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April 24, 2007

Ted Hughes' Ovid – Poetry

Ted Hughes’ Ovid.

Prologue.
Dancing on the blackened floorboards,
holding each other close, and kissing.
this is the moment you met,
and screaming you came together,
the barrage of words within you both,
colliding, and clashing, and thundering against your skin.
Fighting, one of you will win;

the singer pauses, the room is silent,
and your hands come together in Romeo’s prayer.

Now, I am ready to tell you,
How bodies are changed
Into different…

Midas.
You were too good, too clever, and the words
fell from your lips like the water when you leave the pool.
Her jealousy was small,
blanketed in pride, and you saw it,
and were pleased. Her children cried,
and she answered as you battled against their noise.

There is a kind of anger in the muffins,
soft and flaky against your chapped lips,
that she baked the afternoon you wrote about the tractor,
frozen in the desolate field.

Did you remember her, with her perfect blonde hair,
cascading over the table,
and silent as you sang to her?
You found her, laid there and peaceful,
and so you locked yourself away,
behind your copy write laws,
and said that you had changed.
Your bed was cold, and the body that lay there
did not move in sync with you.

You are chastened, but not really changed.

Salmacis and Hermaphroditus.

There are shapes behind the curtain;
twisting and writhing, swimming together,
they are inseparable, and claw at her brain.
Hands intertwine, limbs appear to be a part
of him, of her, of the body that is melting.
They claw at her pupils,
her hair feels like it is falling,
and her skin is being stretched by her scream.

The lights flicker, and they are dying prematurely.

The God’s heard her frenzy and smiled.

Semele.

She is watching you.
From behind the curls of her blonde, blonde hair,
and her hands are shaking against the knife.

Your movements are rapid, desperate –
hurry the betrayal and speed towards the guilt,
that can consume you in the quilt
that makes you cry into her shoulder at night.

She could always smell them, did you know that?
she can see their movements echoed in your eyes
as you tell her you love her.

The jealousy grinds inside her,
and the blood on her lip tastes sweet for a moment.

You needed a woman who stood up to you.

Her anger carries to the door, and she interrupts you,
and bewitches the girl.
Your truth would be too much for the girl to handle
(this is my wife),
and so you take her, and squash her
beneath the heel of the shoe that Sylvia would polish that night.

She will stumble very soon headlong into hell’s horrible river, pushed there and shoved under by the loving caresses of none other than her darling…

Arachne and Minerva.

She twisted
threads into a
different pattern,
creating her own images,

that you could never understand.

Her hands waved in a rhythm
strange to you.

You were disconnected
from the glare in her eyes,
from the lilt in her voice,
from the scars on her skin.

She was triumphant when she lost you,
and she laughed at your anger.

She played with you, and spat you out into the web of your own words.

…jealousy herself could not find a stitch in the entire work that was not perfect…

Tereus and Philomela.

Domestic bliss.

A fairy tale told to wide-eyed, pigtailed young girls who sit on their mothers laps at playschool, listening to the housewives talk. This is the way the world works.

They did not talk of the fragility of the family, of the betrayal and the fear, and they did not tell her that at night their cries would echo in your ears.

Procne and Philomela. The perfect sisters. The loving father. The loving husband. The devoted brother-in-law. The precious son.

And the screams that are the ghosts of her mind.

Philomela was their father’s favourite. He gave Philomela, young, to Tereus, the wealthy King. He did not tell his daughter how, when her husband first set foot on the shore, a lump rose in Pandion’s chest, and he choked through it, tears staining his flaky cheeks. He knew Philomela was too attractive, too tempting. Procne would make the perfect wife for Tereus. When Procne saw her sister, crouched in the forest, her blood staining her chin, and her limbs shaking from fatigue, she wanted to wrap her hands around her sister’s throat, and squeeze until all the beauty, all the desire in her was wrung out, and Procne could return to her husband, and pretend… and say… and ignore…

Jealousy chewed at her ankles and her skin itched and trembled.

To kill her would be to kill the threat to her family. Sat around the family table – Procne, Tereus, and Itys – the perfect family.

Family. The ones you are given. The ones you create.

Her arms are falsely comforting. She is good at pretence. She follows the lie, and does not even allow her sweating palm to guide the string, but walk back with it to the shadow of your home.

Domestic bliss.

You destroyed her dream
when you first fell into the trap
held for you by the woman with
painted dreams.

Your monotone kitchen table seemed distant,
and only her blue,
blue eyes called to you.

Echo and Narcissus.

You found her body, cold.

She had wrapped herself in sodden rags, and breathed in the poisonous air that streamed through your home.

Your tears did not fall to your cheeks,
and you dwelt too long at the window,
gazing at your reflection –

for the first time in years, she was not at your shoulder.

You were free of her,
free of her cries, and her pleas, and her words
that would echo for months in your deafened ears.

You were free of her,
and yet you tied yourself to her,
holding her hand so tight, that you, and she, and death, could not let go.

You wrote her birthday letters,
and you wrote these poems,
allowing your words to echo hers,
to echo her love for you.

Days later, you joined her,
on the banks of the sticks,
and once more, felt her fingers through your hair.

Epilogue.

Figures, grey and misty, float around you.
they cradle each other in their arms,
and whisper to themselves.
Wrongs are made right, and figures you killed,
breathe in your mind again.

But she lies there, dead.

And you watch her, your eyes unseeing of anything but her,
your mind empty of her laugh, and her whispered sounds,
and your hand clenched against the loss of hers.

You believe you have killed her.
You believe she has killed you.

Bound so tight, across the distance of a haunted room,
at last, you cry for her.

Now I am ready to tell you,
how bodies are changed
into different bodies.


March 14, 2007

Sonnets and Photographs

Sonnets and Photographs.

I.
In blue fleeces and stripy, red all-in-ones,
You lay in your cot, gurgling in your sleep.
The shoelace, washed-out yellow, has begun
To come undone, and I can perhaps peek
The pink of your cotton-wool soft baby skin
That I tickle with the tip of my finger,
So you squirm and giggle, and blink, and grin
And chortle as I hold Baba up, and linger.
The photograph stands on the cluttered table
In our parent’s room, and we laugh, unable
To stop teasing for your embarrassed stance,
Your cherry-red cheeks and forgetful hands.

II.
Aged two and you are angry.
Your hands playing absently
With the gorse-bush by your side,
As you search for the missing photographer.

But your pose is lost as your finger stings,
Your face creases into an age that even
Our grandfather cannot imitate, and tears
Run down your crumpled cheeks.

Told you so, told you so! Your howls
Are bat-like in the lunchtime air,
And you stamp your hush-puppy foot
Into the springy, unyielding heather.

III.
You were heavy in my lap and my collar itched.
You wiggled and I wished Mummy would pick you up
And forgive me the failure of this duty.
You’re big sister. Which meant I had to hold you,
Tight and close for the endless minutes.
Don’t you look pretty together? The woman keened,
And I wanted to hit her. Don’t you look alike.
He’s drooling onto my hand, and I cannot wipe it.
The flash illuminates the room, and you blink,
Threaten to scream. So I loosed my hold,
Tickle your chest. Your scream turns to a chuckle,
And I smile, as again – the camera flashes.

IV
St Mark’s Square and it is after midnight;
Tired and aching we ask for water.
They bring us bottles with tiny pieces of lemon
That flicker in the too-clean glasses.
San Marco, San Marco! You crow,
Imitating the boatmen calling
From the other side of the plaza,
Where the pigeons coo with their heavy stomachs.
Come on you two, Mum says, pose.
Ever confident, you sling your arm around my shoulders.
We look younger, fresher than we were,
Our eyes dance like the candles in the summer night.

V
Of you, and of Notre Dame,
Sat quietly on the Seine that
Whistles, begging for pennies for luck
And the I can promise you…
Your eyes are bluer than the midnight water
And they fix on me and smile.
Against the old church you seem smaller
And your broad hands impermanent.
The cameras flash and the mummers continue,
And you grab our father’s hand as you jump
from the boat, and as you swing from a lamppost,
the bell starts to chime, silencing you.


