched--
=“hollow vibration”= emptiness+movement=a visual drum hollowed out of a tree? As if, by staring, the eye begins to beat until the whole world of perception is a living/green migraine like aura/emanation.
My arms had hardened, turned
Into branches, the fingers shoots and twigs,
My dreadlocks long windlisping leaves
= “Und die verwandelte Daphne”. For Rilke, the myth of Daphne is a symbol for transformation—wind—inspiration and life’s breath.. Pounds’s early poem “The Tree” used the Daphne myth to define poetic transformation also. Marechera employs the myth at the end of his poem to implicitly draw away from Apollonian art and explicitly become the tree, define himself erotically related to nature (rather than Apollo: like Daphne who fled from the God’s rapacious desire). His “windlisping”=speaking like a child learning the language of life’s breath. The poem reads as a personal revision of Modernism.