Saturday, September 20, 2008

What we strive for

Lion & Honeycomb
By Howard Nemerov

He didn't want to do it with skill,
He'd had enough of skill. If he never saw
Another villanelle, it would be too soon;
And the same went for sonnets. If it had been
Hard work learning to rime, it would be much
Harder learning not to. The time came
He had to ask himself, what did he want?
What did he want when he began
That idiot fiddling with the sounds of things.

He asked himself, poor moron, because he had
Nobody else to ask. The others went right on
Talking about form, talking about myth
And the (so help us) need for a modern idiom;
The verseballs among them kept counting syllables.

So there he was, this forty-year-old teen-ager
Dreaming preposterous mergers and divisions
Of vowels like water, consonants like rock
(While everybody kept discussing values
And the need for values), for words that would
Enter the silence and be there as a light.
So much coffee and so many cigarettes
Gone down the drain, gone up in smoke,
Just for the sake of getting something right
Once in a while, something that could stand
On its own flat feet to keep out windy time
And the worm, something that might simply be,
Not as the monument in the smoky rain
Grimly endures, but that would be
Only a moment's inviolable presence,
The moment before disaster, before the storm,
In its peculiar silence, an integer
Fixed in the middle of the fall of things,
Perfected and casual as to a child's eye
Soap bubbles are, and skipping stones.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What I have been up to

Running

These days, you can find me frequently running around the bays because I am training for the quarter marathon (10.5km). My soul is all the better for it when I run by myself. I don't even need to listen to music because the sounds of the sea and traffic are enough. At the risk of sounding too Pollyanna, it is such a joy to be living and with health.

Planting

Now that we have warmer weather, I’m preparing my garden for a summer crop, nurturing seedlings of onions, leeks, tomatoes, spinach and rocket. Hoeing the soil and weeding the beds are back-breaking work!

I have also volunteered twice so far to plant trees on Motuihe Island. See here for details if you are interested in this program. It is worth it for the clean air and inspiring views of the Hauraki Gulf. This is what I love about Auckland: getting away from the city is just a ferry ride away.

Reading

Have just put down Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones. It is a very good story with lively characters that you end up caring about. The person who lent me the book said, “If you haven’t read this book, you should!” but I don’t think it is a book that I would buy and distribute to my friends (which is what I usually do when a book excites me). Having said that, Mr Pip is an engaging, funny and dignified novel about the amazing power stories hold over us.

My half-read copy of Preeta Samarasan’s Evening Is The Whole Day is lying around the house somewhere, temporarily forgotten. Though I have got through a few chapters, I still don’t find myself caring about Samarasan’s characters. In contrast, when I recently started re-reading Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, I was amazed at how vividly Seth painted several characters within just the starting pages! This is not to say I am giving up on Evening. At least I want to know what happens next, which is a good sign.

And, Finally

Spring, of course, is the season of l'amour! Everyone around me seems happier, and I feel as though I - to quote a recent Herzog film - am in love with the world. Got my rose-coloured glasses on. Feeling One Hundred Percent.