My Winter Skin

My winter skin.

I thought it would be easier to stop talking about you.
That I could sew together my lips
with iron-like thread,
tie a not, elaborate
(like a kite’s tail) at one end
and give myself a lopsided,
out of place look.

But although I could not speak,
I could see and every time I saw your
over-done hair, I would blink.
The pain would be terrifying,
as I attempted to pry apart my chapped,
bleeding lips.

My lips betrayed you,
betrayed the way you’d sing in the car,
and laugh whenever silence fell.
Torn, they would murmur,
and I would listen through the dark fuzz of childhood.

My hands wandered, lost and alone,
and I could not match them with yours.
They were irritated, and blushed with scratching;
I would not sit still,
unless to pin them beneath me,
imagine they were glass.

But then I saw you.
Superman-like, you streamed into my vision,

- the stitches dissolved.

But my lips have been closed for so long,
that it hurts to open them,
and people stared as I tried to utter your name.

My little brother.

Away from home,
I had forgotten your smile,
and the way your hands
rubbed your knees,
until your jeans were worn thin.
The way you walked,
heel-toe, heel-toe,
and looked over your shoulder.

My voice has died within me and my lips are scared;
my hands are peeling,
a new skin is struggling to grow.

But you smile, and pass me tea,
and tell me it’s winter.
you show me your palms,
turned to the table light,
and I see that they too have lost their first, summer skin.


March 05, 2007

Pregnancy

_She told him over the washing up, her yellow-gloved hands worrying at the soap studs, her eyes fixed on his face.
“I should have told you a while ago; I’m pregnant.”
He smiled at her, his lips curving softly as he nodded slightly. “Yes.” Folding up his tea towel, he placed it on the edge of the sink, turned from her and walked towards the living room.
“Please don’t tell anyone yet”, she whispered to the disappearing bubbles that gurgled mischievously at her.

  • * * * *

She ran her hands over her stomach, looking at herself in the long mirror.
“Do you think I’m putting on weight? Am I maybe showing?” she asked him as he walked into the bathroom.
“You’re perfect.” He told her, kissing her temple as he placed his hands on her hips, moving her slightly to the side so that he could reach the sink.
“Are you glad?”
“You know I am.” He smiled at her in the mirror. She watched him; massaging shaving foam into his rough skin – an image of what he might be like when he was older.
“What are you smiling at?” he asked her, smirking.
“Do you think you will be able to stay with me until we are old?”
“I don’t know; I’d like to think so. Why?”
“I think you will love our baby.”
“I hope so.”
“What do you want it to be?”
“I want it to be well.”
She laughed, wrapping a towel around herself. “No – boy or girl?”
His head was bent over the sink, washing off the foam left over from his shaving. When he looked up, he was young again. He turned to her and his smile was gone. “I just want it to be well.”
She looked down, suddenly feeling tired and tearful. “It will be.” she whispered.
He led her towards the mirror again, and with soft fingers he undid the towel, letting it pool at her feet. He placed his hands on her stomach, and catching her eye in the mirror, he told her she was beautiful.

  • * * * *

“Julia told me she’s pregnant”. He told his Dad one morning over the phone at work. She didn’t want him to say anything, but the need to tell someone, anyone, was too great.
His father was silent, and he could see the frown form on his unshaven, creased face. “She ok?”
“Yes.”
“Well, maybe that’s good. Do you think?”
“Yes. Well – it’s better. We’re happy.”
“I hope so. You made the brave choice. Well done, son. Well done.”

  • * * * *

“Well done? All he said was well done? What does he mean by that?”
He shrugged at her, knowing exactly what it meant but unwilling to say.
“What about me? Did he say anything about me?”
“Not really. I think he was busy.”
“Oh. Did you say anything about me?”
“No. Why are you getting paranoid?”
“I’m not. Just assumed I featured into the equation somewhere. Obviously not.”
“Julia – ”
“Fuck off.”

  • * * * *

Her body was soft and warm in bed, radiating with the kind of heat that only came with sleep. He skin felt smooth on his palm, clean and fresh. Her hair was still damp, and her flushed lips told him she had fallen asleep crying, worrying her lips with her teeth and she tried to keep her sobs quiet so as not to admit them to him. She did not know how well he knew her, how he watched her and touched her in the night whilst she slept. How he could not sleep without her warmth there, and how he had stared, cold, into the darkness when she had left him.
“Julia.” He whispered her name into her soft blonde hair, brushing his fingertips across her shoulder, her chest, to rest on her stomach.
She stirred, and although he knew she was now awake, she did not look at him for a moment. He passed his hand across her skin, caressing gently, and she turned to him. He bent his head and kissed her shoulder, breathing in her smell. “You know you feature. You know you are everything.”
“How can I be everything? The baby. Tell me you’re happy.”
“I’m happy. God, I’m happy. I love you, Julie.”
“You love us both? You can’t love me and not the baby, Jack. Do you love us both?”
“Yes. Both of you. I love everything that is, and ever was and ever will be you, Julia.”
She touched his hand, pressing his fingertips into the softness of her stomach, as thought attempting to force his fingers through her skin and into her womb. Her eyes were hard for a moment, and he had to swallow his fear that she was blaming him again, that she would start hating him.
“Tell me.”
“I love you, Julia. I love you, I always will.”
“No, tell me.”
He took her face between his hands and kissed her, holding her to him pressing himself into her, praying he could blank out her emptiness.

  • * * * *

Later, in the early hours of the morning, when the light had gone from deep midnight purple to a blue too lazy to be navy, she cried into his shoulder, almost asleep. He had to close his eyes against the guilt her tears created, that rested deep in his gut and made the urge to retch greater with each heavy, terrified sob.

  • * * * *

He knew from that night, that this happiness could not last for her. The walls would begin to close in on her, and the more they did, the more she would cling onto her dream of the future, and the further away she would push him. The more she would hate him. He watched her, keeping an eye out for the signs that he missed, abused last time. Closing his eyes, and swallowing against the guilt, the anger, the grief that would encompass him if he let her leave him again.
“I can’t stay here, Jack. Everywhere I go, I can see her.”
“Julia, she never really existed. Not really.”
“She did for me. You have no idea how real she was for me.”
”No, maybe not. I know that maybe I can never know how much it hurt you, how much you will feel this, but I did it for you. You have to believe me, Julie – I did for you. I thought it would be best, I thought it would help you to cope.”
”To cope? How could you be so stupid, Jack? So selfish? How, how could you do that? To help me?”
“Julia – “
“Jack, you did this. And now –“
“Don’t leave me.”
“Why not?”
“I did it for you. Believe me.”_

Now, he knew, that if she left him, he would disintegrate, fade into the carpet they had picked out together in that discounted warehouse at the back of town. She had held his hand, and smiled at him.

  • * * * *

When he came in from work, there were Homebase bags stacked by the door. Julia, dressed in baggy trousers and one of his old t-shirts was pinning her hair up and beaming at him. She looked smaller in his clothes, more delicate, but he liked it; he liked crushing her to him and having the smell of himself on her, even though the taste was purely hers. She had said her clothes were feeling tight, constricting, and could she borrow some of his things that he didn’t wear anymore? Burying the familiar conflict, he nodded, and passed her these things, items his mother had bought him when he first went to university, a lifetime ago.
“What are you doing, Julie?” he asked as she pulled back from his kiss.
“I’m painting the nursery.”
“Why?”
“The baby is going to be a boy. We can’t have a yellow nursery for a boy, can we?”
“You don’t know it’s going to be a boy. Maybe we should wait.”
She frowned, and shook her head. “No. We might not have time. We need to paint it now.”
“Julie –“
“Jack, I felt the baby kick today. Here, feel.” She took his hand, and placed it underneath her clothes. “Feel.”
He smiled, and perhaps he could feel a movement.
“Our baby, Jack.”
“Our baby.”

