|Fox and 'follow your heart'|
Clearing up and clearing out. There is a hummus explosion in my bag. They'd said my new phone shouldn't even be near water vapour (that's what killed the last one, apparently) so thank goodness my umbrella bares the brunt. That and my library copy of Lachlan Mackinnon's Small Hours. Thick chickpea paste between pages. I won't be able to look the sweet beardy Poetry Library man in the eye when I return it. Though maybe I'll pay to keep the copy. It is so good.
Part two of Small Hours is the Book of Emma. Prose poems with no commas that remember dead Emma, a girl he went to university with. They attended modern poetry lectures together. She left an impression that he turns into ink. Full of coffee, wine, books, the Bodlein library, her novel under her bed, thinking of her 'vanishing for whole days to blaze away' on her unfinished masterpiece. 'She was brilliant'. That is how the book begins. It ends with this:
So little book go tell them all.
So Chaucerian. But Oh Lachlan too, as it is as much his book as it is Emma's. 'As a courtly lover Troilus becomes a better person because of his love for Criseyde. It was like that but without desire. Oh lucky poet.'
A lucky poet he is indeed, with his links to Woolf and Lowell. And the own links he makes to Hardy and Graves. A lucky poet, but a good one too...
'We saw the outside of Monk's House then went to the field my distant cousin Virginia Woolf walked through on her way to drown herself in the River Ouse... Her novels have always quickened claustrophobia within me.'
'Robert Graves had the lyric poet's habit of falling in love. It seems he truly believed that each girl was a literal incarnation of his muse. Poets have believed madder things.'
(And on Hardy) 'Overcome with grief he wrote the Poems of 1912-13 which are his great achievement. In them he talks to a ghost. Her name was Emma. Emma Lavinia Gifford. Your name was Emma Smith.' He then talks to Lowell about Hardy's women.
'I fell in love. Moonstruck. Mooncalf.' he writes about another girl. He is not in love with Emma. She is different, on another plane.
Emma is as follows: 'A nunnish ardent mind perhaps. Indeed she looked quite like Anna Akhmatova as her lover painted her. Aloof and tall. Half nun half whore Zhdanov screamed. Emma had lovers but she was not promiscuous.'
'Like some weird elementary particle you flicker in and out of some being. You are given and you are taken away. You are not named. Emma.'
She fell off Lundy island. He names her. She is remembered. 'You are an open wound in me'.
While packing up my life into boxes and bags I finished the new Hollinghurst tome. It is all about poets and legacy and biography. It was heavy and awkward to carry around. Interestingly these things don't get lighter the more I read.