Saturday, 2 May 2009

More about queens

So how did you all do? Anyone learned their poem yet? Anyone got a link they want me to post for their recital online (I'll post mine early next week when I'm word perfect - so let me know and I'll post yours too)? Anyone not know what I'm talking about? Well then, where have you been! Read the last post and all will be clear.

As I wrote in the comments back there it took me a while to get going with the learning by heart business. I learn song lyrics by heart quite regularly but poems...not so much... and I did miss the aid of a tune (though at least I had rhyme on my side...something I'm very partial to). Some of the monstrous and mouth-invading phrases in 'Inversnaid' were so foreign and cumbersome that I found myself stumbling over them here and there (I like them but I can't say I've found them easy to memorise). 'Rollrock highroad', for example, (in line two) just did not want to go into my head at first! I had Ted Hughes' thoughts on memorising to hand (they are also in last post) but try as I might I found I wasn't using visual images to learn these words (that just seemed to give me more to remember!). Instead I was doing it purely on sound - I found myself even putting it into a Scottish accent, perhaps because of some of its very Scottish words ('burn' for stream, 'braes' for hills...though oddly not 'loch' for lake). I won't be recording the poem in a Scottish accent though...my Scottish accent is a bit...variable and some of you are real Scots and might be appalled! After a few useless attempts indoors I eventually discovered that outdoor learning worked better and that repeating the poem whilst dogwalking was the easiest way to learn it (though I am sure any walking would do - the dog is an optional accessory really). Being out in the open, of course, suited the poem ('Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet') and my mind could probably concentrate better away from the laptop and the kitchen and the lists of things to do. Being a bit of a chest-beater poet now and again I am really quite besotted with the last verse. Stirring stuff!

I enjoyed reading a little about Hopkins too. I had an unfortunate experience with a drunk relative reciting Hopkins to me years ago and I have to admit that had prejudiced me against the poet from a fairly young age (that and poem titles like 'God's Grandeur', I'll be honest). I particularly loved the detail in his wikipedia entry (I know, such detailed research...) about him keeping a diary of his sins (heavens, I have lots of those...) and was quite interested in all the 'was he writing about gay sex or God?' debates (can't it be both...people are so unimaginative...). Those were complicated times in that regard (he lived 1844-89) but the debates seem to be along the lines of (in the red corner) 'of course he was gay, look at that imagery!' versus (in the blue corner) 'how dare you? He loved women! He was a man of the cloth...' etc. Nothing you've not heard before...

On a related matter, I'm not going to write heaps about Carol Ann Duffy being the UK's new Poet Laureate (and first woman to do the job). Like a lot of people I have mixed feelings about the whole laureate thing and think the post and the very idea of it need some modernising. The thing is I also think that the Duffy will probably do the modernising...without even asking anyone's permission. She is doing it already...donating the salary elsewhere, speaking out about the job, her intentions and her own life (it's official, lesbians are everywhere... as the much-postcarded graffiti used to proclaim). She will make the laureateship what it should be – simply the job of being best-known poet in the country and using that position as you wish (for a set period of time). Also, unlike Andrew 'who he?' Motion she has earned it – years and years of publishing and reading and being read by all sorts of people (as the articles keep saying she is both 'popular and profound', halle-bloody-lujah).

If the coverage is to be believed in some ways she didn't really want the job (she is not mad about public scrutiny, press hassle etc. - plus she's a poet...she might want to just get on with some writing...) but she has accepted it anyway and I think that's a very grown-up attitude – sometimes we do just have to buckle down and do things we might not really choose for ourselves. She is doing it, so it seems, for women, for women poets, for the whole concept of being 'out and proud', for her daughter, for her (many) fans, for poetry... and these are all good causes (very good causes) and I admire her hugely for this decision (and in some sense sacrifice). So how will she make it bearable? There were some great quotes in her recent public statements and these all suggest that she will do this job the way she has done everything so far – in her own way. So really, for many reasons it is just fantastic news and all in all I'm glad she has chosen to go ahead. Here are some of her quotes in case you missed them (though they have been all over the place...again I ask...where HAVE you been?). I took these from the Dundee 'Courier' newspaper (and one from the BBC website) but they got them all from her interview on Radio 4's Woman's Hour programme, I think.

“Poetry is all around us, all of the time, whether in song or in speech or on the page, and we turn to it when events, personal or public, matter most. In accepting this laureateship, I hope to contribute to people's understanding of what poetry can do and where it can be found.”

Big hearty cheer!

“I look on it as a recognition of the great women poets we have writing now”.

More cheering!

On attitudes to sexuality and thoughts that she didn't get the post last time because of hers:

“I think we've all grown up a lot over the past 10 years.”