  • * * * *

It happened six months and three weeks and two days after the date she had told him was the conception date. It came as no surprise to him. He had been counting down the days, the hours. The night before, he had made love to her, knowing it would be the last time he would be able to. She had been on top, telling him she was too big for any other position now. He had held her hips, keeping her steady, wanting this to last all night, never wanting to leave her, wanting to keep her here, safe, connected with him, where he could finally feel everything she felt.
Five years before, he had woken, gone to work, leaving her a note that he’d be back in time for the scan, called his best friend, Matt, in his lunch break to arrange the night’s drinks in the pub.

It was five years since he’d worked in that job. Five years since he’d seen Matt. Five years since he’d visited the hospital.

The first time she had told him she was pregnant after that time, he’d been incredulous, over the moon. He’d immediately called the hospital and ordered the scan. The nurse, remembering their case had been amazed, but happy for them. “Well, I suppose it’s not unheard of. Congratulations.” For two days, he had existed on a tidal wave of hope – the depression, the break up, the screaming and crying and hatred – they were over. They were going to be ok. That pregnancy had, again, ended in the hospital. But this time, she hadn’t even made it into the building. As he pulled up to the car park, she’d fallen silent, and it was only when he parked, that she had said, her face blank, “The baby’s gone.” She began to pull at her clothes, half stripping them off, trying to reach her skin. Her hands pulled at her stomach, her fingernails digging into her flesh until blood began to stain her top.

He was bewildered, not understanding. He got out of the car, and yelled for a doctor. Someone came hurrying up, gathered her into a wheelchair and took her inside. There, she had been sectioned, strapped to a table to stop her from clawing away at her own skin. They had explained to him.
_
“Your wife isn’t pregnant, Jack. She simply thinks she is. The trauma of loosing your little girl two years ago has severally affected her brain. She can’t process it. The only thing she can think is that she was happy when she was pregnant, and so she seeks to return to that state of mind. But bringing her back here reminded her of the truth, and she simply cannot handle that. She cannot exist in the knowledge of what happened.”
“But, it happens all the time, doesn’t it? Terminations aren’t uncommon, even when it’s nearly seven months on. These things happen, don’t they?”
“Yes, but I don’t think that we can ever underestimate the effect of loosing a child can have on a woman, Jack.”
“Did you know it might effect her like this?”
“There is no way we could have known.”
”Is it my fault?”
“No. Although – and please don’t take this as placing the blame on yourself, what you did was understandable – I do not think it can have helped to know that you went against her wishes and told us to terminate the baby whilst she was unconscious. But it was a decision you had to make, and you made it. I cannot say that if I was asked to choose between my wife and my unborn baby, I wouldn’t do the same.”
“What do I do now?”
“The best thing is to love her. To support her. I cannot say she will ever get over this trauma. And this kind of situation may arise again.”
“What do I do?”
“Either bring her to us and we can section her again. Or go along with it. Make her happy. It will only be temporary – it will reach a point whereby she will not be able to keep the pretence, but you may be able to give her seven months of happiness before that happens. You must do as you feel best.”_

He had chosen to make her happy. To be happy with her. To allow himself, occasionally, to sink into the same illusion. It was the selfish choice, he knew that. But it was, for him, the only real option. But now, it had ended.

She sat on the carpet of the nursery – now painted sky blue – naked, and looked at him. She wasn’t crying, she wasn’t clawing at her skin. She simply stared at him.
“My baby.” Her voice was distant, miles away from the one he knew.
“Julie.”
“Go now, please.”
“Julia.”
“I want my baby. Not you. Go now please.”


February 21, 2007

More Ovid – Edinburgh

Well, keep fingers crossed…

Check out:

www.tedhughesovid.blogspot.com


February 12, 2007

From "Mythologising you"...

Mythologizing you.

Taken from Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces. In his book, Campbell describes a “formula” for storytellers, a formula taken from the myths of Ancient Rome and Greece. In Christopher Volger’s book, The Writer’s Journey, the author suggests that this formula can be applied to real life as well, that it is “a great key to life”.

1. Heroes are introduced in the ORDINARY WORLD

You were introduced in red, screaming wails,
clawing at the air, the pressure tight on your
unpractised lungs.

We tease you now that you were born with chords tied tight about your neck,
so desperate, our hero, to escape a life
you had not lived.

Then, we lost you.
For a second,
you died.

You can never be a part of my ordinary world,
as my fingers tease your back,
releasing your too-loud, teenage burp.

--------------

3. They are RELUCTANT at first, or REFUSE THE CALL

Brush your hands over your face,
dry palms against the two-day stubble,
and blink.

NB: If you wanted to go, I would hold you back.

4. They are encouraged by a MENTOR

For as long as I can remember you, I can remember her.

She always haunted your birthday,
your second self, best friend,
sharing everything.

Now, she cares for you as I do,
and as she smiles; I wonder if you see a difference
if you can see the change between two sisters?

For me, she exists because I dislike her,
and she gives you a liberty, an uncertainty –

She could disappear.

NB: If she wanted you to go too, would you?

5. CROSSING THE FIRST THRESHOLD and enter the special world

I remember the first day you went to school. Proud and straight-backed you sat on the carpet, listening to the crinkle-eyed teacher, who smiled at your blonde hair and wide smile.

Your blue sweatshirt smothered you in tight crinkles; newly worn, it had not yet learnt to accommodate itself to your shape. Your trousers then, were the uniform grey. We all knew that by that night, they would have the stereotypical stains, immovable until you are older, and finally learn that falling in football is not a success.

That was the first day I became the big sister, and you first noticed the distinction between a sibling and a friend. You could look bored to see me, and yet I knew that at home time, as we waited for the babysitter, you would hug me; Love you, Han.

Now, it is expected, ordinary, makes me smile. As we both hug our parents, sat on the kitchen bench drinking tea, I feel that moment is endless. But morning comes, you leave for school (shirt sleeves rolled up, no jumper no matter the weather, and bag slung low on your back), and you are crossing a threshold that can only ever be yours.

--------------------

11. They cross the third threshold, experience a RESURRECTION, and are transformed by the experience.

I knew your birth had been hard,
I had watched as you screamed,
I helped Daddy with the Christmas dinner,
the first year you joined us.
Nestled to Mummy’s bosom, you were there forever.

I was not prepared to loose you,
to fight and pray to a God I had not known existed.

Quickly, Han, Ali has to go back to the hospital.

Your chest sounded like the tardis,
screeching and billowing,
attempting to reach an impossible release,
the landing point.

Where’s he going?
I don’t know, Han. Daddy’s coming.

Take out your heart from the clamp,
and release your lungs from the large, elastic band,
wrapped tight, and making you cry.

My little brother, no bigger than my doll,
and already you have undertaken more than me,
held your life in your hands,
and fought with a life.

Come home with us, Ali. Fight, and come home.

You did. But a part of you,
the tiniest segment,
stayed behind, and your heart
learnt to beat,
eternally incomplete.

12. They RETURN WITH THE ELIXIER, a boon or treasure to benefit the Ordinary World.

Bum, ch-bum, bum, ch-bum, bum ch-bum.
Your heart beats irregularly, out of time.

People do not believe me when I say,
watching you and knowing there can be
nothing wrong with you –
a six foot rugby player, the image of teenage health.

They struggle to understand that yes,
there is nothing wrong with you.

For, your journey is unimportant, your past no more then memories;

here, now, in this and every second,
you are you and I am me,
and your hand is hardly bigger than the first time I clasped it,
sixteen years ago in the blaring white ward; singled out, even then.

Lean your head on my shoulder,
sigh, and rub the tip of your nose across my shoulder blade.

Tired now, Han.


In memory of you.

In memory of you.

For years I have been painting your face,
picturing and not seeing;
writing you from my myth,
that swept around me -
a woman dressed all in black, veils attached to her fingertips.

