Thursday, July 12, 2012
its thinning shores
The details of an attraction can be so slight, or so hidden, that the attraction seems mystical. Undetected, it seems indetectable, until you say, "Mystic attraction," and detect it like that.
Instinct drives the lion in Aelian and things seem correct or incorrect; the Muse arrives, she is correct; the narrator of Thomas Bernhard's Concrete waits for the moment when he will be able to write the first sentence of his book about Mendelssohn, o virgin moment which will coincide with the sentence he needs, it never comes, all his moments are pre-deflowered, whereas the Australian poet John Kinsella is prolific, he is Georges Simenon, he is an anthill pouring ants, he has dozens of first sentences, he is endowed: "Glass -- brilliantly coloured / fused to granite -- caught his attention ..." "The mulga ghost / skirts its thinning shores ..." "Written time over OMO DEI, / read in rock-carvings, translated / out of Dreamtime." "And the morning rises out of the city's / Trailing archipelago and over the first trains ..." -- no stopping this man -- "The wreck foundered / on the foam ropes / of coral troughs ..." "To the bee / the red light / of the city / is colourless ..." "Outflanked by the sheep run, wild oats / dry and riotous, barbed wire bleeding rust / over fence posts, even quartz chunks / flaking with a lime canker ..." -- his selected Poems 1980 - 1994 published by Bloodaxe is three hundred and fifty-two pages long in baby-blue hardcover -- "A brown-shouldered kite's plunge / mimics the deep hum of high voltage ..." "A fox skin / in a nitrate bath / and a fox skin drying / stiff as a card ..." "The wire takes hold and spins in the hand / severing shirt buttons ..." -- books, essays, poems, he writes them all, he writes the gamut, he has taught on two continents, he works with Salt Publishing, which makes me wonder, as I sit here, how a person gets to a point where people offer them the opportunities to do all these things.
His mother sent his first book of poems to a publisher, and it was published; John Kennedy Toole's mother offered his manuscript indomitably after her son had killed himself and the dead man won an important prize; Kate Beaton's mother introduced her to artists when she wanted to apply to an art school, but there must be more to it than that because I remember my mother being helpful too and yet here I am; I don't even know what to post. She likes to walk a lot, my mum, and likes a book with animals. Dickens walked a lot.
Someone I know has recently joined a production of Warhorse, she's been cast as the horse, and her mother never had anything to do with it. It must be a matter of knowing people, seeing an opportunity, putting your hand up, and then somebody says, yes my friend, come and do whatever it is, and then other people know you, they recommend you for more things, and away you go. Walt Whitman wrote thumbs-up reviews of his Leaves of Grass, not under his own name, and supposed in prose that he himself was very likely a first-rate fellow; Ezra Pound reviewed himself as well, also positively; Joseph Furphy reviewed his own Such is Life in the Bulletin and (I think I've heard) was less complimentary than either of the poet-Americans, in spite of the novel's opening line, which is minorly famous: "Unemployed at last!"
Articles titled, "Best first lines of books" are useless; they always mean "Best first sentences of famous books," and so you see them offer you "Call me Ishmael" and the one from 1984 about the clocks striking thirteen, and so on; never the mysterious opening sentences of books you don't know, instead they flatter you, always a recognition, never an enticement; you might as well call them great closing sentences since the article is happy to let you think that you can stop there because you already know it all -- obscure books, I wish they'd use -- look at what we've found in this corner, this remote first sentence in a book you don't know, leaving you the reader of the article saying, well, the rest of the book might be trash for all I am aware, but that opening sentence is magnificent. The first sentence of Henry Adams' Democracy is pretty good. "For reasons which many persons thought ridiculous, Mrs Lightfoot Lee decided to pass the winter in Washington."