“Sexuality is something that is celebrated now we have civil partnerships and it's fantastic that I'm an openly gay writer and anyone here or watching the interviews who feels shy or uncomfortable about their sexuality should celebrate and be confident and happy.”

Extra loud cheering (perhaps even some whooping and hugging the person next to you...whether you're interested in any kind of meaningful future with them or not).

“The Ministry of Culture and the Palace made it very clear, particularly the Palace, that there is no expectation or requirement at all to write royal poems, and same with government people. I don't have to write anything about anything if I don't want to, and, like all poets, I would only ever write poems that are truthful, from an authentic source, whether that's private or public.”

Popping of champagne corks, dancing in streets and all round carnival atmosphere (and odd shouts of “'Ere Motion – that's the way to do it!”). In the meantime all rejoice for Carol Ann Duffy is now, officially, the Queen of British poetry (well, for 10 years). God bless the queens, all of them...

x

p.s. I just read on Solitary Walker's blog that poet UA Fanthorpe died this week. I hadn't heard or seen that anywhere or might have mentioned her too today. What a shock. There's an obituary here.

19 comments:

hope said...

The chosen poem is short...the technology might take a bit longer. :)

But I enjoy that challenge..thanks!

Rachel Fox said...

Gonna tell us what it is yet, Hope?
x

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, even more about queens, I guess.

I think Fanthorpe was an outstandingly good poet -am just looking at her 'Selected Poems' as I write this - intelligent, well read, and her poems very varied in theme & construction. She tacks from Greek mythology to life in old people's homes and hospitals with complete confidence.

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, I've liked the poems of Fanthorpe's that I've read so far. You very rarely see her books in the shops though.

x

The Solitary Walker said...

I particularly like a poem of hers called 'The First Years Arrive' about greenhorn students arriving for the first time at Uni complete with family entourage. She really learned a lot from Larkin in this one. Read it and you'll see what I mean.

Rachel Fox said...

Maybe you could learn that one by heart for our communal poetry reading project...It would be a good tribute, perhaps.
x

Sorlil said...

done mine! okay so it's short! though I opted for my fav WCW (To a Poor Old Woman) which is slightly longer than the Red Wheelbarrow. Not sure I can work out how to get my voice online though.

Rachel Fox said...

Well done Sorlil!
Now you need to find tech support...
x

Rachel Fox said...

My tech support has weakened under pressure...if any of you record your recitals you can email me them (in SMALL MP3s) and he will put them on a webpage with mine. Any huge files or WAVs will be ignored...
x

Dick said...

I hope two things of Carol
Ann Duffy - that she is able to convince, where generations of teachers and poets have so far failed, that 'poetry is all around us, all of the time', and that she doesn't write a single royal poem.

Rachel Fox said...

I'm sure she would only write a royal poem if she was sure it was, in some sense, right. And after all...you can write one (as I did here) without being in the slightest bit royalist! And CAD is clever (very clever) - she'll confound them all!
x

Danish dog said...

Here's a link to Duffy's elegy for Fanthorpe:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/may/02/premonitions-carol-ann-duffy

Here are signs that the role of public poet may yet bring out the best in her.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks for that DD. I don't see the Guardian often so I wouldn't have come across that otherwise. It's full of love (the poem) and it reminds me that the Duffy book I most want to read is 'Rapture' (love poems mainly, I believe). I don't read a lot of love poems as a rule or anything...I just feel I may like that book.
x

deemikay said...

Unfortunately I've failed in my task of memorising my 56 lines... :(

Rachel Fox said...

That's OK. That can make the rest of us feel good about managing to learn ours...even if only 16 lines in my case. There's so much other crap in my head that getting those 16 in was quite enough of a feat. I think my brain needs cleaning/emptying/vacuuming/overhauling.
x

Titus said...

Done mine too, though technology is letting me down. I have found the "sound recorder" on the computer but it does not wish to record any sound. Or any that I make, anyway.
Twins have lines 1 - 8 of "The Listeners" word perfect, and we shall press forward with 4 more lines per week. Though I am getting a little tired of the bird flying up out of the turret .......

Rachel Fox said...

Titus - yours is a team effort! Brilliant.

Technology can be a right bugger. Without my (faithful and hardworking) in-house tech support I would be writing you all individual letters in longhand or shouting from my rooftop a la Twilight Barking. You might not hear me.

x

Titus said...

E-mailed you my attempt, see if you can follow the link. Good challenge!

Rachel Fox said...

I've added details to the results post (Sound and Vision). Well done - first to complete...feel like I should give you a prize! Kibble?
x