It was months ago since I last saw you,
with laughing eyes walking into the room.
Your smiles flashed and clanged with mine,
and the toss of your head made me smirk and cringe.
I did not touch you, with my soiled hands,
itchy with the creases of fears.

Instead, I grasped my brush,
and I painted you into my skin,
careless of the scratching bristles that made my eyes sting and my tongue
fight to scream.

Now I am with you every day, seeing this acrylic painting
staring back at me and smiling
- because you have to –
and I cannot see past your carefully groomed hair.

I read about you once,
closing my eyes and feeling your words
sweep and enclose, and I loved you then.

Now I am faced with your silence, as the paint, so carefully applied,
begins to crack and my hands are still,
empty of varnish
as I stand back and watch your mottled, unforgiving tears.


February 11, 2007

End of an era…

After 2 years of work, Ovid is over… So what exactly am I supposed to do with myself now?! Look at the photos, watch the DVD and recover from the steaming hangover and flu that the final night gave me…

The realisation that I now have to MAKE my social life rather than knowing that every day I’m going to see the cast of 11 wonderful people, is a tad scary. The thought that I now need to think up my next project… And that, for whatever I want to do next year, I’m going to need a new director as Katy will have abandoned me, is terrifying. But liberating. With these realisations I have a new one; I can sleep now, I can get on with my uni work, I can go back to the friends I’ve neglected (so sorry, Jon and Phil!), and I can arrange to see the Ovid cast simply to have fun together, rather than play stuff.. And we all know, they’re very good at getting pissed and having a good time!

Two years work is over, a huge chunk of my life, and one of my biggest aims of my University life is ended. But we did it. We did it, it was a success.

So now, I’m going to write that Shakespeare essay, drink tea with my housemates, message Phil, drink with Jon and watch films with Hayley.

I can’t believe Katy and I have actually, actually done it. We did it. Thank God! :)
Ovid - Myrrah


January 29, 2007

Ted Hughes' Ovid

Ovid

Week 5

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 1pm

In the Cooler!

“Where does life end and art begin?”

Come along and see Codpiece’s new play, a play about one of the greatest love stories of the twentieth century; the story of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. Travel with them into their imaginations and experience the mythical stories of Ovid as they tell them, mirroring their own lives and the deep, inescapable sadness that forever haunts them.

Starring James Marvin as Ted Hughes and Claire Trevien as Sylvia Palth, this play will be the sexiest, saddest and funniest play of the year!

Directed by Katy Whitehead
Produced by Hannah Pidsley
for Codpiece Theatre Society.


January 10, 2007

Daniel 2

Daniel.

Her toast was cold by the time she sat down in front of it, having arranged his cutlery in his feeble hands, and putting his small cup of tea in the plastic baby mug, within easy reaching distance.
- It’s cold, isn’t it?
- No, it’s fine.
- Janet, do yourself some more.
Having not taken a bite, she pushed back from the table, picked up her plate, and tipped the toast smoothly into the bin. Dropping her plate into the sink, she turned to glare at him. He sighed her name, and she felt herself relent a little.
- Janet, I wish –
- Don’t wish, Daniel. Don’t.
His blue eyes, always watery, stared dumbly at her from his skeletal face, and she longed to reach out and touch him; to run her fingertips from his temple to his chin and restore life, through her love, to his flagging skin.
- Marry me, Janet.

On the day they had first heard the news, she had taken him home and then made her way quietly to the church. The building had been still, though far from empty as today was Tuesday; an angelic young girl was changing the flowers with her mother at the end of the church. Looking around her, Janet knew she couldn’t breathe here anymore, she could not belong anymore. But, for the first time in fifty years, she sat down on a pew, crossed herself, and began to pray. Forgive me father, for I have sinned. But she knew it was foolish to try and reach an understanding through prayer, through reason, through medicine. She could not begin to understand the outcomes of this small seed, planted within him so many years ago – five years before they met – that had only now decided to grow and flourish deep within him, and was slowly taking him away from her. Perhaps it was the poison of his first marriage, perhaps it was the poison of hers. Perhaps it was their punishment for their fifty years together, outside marriage – for their decision so long ago to risk the Father’s anger, and be happy, and free in each other. Maybe the risk had not paid off, and now they were paying the awful price. She asked him, when she returned home, angry with herself for her tears, for her fruitless prayers. He frowned when she got home –
- Do you wish we’d done things differently?
She’d pursed her lips, shook her head.
- No, we’d resent each other if we’d married.

And now, he had asked her; she had no warning, no preparation. She was shocked, but not surprised – there was little now, that she could not know.
- Marry me, Janet. If we don’t marry, Seth could take everything, he could destroy you – he would. If we marry, the house, the money, it’ll all be safe. It’ll be yours.
- I can’t marry you Daniel. You know I can’t.
- Yes, you can.
He’s pleading now, his cocktail – stick fingers twisting together, and she’s afraid they may break.

~ ~ ~ ~

That night she dreamt of blood flowing from his eyes and mouth, blue light flashing against his skin, and when she awoke she mistook the alarm for the bleep of the life-machine. But he was laid beside her, his skin papery and loose, though still whole and as soft as it had been when they had first met. But now she could imagine the nightmare, now she knew, that before the year ended, he would no longer be there in anything other than the ring that had been placed on her hand the day before, fifty years in the making.

They had spent ten minutes before lunch in the registry office, signing away their lives to each other. She had signed herself to him, and the irony did not escape her, that it was only now, when she knew he was leaving her, that she would, could, commit – until death do us part. He had, of course, been unable to get up from his wheelchair, so she too had sat, and as his hand trembled, so did hers. She watched him recite the words, the loose skin dead and swaying; his hair, thinned almost to the point of non-existence; his hand, unable to grasp hers. She knew that when she spoke, her voice would be even quieter than his, for he was taking her breathe away with him.

She cannot cry. For what would they do now with their tears and with smiles? Catalogue them as a reminder? A reminder that would be too painful to forget. No, the easiest thing was to ignore the lessons they’d learnt, to pretend they were two strangers, sharing a bed only from necessity.

Perhaps in the day, amidst the washing, ironing, cooking, gardening, visiting, that still needed to be done, she could do this. Perhaps she could pretend in the daylight hours, that she was a devoted wife, caring for her dying husband. Pretend that she was the nurse, and he the patient. Isn’t that what this marriage should be? But at night, when he was feigning sleep, she could not force herself to become the caring wife, as the darkness illuminated her memories and she once again became the lover. For they did not have a marriage, they had a love affair; something passionate, something consuming, something forbidden. And yes, their love affair was played out on their bed, but it extended further than that, deeper, it extended to who was doing the washing up, who was going to Sainsbury’s, why couldn’t he ever manage to put the washing machine on the right cycle so that it didn’t shrink everything, and why was she never honest about how much money she spent every week? It extended to the mortgage, to the electricity bills, to the decorating and extensions, to the theatre tickets, and he had even tried to extend it to paying for his funeral.

- There’s enough there. Use the joint account to pay for everything.
- No. It’s your god – damned funeral, you can bloody well pay for it yourself.
- Janet –
- That account pays for us, Daniel. And there won’t be an us.
- But there’s a lot of money, you can’t just leave it there!
- Oh, can’t I? Well once you’ve left, I’ll be able to do what the hell I want with it, won’t I? I can leave it there to rot if I want to then, can’t I?

She had been repentant later, and had gone to him, kneeling by his chair. He had taken her head in his fragile hands, and had kissed her, and told her that only when she had stopped yelling at him, would he feel he had died. You’re dying. That was all she could say, for what else mattered, really. And he had kissed her again, and again, and again.

