Monday 29 July 2019

Poetry Revisited: Soliloquy by a Parachute Jumper by Mary E. Bulkley

Soliloquy by a Parachute Jumper

(from Poetry Magazine, June 1942)

We do not know how tall was Newton’s tree
From which fell Newton’s apple,
Whence he drew laws to work infallibly.

Now, I’m that apple, falling full miles five
Instead of full five feet.
Was Newton’s aplle picked up whole, alive?

If “square of time” measured his apple’s race
(Whole ages gone, I left my stemless tree)
I must be dropping at a pretty pace.

But I’ve a leaf hisapple could not match,
For mine, I hope, is full of magic power.
My leaf can swell and swell (unless it catch).

Will it grow big now that I’ve pulled its strings?
Thank God, it jerks.
My dash has changed to gentle flutterings,

Not with the ghastly crash his law put there;
My leaf has saved its apple
And it makes vod the las “sixteen t square.”

Mary Ezit Bulkley (1856-1947)
American writer and poet

Friday 26 July 2019

Bookish Déjà-Vu: Matters of Honor by Louis Begley

Whichever the individual story, to have survived World War II as a Jew in Eastern Europe must have been an experience that marked, if not scarred the person for life. Even the luckier ones who were spared the hideous concentration camps of the Nazis thanks to the help of courageous people hiding them and providing them best possible with the essentials, can tell the most heart-rending stories. However, many of the survivors preferred to stay silent about this time of suffering in the (vain) attempt to forget the horrific ghosts of the past. Some even went so far as to deny their Jewish origins in order to be just like everybody else and to avoid being the target of further anti-Semitism. The protagonist of my bookish déjà-vu, Matters of Honor by Louis Begley, is one of the latter, but as every so often the past isn’t so easily cast off…
Read my review »

Monday 22 July 2019

Poetry Revisited: Raiders’ Dawn by Alun Lewis

Raiders’ Dawn

(from Raiders’ Dawn and Other Poems: 1942)

Softly the civilized
Centuries fall,
Paper on paper,
Peter on Paul.

And lovers walking
From the night—
Eternity’s masters,
Slaves of Time—
Recognize only
The drifting white
Fall of small faces
In pits of lime.

Blue necklace left
On a charred chair
Tells that Beauty
Was startled there.

Alun Lewis (1915-1944)
Welsh poet

Wednesday 17 July 2019

Back Reviews Reel: July 2016

On the five Fridays of July 2016, I presented three contemporary works, two of them genre fiction from Japan and a holocaust novel from Italy, along with two classics from 1920s France and Wilhelmian Germany respectively. I started with the Japanese noir The Thief by Nakamura Fuminori about a pickpocket who gets mixed up in a murder. Then I moved back in time to Paris in the early 1920s to follow the daily activities of Five Women on a Galley by Suzanne Normand and on to a small German Duchy on the verge of bankruptcy at the fin-de-siècle to accompany the Royal Highness by Nobel Prize laureate Thomas Mann. In the remote Japanese mountain village of The Restaurant of Love Regained by Ogawa Ito an exceptional young cook serves almost magical dishes. And If Not Now, When? by Primo Levi evokes the hardships of Jews fighting in the Polish resistance.

Monday 15 July 2019

Poetry Revisited: The Click of the Garden Gate by May Hill

The Click of the Garden Gate

(from The Casualties Were Small. Wartime Poetry and Diaries
of a Lincolnshire Seaside Villager: 2009)

I hear the click of the garden gate
But it is not he
He comes no more either early or late
To his dinner or tea
He is far away in an Air Force Camp
Learning to fight
(I wonder if his blankets are damp
And if he sleeps well at night)

Not twenty years when went away
Just a boy
He may never again come back to stay
To delight and annoy
Will what he has gained balance what he has lost?
He will change
Will his growth to manhood improve him most?
Or make him change?

I open the casement into his room
So tidy and neat
And the sun shines in and chases the gloom
And the wind blows sweet
Ready for him when, early or late
He comes back home to the sea
I hear the click of the garden gate
But it is not he.
(Perhaps it is Rene coming to tea!)