She looked at him now, his head nestled to the pillow, and although she knew he wasn’t asleep, she appreciated the gesture, allowing her to watch him and think, and remember, and attempt to imagine the future. It was not that she could not see how it would be like without him – she could. There had, of course, been a time without him, a time when she had been happy, ignorant in the knowledge of his existence, but now she knew him, now she loved him and hated him and revolved around him. It was foolish to think she’d find a happiness again that did not involve him, that did not have her laughing with him, and taking his face between her hands and kissing him, silencing him. But what she could not bear was that although she knew she would manage without him, she was not being given the choice. If this test, if that’s what it was, was meant to make her repentant, it did not, it made her sick and angry, and more and more in love with the thing that was slipping away from her. Like a selfish chid she was clinging to her most – loved toy, whose body she’d broken with too much love, and who was now being taken away from her, for he was no longer of any use.

Her fist clutched the pillow as she watched him.

I hate you Daniel.

He opened his eyes, looking directly into and through and within her, and she repeated herself.

I hate you Daniel. I hate you. I hate you. I hate you so much I can’t breathe. I hate you, I hate you more with each day. I hate you like I’ve hated nothing before. Daniel. Daniel. I hate you.

She knows that he knows, that he’s known from the moment they met, that he’s never questioned it, and that he will die knowing it without a single doubt.

I hate you. I hate you so much it hurts. I hate you.

He had cradled her in his arms the night they had first made love, and told her through his tears, that no matter what, no matter what life threw at them, he would never leave her, and that he loved her. He loved her so much he couldn’t breathe. He loved her so much it hurt.

Daniel.

~ ~ ~ ~

The funeral was forgettable, smooth even. She did not laugh, she did not cry. I can’t without him. She sat, a dry stone teetering on the edge of a stream, managing to hang back simply due to a situation she was far from controlling. But the following morning, she fell.

Seth stood on the doorstep, defiant and beautiful. So like the man she loved, with his wavy chestnut hair and watery blue eyes. But this man lacked Daniel’s warmth, Daniel’s love; her husbands love for her had sucked all love out of his son, had left him an angry shell, bitter, alone in a trap from which he was now screaming. He smirked at her, scouring her with his eyes, dissecting her for her faults.

- I’m here to get Dad’s things. My things now.
- There isn’t anything. In your father’s will, he –
- Forgot something. Now, if you’ll excuse me.

She hated him. She hated the way he made her skin crawl, the way he made her want to hide her eyes. She hated how he made her remember Daniel, her Daniel. Daniel, aged twenty five, winking at her across the staff room, the day he first came to the school, promoting his university to indifferent sixth formers. He’d winked, and chuckled kindly at her blush. She’d seen his wedding ring, of course she had, and he’d seen hers. But that could not stop their smiles. That Sunday she dreamed about his laugh and his soft hands during Mass, and left knowing she would not return to the church whilst she was with him, whilst she belonged to him, and he to her.

She had first met Seth six months later, when both their divorces were cleared. Neither had been easy; he, a father, leaving his baby boy, and she, a Roman Catholic and forbidden to divorce. She had gone against her God, he against his only son. Would he have done it, if we’d known I couldn’t have our children? It didn’t matter. Seth made it impossible for her love for Daniel to spread to his son – he had hated her, resented her. He scared her. He stole from her, he screamed at her, he tricked and teased her. Once, he’d touched her. She told Daniel, tearfully, revengefully, and he’d sent him from the house. Then, he had led her to the bedroom, undressed her, and taken her hand in his. Tell me Janet, tell me where he touched you. She had taken his hand and laid it on her breast, and then ran it down her body. His fingertips pressed into her skin, hurting her, reminding her. This is me, not him. Let my bruises erase his – remember me.

But he was not here now, he’d left her for the cold earth, and in that moment, she hated him for it more than ever. Seth walked through the house into his father’s study.
- He didn’t leave you his books, Janet.
He tipped them, haphazardly into a bin bag, tearing their covers, creasing them into a crumpled, unreadable heap. Don’t, don’t, don’t. Daniel’s books. His books. Take the house, take the money. Leave me his books. But she couldn’t say this, she knew she couldn’t live without this house. She stayed silent. He emptied the shelves, turned and walked out of the house. She walked into the kitchen, picked up a duster, and returning to the study, she ran the duster along the empty shelves. She passed it over the polished wood, pushing into the grain, bruising it. Remember me, Daniel. Remember me.


December 18, 2006

Chasing Dandelion Seeds

Chasing dandelion seeds.

How easy is it to become obsessed with you?
With your crayon-blonde hair,
your eyes, painted like my first waterproof jacket
that you tore, chasing dandelion seeds with the dog –
you danced higher than she,
and later, cried harder when you lost.

How easy is to become obsessed with you?
with your square fingernails,
so like our fathers,
I consider that if I bound your hands together,
we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

It is easy to become obsessed, to love you,
as I list all the things only I can know,
and all the ways you make me feel,
as I watch you change from fifteen to sixteen,
from my brother to the teenager,
who wears too much aftershave, and too many stereotypes.

As I love you, I cannot help but question you,
to doubt your smile and your laugh,
to complicate your childish utterances;
I cannot know you wholly,
as like the moon your face changes daily.

But you take my hand, and smile,
shielding me, ever protective,
and I squeeze your fingers,
before you run off, chasing the dandelion seeds
dancing across your laughing face.


Adonis

Adonis

A god of Asiatic origin who was inserted into the Greek mythlogy: his name is a Semitic word ‘Adon’, meaning ‘the Lord’, and he was worshipped in many places.

Gods fight unseen battles,
creating armour out of
nothing
– gold sparks and
flints of lost nature.

Gods love in ways I cannot picture,
as, like the lazy swan who reaches up
to the skies of dreams,
months out of date,
Gods reach out to touch
the things that the dreams are made for.

They are my dreams that fall
- irrepressibly – into sink with you.

Adonis fought to be born,
Struggling against the bark that formed his
Mother’s skin.

With a brittle ferocity, he clawed
Through the endless, unmoving membrane,
That he could not destroy.

Let me out, let me out,
He cried, the imprisoned bird,
Aware of the lock but having lost the key.

She came, her hands soft and melting
The wooden crust disintegrating
At the goddesses touch.

You came spilling through,
Crying into the world,
Spluttering at the heavy air.

But your mother could only watch,
And cry her leafy tears,
Which would collect, and rot, at her feet.


December 14, 2006

Naming

Alasdair – Naming You.

I.
I waited for you,
Standing beside the worktop,
Watching you grow beneath our mother’s hands,
Squirming and kicking,
Insistant and fretful.

But you could not escape,
You were tied by a bond that,
Even now, you cannot break.

I would shiver with a loneliness I couldn’t name,
And longed to see you as more than a part,
More than a nameless dream.

II.
Insert –

the missing piece into my wooden jigsaw,
left out on the kitchen table.

Insert –

and play forgetfully because
you will not fit.

Insert –

but pretend the space is still empty;
I cannot dream you are here.

II.
Name you Polly,
my name if I had only
existed twice.

Name you Hester –
a girl who does not like
damp rags across a steaming floor.

Name you Patrick,
cover your mouth,
stifled with mud pies.

Name you Matthew -
let me cry over you,
as, aged fifteen, you let the grass grow on you, a second skin.

Name you and smile,
for I cannot spell
you, and my thoughts as I stray
to my repeated – “a”.

IV.
I did not have the chance to worship you,
I cannot want the chance –

If it’s a boy, give it away.

I did not have the chance to take your hand,
and lead you through into the glaring white.

When will it be old enough to play with?

I did not have the chance to breathe
between your first smiles.

Play school.

I did not have a chance to watch you smile,
as I concentrated on seeing you.

V.
I did not give you away,
and I was too old to play with you,
and you got bored,
playing school.

But now I can watch you,
breathing through your cold,
pushing reddened hands through too-long hair,
smelling of overdone deodorant.

Now I can watch you,
see you.

For, now, I can name you.


November 29, 2006

The Intelligence of the Clumsy.

John Fowles:
The French Lieutenant’s Woman.
The intelligence of the clumsy.

John Fowles was born on the 31st March in 1926, in Essex. He studied at Edinburgh University before going to New College, Oxford, where he concentrated on getting a BA degree in French. In 1968 he moved to Lyme Regis in Dorset, which would become the setting for one of his most famous novels, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, which he wrote in 1969. This novel was inspired by a novel by the French eighteenth century writer, Clare de Duras (1777 – 1828). Her novel was called Ourike and was written in 1823, when it was revolutionary, as it was seen as the first earnest attempt for an author to associate herself with a racial and national critique that she was not directly a part of. It was based in the era of the French revolution, and controversially dealt with issues of race, nationality, exile, inter-racial love and kinship. Fowles translated this novel after he had written The French Lieutenant’s Woman, in 1977, although he was undoubtedly well acquainted with it well before he published the translated version. In 1981, The French Lieutenant’s Woman was made into an award winning film, starring Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep. Fowles died on the 5th November in 2005.

The most interesting aspect of this startlingly well-written and absorbing book is the matter of the multiple endings. Indeed, it is this that has for many people, made the book so famous, especially after the release of the 1981 film in which they cleverly managed to incorporate both of the main endings.

He provides us, at the end of the book, with three possible outcomes for our hero and heroine – the Victorian gentleman, Charles, and the mysterious, passionate Sarah. First, Charles can marry his boring and conventional fiancée, Ernestina, but their marriage will be unhappy and unfulfilling, and in this ending, Fowles makes no reference to Sarah’s fate. The second ending, the “happy” ending, sees Charles giving in to his subdued passion and having sex with Sarah, and then returning home to break off his engagement, which sees him disgraced and disowned. Meanwhile, Sarah flees to London, and Charles spends years trying to find her – eventually he does, and she is living with a house of artists, with his child. We are left with the expectation that they can find reconciliation and build a life together. The final ending, the “sad” ending, finds their reunion unhappy, and Charles finally sees how Sarah has used and manipulated him. In this version she does not tell him of the child, and the reader knows that there can be no hope for them to be happy with each other.

Fowles broaches the problem of these multiple endings in chapter fifty-five (six chapters from the end), through his authorial intervention, as he claims he takes on a character in the story, a man watching Charles sleep on a train. He says “what the devil am I going to do with you? I have already thought of ending Charles’s career here and now; of leaving him for eternity on his way to London”. He appears to discuss with the reader the problems of having these different endings, the difficulty of appearing impartial as to which is the “favourite”, or the “true” ending, as in the format of a novel, one of them MUST come first. And indeed, he did have to make this decision- the “happy” ending comes first, and the novel ends with the “sad” alternative. In light of Fowles’ freely expressed concerns in chapter fifty-five therefore, the reader is forced to ask how the order in which they are presented effects the individual’s reading. In conventional literature, it could be considered odd that Fowles chooses to end the novel on an unhappy note, when an author who was seeking to please their readers would end on a “happy” ending, with Sarah and Charles reaching an understanding and looking forward, towards the future. However, it must be remembered that simply by the technique of the double endings, the novel is breaking with “conventional literature”, and therefore does not need to conform to expectations. It is important to consider that if Fowles had ended the novel on a hopeful note, would we as readers simply have dismissed the previous unhappy conclusion in preference for something more satisfying, idealistic, and, ultimately, fictional?

This device of the multiple endings also brings up the question of authorial intervention; is this an acceptable technique in literature, does it provoke thought and critique, or is it simply laziness on the part of the author, finding an escape from the completion – whether “satisfactory” or not – of their novel? Fowles is lucky in that he has the literary skill and the clever manipulation of language that enables him to pull this off successfully, as he manages to keep a certain sense of irony in his tone that eliminates the possibility of pretension. However, it is important to remember that this has been done by Fowles, and it has been successfully; to repeat the technique again would be mere clumsiness and would show an unacceptable level of ignorance and lack of originality, and ultimately, talent.

However, it must be questioned, as to whether it is merely the talent of the author that allows the double ending to be acceptable; does the story of The French Lieutenant’s Woman lend itself to a double ending? It is possible to answer in the affirmative, or at least to say that it is not a story that is adverse to the technique Fowles imposes upon it; Sarah’s constant aura of mystery, and Charles’ inability to think independently, mean that it is almost necessary for Fowles to step in and lay out the options, not only for the readers but for his characters themselves. It is almost as though he is saying to them, these are your possible paths, now you must decide which you will take. It is debatable as to whether they will be able to choose; perhaps despite Fowles’ best efforts, Charles will remain asleep on the train, and Sarah will remain lost in London, simply because they do not have the independent will to move forward. These observations lead automatically onto the question of whether this indecision is no more than an echo of the situation of the author, for he can decide for them. He is a novelist who has fallen in love with his characters and cannot bear to let them go, and places them in a limbo, refusing to allow them to live their lives if he cannot be their manipulative God.

This novel therefore raises interesting questions of the intentions of an author, and the idea that authorship is no more than a desperate, psychological need for control and power. In their novel, the author is able to create their own characters and situations and manipulate them to their own whims, making the entire facility of the imagination no more than a display of the individual victory of control and power.

However, it cannot be ignored that this is effected by the readers, for do not they have the ability to interpret the novel in their own individual way, a way that is outside of the control of the author? Therefore, in The French Lieutenant’s Woman, is Fowles acknowledging this weakness, or is he securing against it by detailing our possible interpretations of the ending for us – he is giving us both “happy” and “sad”. Is he therefore underestimating the intelligence and ability of independent thought of his readers? Or does he have an accurate understanding of the principle concerns of the majority of the reading public; “this is a happy story” versus “this is a sad story”.

It is important to remember when considering Fowles’ manipulation of his readers, that he is doing this throughout the novel, constantly mixing the nineteenth century stereotypes with a twentieth century perception, creating a world that would normally struggle to exist, even within the realms of fiction, as he is constantly creating twists and contradictions that again, survive only through his talent as a writer which makes the reader blind to the historical and contextual inconsistencies. Indeed, it can be argued that these even enhance the quality of the novel, as it enables a twentieth century readership to relate more closely to this novel, apparently set firmly in the nineteenth century.

Fowles’ use of endings in this novel, and the questions it raises have long been debated by critics, who endlessly attempt to find answers to the questions he raises. However, Fowles warns against this in his final sentences of the novel, where he reminds us of the fluxuating nature of the world, whether contemporary, past, real or fictionalised, and our understanding can never be truly complete, never truly resolved; “He [Charles] has at last found an atom of faith in himself; has already begun… to realise that life is not one riddle and one failure to guess it, is not to inhabit one face alone or to be given up after one loosing throw of the dice; bit it is to be, however inadequately, emptily, hopelessly, into the city’s iron heart, endured. And out again, into the unplumb’d, salt, estranging sea.”


November 10, 2006

Daniel.

That night she dreamt of blood flowing from his eyes and mouth, blue light flashing against his skin, and when she awoke she mistook the alarm for the bleep of the life-machine. But he was laid beside her, his skin papery and loose, though still whole and as soft as it had been when they had first met, years ago in the room of broken hearts at the community centre; here he was, the only difference that now she could imagine the nightmare, now she knew, that before the year ended, he would no longer be there in anything other than the ring that had been placed on her hand the day before, fifty years in the making.

There had, of course, been a time without him, a time when she had been happy, ignorant in the knowledge of his existence, but now she knew him, now she loved him and hated him and revolved around him. It was foolish to think she’d find a happiness again that did not involve him, that did not have her laughing with him, and taking his face between her hands and kissing him, silencing his protestations that they were too old. It was foolish to attempt to reach an understanding of what had happened, a seed planted so many years ago – five years before they met – that had only now decided to grow and flourish deep within him, and was slowly taking him away, away from her and their lives together. Perhaps it was the poison of his first marriage, perhaps it was the poison from hers, perhaps it was their punishment for their fifty years of living together, in and out of “marriage” – for they had decided years ago that that their only religion was love, and they would devote themselves to it, risking God’s unreasonable anger. But perhaps the risk had not paid off; perhaps they were now paying the awful price. But when he had asked her the day they’d heard the news, if she wished they’d done things differently, she’d pursed her lips and shook her head; no, I don’t think we’re that sort. We’d resent each other if we married.