December 1940

May Hill (1891-1944)
English diarist and poet

Friday 12 July 2019

Bookish Déjà-Vu: The World My Wilderness by Rose Macaulay

There can be no doubt that living in times of war is a traumatic experience. Even those who never see any fighting, nor suffer bodily harm of any kind are inevitably marked by its manifold horrors for the rest of their lives. War changes people and often for the worse as proves history. Moreover, it can be difficult to return to peaceful normality with the ghosts of the past looming around every corner and apprehension, even suspicion become second nature. Especially children grown up under such hostile circumstances will at first feel out of place in peace because nothing prepared them for it. Thus the teenage protagonist of my bookish déjà-vu The World My Wilderness by Rose Macaulay finds it hard to adapt to her new life with her father’s family in post-war England after wild years between French Resistance and Nazi rulers in Southern France…
Read my review »

Monday 8 July 2019

Poetry Revisited: The Unborn by Edward Dyson

The Unborn

(from Hello, Soldier! Khaki Verse: 1919)

I see grim War, a bestial thing,
with swinish tusks to tear;
Upon his back the vampires cling,
Thin vipers twine among his hair,
The tiger's greed is in his jowl,
His eye is red with bloody tears,
And every obscene beast and fowl
From out his leprous visage leers.
In glowing pride fell fiends arise,
And, trampled, God the Father lies.

Not God alone the Demon slays;
The hills that swell to Heaven drip
With ooze of murdered men; for days
The dead drift with the drifting ship,
And far as eye may see the plain
Is cumbered deep with slaughtered ones,
Contorted to the shape of pain,
Dissolving 'neath the callous suns,
And driven in his foetid breath
Still ply the harvesters of Death.

He sits astride an engine dread,
And at his touch the awful ball
Across the quaking world is sped,
I see a million creatures fall.
Beyond the soldiers on the hill,
The mother by her bassinet.
The bolt its mission must fulfill,
And in the years that are not yet
Creation by the blow is shorn
Of dimpled hosts of babes unborn!

Edward Dyson (1865-1931)
Australian journalist, poet, playwright and short story writer

Friday 5 July 2019

Book Review: Crabwalk by Günter Grass

As time passes, ideas may go out of fashion or even become kind of taboo, but once in the world they never disappear completely. These days, fascist ideas including national socialist ones see an alarming revival all around the world thanks to – for the moment still – democratic movements that prudently deny their roots. Such pretended nationalistic and patriotic, but actually racist ideologies make believe that they can put the unfathomable chaos of the modern world in a clear order and especially the young are easy prey for the populist demagogues who cunningly preach them taking advantage of the growing discontent in the population over living conditions and cultural diversity. In the novel Crabwalk by en-NOBEL-ed German writer Günter Grass a journalist from Berlin retraces his own and his mother’s lives to understand how their history encouraged his son to write a Nazi blog and to kill his pretended Jewish counterpart.

Monday 1 July 2019

Poetry Revisited: Die Abendglocke auf dem Berge – The Evening Bell on the Mountain by Caroline Pichler

Die Abendglocke
auf dem Berge

(aus Sämtliche Werke. Band 16.
Neue verbesserte Auflage: 1822)

Zu der Musik des Freyherrn von Krufft
auf den Text: Glöckchen tönt
von luft’gen Höhen u.s.w.

Abend ist’s, mit leisen Düften
Sinkt die Dämm’rung in das Thal,
In den stillen, dunklen Lüften
Tönet nur vom Felsenwall
Feyerlich der Glocken Hall.

Wie von steilen Bergeshöhen
Dort der Thurm herunterblickt!
Und mit dieser Töne Wehen
Alles eitle Sorgen sinkt,
Tiefe Ruh ins Herz mir bringt!

Süße Klänge, mildes Tönen,
In dir löset sich mein Herz!
Und ein unbezwinglich Sehnen
Zieht die Seele himmelwärts,
Über Erdenlust und Schmerz.

Caroline Pichler (1769-1843)
österreichische Schriftstellerin,
Lyrikerin, Kritikerin und Salonnière

The Evening Bell
on the Mountain

(from Complete Works. Volume 16.
New corrected edition: 1822)

To the music of Freyherr of Krufft
on the text: Glöckchen tönt
von luft’gen Höhen and so on.

It's evening, with soft perfumes
The dusk sinks into the valley,
In the quiet, dark airs
Resounds only from the rock wall
The solemn echo of the bells.

Like from steep mountain heights
There the tower looks down!
And with these sounds’ drifting
All vain worry sinks,
Deep rest it brings into my heart!

Sweet sounds, mild tones,
My heart dissolves in you!
And an indomitable yearning
Draws the soul skyward,
Above earthly desire and pain.

Caroline Pichler (1769-1843)
Austrian writer,
poet, critic and salonnière

Literal translation: Edith LaGraziana 2019