Yet, despite that, yesterday they had spent ten minutes before lunch in the registry office, signing away their lives to each other. A last minute panic? Perhaps. He had told her that morning of a conversation he’d had with his son, and about his fear that she would be entitled to nothing after he’d gone, that his son would exact his revenge, his angry, bitter revenge. And so she had signed herself to him, and the irony did not escape her, that it was only now, when she knew he was leaving her, that she would, could, commit – until death do us part. He had, of course, been unable to get up from his wheelchair, so she too had sat, and as his hand trembled, so did hers. She watched him recite the pointless words, the loose skin dead and swaying, his hair, thinned almost to the point of non-existence; his hand, unable to grasp hers. She knew that when she spoke, her voice would be even quieter than his, for he is taking her breathe away with him.

She cannot cry. When they met, she had been told that he was “a twenty – five year old male, a university tutor in mathematics, recent divorcee with children, looking for someone who knows, and who can show me what I’m missing.” I need someone who can show me how to smile. I can’t smile, she’d told him through the tattooed tears, and he’d nodded, understanding; I need someone to show me how to cry. I’ve done everything, but I can’t cry. And so, they had taught each other, gently and gradually over their allotted fifty-year slot. They had held each other as they cried, and had kissed through smiles, unable to stop themselves. But now, she could not cry, and he could not smile. For what would they do with their tears and with smiles? Catalogue them as a reminder? A reminder that would be too painful to forget. No, the easiest thing was to ignore the lessons they’d learnt, to pretend they were two strangers, sharing a bed only from necessity.

Perhaps in the day, amidst the washing, ironing, cooking, gardening, visiting, that still needed to be done, she could do this. Perhaps she could pretend in the daylight hours, that she was a devoted wife, caring for her dying husband. Pretend that she was the nurse, and he the patient. For isn’t that what marriage had become? Isn’t that what this marriage should be? But at night, when he was feigning sleep, she could not force herself to become the caring wife, as the darkness illuminated her memories and she once again became the lover. For they did not have a marriage, they had a love affair; something passionate, something consuming, something that was about no one but the single entity that they had become. And yes, their love affair was played out on their bed, but it extended further than that, deeper, it extended to who was doing the washing up, who was going to Sainsbury’s, why couldn’t he ever manage to put the washing machine on the right cycle so that it didn’t shrink everything, and why was she never honest about how much money she spent every week? It extended to the mortgage, to the electricity bills, to the decorating and extensions, to the theatre tickets, and he had even tried to extend it to paying for his funeral.

- There’s enough there. Use the joint account to pay for everything.
- No. It’s your god – damned funeral, you can bloody well pay for it yourself.
- Janet –
- That account pays for us, Daniel. And there won’t be an us.
- But there’s a lot of money, you can’t just leave it there!
- Oh, can’t I? Well once you’ve left, I’ll be able to do what the hell I want with it, won’t I? I can leave it there to rot if I want to then, can’t I?

She had been repentant later, and had gone to him, kneeling by his chair. He had taken her head in his fragile hands, and had kissed her, and told her that only when she had stopped yelling at him, would he feel he had died. You’re dying. That was all she could say, for what else mattered, really. And he had kissed her again, and again, and again.

She looked at him now, his head nestled to the pillow, and although she knew he wasn’t asleep, she appreciated the gesture, allowing her to watch him and think, and remember, and attempt to imagine the future. It was not that she could not see how it would be like without him – she could – but what she could not bear, was that although she knew she would manage without him, she was not being given the choice. If this test, if that’s what it was, was meant to make her repentant, it did not, it made her sick and angry, and more and more in love with the thing that was slipping away from her. Like a selfish chid she was clinging to her most – loved toy, whose body she’d broken with too much love, and who was now being taken away from her, for he was no longer of any use.

Her fist clutched the pillow as she watched him.

I hate you Daniel.

He opened his eyes, looking directly into and through and within her, and she repeated herself.

I hate you Daniel. I hate you. I hate you. I hate you so much I can’t breathe. I hate you, I hate you more with each day. I hate you like I’ve hated nothing before. Daniel. Daniel. I hate you.

She knows that he knows, that he’s known from the moment they met, that he’s never questioned it, and that he will die knowing it without a single doubt.

I hate you. I hate you so much it hurts. I hate you.

He had cradled her in his arms the night they had first made love, and told her through his tears, that no matter what, no matter what life threw at them, he would never leave her, and that he loved her. He loved her so much he couldn’t breathe. He loved her so much it hurt.

Daniel.


October 31, 2006

Narcissus

I need comments, people – PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you! :)

Narcissus.

You can no longer see me;
the mirror told me
you’d gone
(emotionally broken
you were mute).

Now I am forgotten
as I flit
through your coloured-coded life.

You lost yourself;
trying to find me.
I was calling
(as I always did).

You sank yourself
into a reflection
you knew –
secret – scared.

I shake you
– have you back
– see as you notice
(me again)
stood so close that I know
that your eyes are soft to the touch
and that your irises melt
with my fingertips.

But your pupils are black holes,
lost within themselves
and they no longer dilate in the light.


October 28, 2006

Andrew Motion

Andrew Motion at “Warwick Words”, October 2006.

By his own admission, the job of the Poet Laureate essentially ceased many years ago, and now al that remains is a ceremonial position, with the loose responsibility to churn out the odd poem for “national” celebrations, such as the Queen’s birthday, for example. “You don’t have to actually do anything”, Tony Blair had told Motion when he was appointed, a sentiment quickly echoed by Her Majesty the Queen – “You have no obligations to do a thing.” A poet’s paradise then; you have potentially an entire lifetime, from the moment you are appointed, to do nothing but write poetry, and you get paid for it – plus, even better, you get a whole lot of publicity which very nicely pays for a few pleasant family holidays in the Bahamas. But Andrew Motion is an odd fellow – you see, he actually cares. He’s everything you don’t expect to him to be, he does far more than he needs to, and he does it not for the glory of the Queen (who he talks of with a kind of affectionate patience), and certainly not for the glory of himself. He does it all for the advancing of the modern public’s consciousness and their appreciation of poetry. You see, here we have a really unusual species in the world of celebrity; a genuinely nice man.

I felt that I couldn’t really not go t his reading at the Warwick Words Writing Festival – I mean he is the Poet Laureate, and I’d never heard him read before, and well, I just had to, hadn’t I? The theatre in which he was performing was nearly empty and I was easily the youngest person there by about sixty years (with the exception of Motion himself who is only fifty-two years old, and therefore a veritable youngster) – I had a feeling this didn’t bode well. Predictably therefore, I had a wonderful evening. Within the first ten minutes I can genuinely say I was head over heels for Motion, as he smiled shyly every time we applauded his readings, and in the end had to ask us to please stop, it was embarrassing, and what would he do if we didn’t clap for a poem? Every time someone asked him question, he’d thank them politely, and then go on to answer it extensively, but always careful not to stray too far from the point. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his reading of some poems about his childhood, and the memory of the horse that would one day cause an accident, that would kill his mother, only after ten years in a coma. The childhood affection for the animal, as well as the adult man’s anger at it, mixed in his voice as he read the simple poem (one he described apologetically as “going over the page”), creating a stillness in the room that made the poem all the more moving.

He also talked convincingly of his ambition to raise the public’s awareness of poetry through his position, and said modestly that he hoped that even though he might not achieve his aim, he might, he hoped, have set the wheels in motion for future Poet Laureates. And although I may be biased as an aspiring poet myself, it has to be noted that he has the charming, unconscious ability, to make anyone want to write; he is unpretentious both in his poetry and in himself, he makes the world of poetics accessible, but even more than that, he makes it attractive. He is not overtly clever about this, nor does he preach – he is simply honest, and I think anyone who has met him would say that that is more enough to make them believe in him and his mission for this outdated position. He is not the Queen’s poet; he is the public’s poet. On the proviso, he’d be quick to point out, that we want him.

On a side note, as I left, he thanked me quietly for coming, and hoped I had a nice weekend. If it wasn’t for the door handle I was clinging to, I swear I would have swooned.


October 27, 2006

My new love.

PENELOPE SHUTTLE

THE WORLD

When you’re so tired
you can’t bear the world -

that’s when you really begin to live,
when you’re closest to the world

How difficult it is to love it,
unlike the moon at first light

carrying her weight so readily
But the world

longs for all it will never have again,
that’s the world’s heavyweight nature,

all its mountains have fear,
all its chasms have sadness

In rainy weary prime of life
the world endures its broad lawful wings of light,

not beautiful, not happy,
so tired you can’t bear it, how the world is


October 24, 2006

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October 16, 2006

Julian Bleach as Ariel in the RSC's The Tempest

Some of the most interpretive and experimental films of Shakespeare’s plays have been made of, or using the inspiration of his “final” play, The Tempest. In Derek Jarmon’s The Tempest, the play occurs in Prospero’s dreams; Peter Greenway’s Prospero’s Books, has the entire play is voiced by John Gielgud as Prospero, the story told by his magical books and powers.

And yet, it is rare to find a production of it in the theatre that strays far from the Shakespeare text, and many recent ones, such as The Crucible’s 2002 production starring Derek Jacobi as Prospero and Daniel Evans as Ariel, have stuck to the basic formula of the setting and character portrayal, especially of Prospero and Ariel; Prospero is a strong, majestic wizard, powerful, fearful and yet generally in the right. Ariel is the flighty spirit, ambiguous perhaps in gender, but loyal, dutiful and compassionate; a mature Puck from Shakespeare’s earlier magical romance, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

With all these preconceptions, it is easy to be dulled into a sense of security when entering the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to see the new production of this well loved play, part of the Complete Works festival in Stratford this year. However, as with all the most predictable expectations, they are quickly, and joyfully, dashed to pieces from the opening scene of the play, and are no less than turned on their head when the “spirit” of Ariel first enters, played masterfully by Julian Bleach, who shamelessly steals the show from even Patrick Stewart’s incredibly human and almost vulnerable Prospero.

Bleach, one of the founders of the award winning company, Shockheaded Peter, a performance of clowns and insane beings, with surreal music and sequences that evoke David Lynch’s unforgettable style, has recently acted in Terry Gilliam’s film, “The Brother’s Grimm”, and appears to have a startling ability to portray figures of mystery and intrigue with a sensitive mix of comedy, ambiguity, emotion and horror, culminating his talents in his masterful interpretation of Shakespeare’s notoriously difficult to stage spirit, Ariel.

He looks and acts as the archetypal Nosferatu, the ultimate vampire, imprisoned forever in his human body, a prison that must be to him, a being of fire and air, distasteful and unbearably confining. Bleach portrays this wonderfully through his awkward stance, holding himself permanently at an angle, his shoulders hunched and his arms, almost glued to his sides. His walk, slow and protracted, often taking up to five minutes to cross the stage, spoke volumes of a “spirit” confined, a being unable to adjust to the human form, unsure of how to work it, and in constant discomfort because of his material form.

Beach’s floor length, starched black jacket sat on him like a priest’s cassock, covering him almost completely, yet with enough starkness that the audience was left with the same awkwardness as if he had been wandering the stage naked, a body with a feeble physical appearance, but every centimetre of it scarred by the “spirit of the isle” fighting to escape it’s prison. His upright chalk – dusted hair and large, black eyes only intensified the image of a being terrified by himself and unable to come to terms with the ultimate insult and distaste of being human.

However, arguably, Bleach’s appearance could be passed off as unusual for Ariel, but nothing more. Or at least, it could be, if it weren’t for his voice; his elevation of it to something that sounds permanently ethereal, and his slow pronunciation of the words, his deliberate delivery of his lines, not to mention his eerie, high pitched singing, adds a whole new dimension to both the audience’s perception of his character, and the contextual issues that arise due to this interpretation of the character. It adds crucially to the air of mystery around Ariel, and makes his sinister appearance all the more memorable – it could almost be said, haunting – as his voice delivering the centuries’ old lines remains ringing in the ears of the audience long after the performance has ended.

However, this presentation of Ariel has a deeper contextual meaning, as it likens Ariel to the character of Caliban, something foreign and native to the island, adding a dimension to his character that is usually ignored as belonging to Caliban only.

With his awkward movement, his slanted speech and otherworldly accent, he become as much a foreign being as Caliban, albeit as more as something mysterious than monstrous. He does however; share the same disfiguring bodily qualities, the same linguistic difficulties that apparently, according to Prospero and Miranda, make Caliban a “creature of darkness”, a monster, a native of the island, which they have colonised.

The sympathy that is inevitably evoked for Ariel in this production, despite his strange behaviour, suggests a much more modern attitude to colonialism, as it is impossible not to feel the irony of Prospero talking of he freed Ariel from the tree in which Sycorax imprisoned him (possibly another reason for his awkward movements and difficult posture), only to “imprison” him once more into this enforced slavery, and the restricting human body.

The constraint Ariel feels due to this is outlined for the audience clearly and movingly in Bleach’s delivery of the line in response to Prospero’s enquiries of the state of his brother and Alonso, King of Naples and his companions, when he says only “…if you beheld them your affections | would become tender… mine would sir, were I human” (Act 5, Sc. I). Following this speech is the longest pause for the entire production, as Prospero digests the hugeness of the slavery and imprisonment that he has inflicted on this, supposedly, free spirit, and by the end of the same scene, he has set him free.

There is tenderness in Prospero’s farewell to Ariel that leaves the audience teary-eyed and with a deeper understanding of the relationship between the pair that is usually portrayed in other productions.

Stewart’s delivery of the line, “I shall miss thee” is one of the most memorable pieces of theatre that has ever been performed, and the look given in return from Ariel as he moves slowly off the stage is one of such complete relief and gratitude, that as, for the first time Bleach’s shoulder’s relax, the audience can almost see the spirit flee, at last, it’s mortal constraints.

The stark landscape can be seen, along with the characterisations of both Ariel and Caliban, in this production, as projections of the darkness and bleakness that resides inside Prospero, especially inside this very human and venerable characterisation by Stewart, and this is emphasised by Bleach and John Light as Caliban, both as creatures so clearly “of the isle”, creatures imprisoned by Prospero, and to all intents and purposes beings “created” by Prospero himself into beings that suited his needs.

However, this setting, although refreshing due it’s difference to the majority of productions of The Tempest, is only really effective if the audience has a good understanding of the play as it is usual presented, therefore able to understand the irony and cynicism behind lines such as Gonzalo’s “How lush and lusty the grass looks! How green!” as well as Ariel’s references to his “speedy” and “flighty” movement, as he moves as slow as a snail across the stage.

The ultimate drama of this production is undeniably in the scene before the interval when Ariel emerges from a giant seal to deliver his judgement speech upon the Lords of Naples and Milan. Bleach is masterful in this piece of drama, delivering a chilling speech and a horrifying punishment, and the sheer skill and vision behind the scene leaves the audience speechless.

However, it cannot be wondered that this scene also catalyses the main problem with this production – that it is perhaps different simply for the sake of being different at times, for what other reason could there be for Ariel to appear from the stomach of a dead seal?

But, these are petty concerns when measured against the skill of the directorial vision, and in particular to the skill of performance seen in Julian Bleach’s Ariel, bringing to life this ambiguous character that would leave even Shakespeare himself baffled, amazed, and in complete awe of this wonderful actor’s genius.