Poetry Day Poem 2
One of the other books I picked up was a first edition of ‘For Mad Mary’ published by London Magazine Editions which had also published Jones’s more successful ‘A Family Album’ in 1968. Originally it had been quite cheap and it doesn’t look that great but I had to pay £7.50 for it. Still it’s got some interesting poetry in it:
Two days two nights the sky’s rushed westward
clearing and has not cleared:
fathomless the origin of cloud.
Admitting the ludicrousness of skimming
‘The Celebration of Awareness’
in a damp house with children smouldering
and furious there’s no Walt Disney
At least, I think, we all apprehend
the gist. The dog, called Flossie
for her shambling and shaggy refusal
to be aristocratic,
sets the hall ringing with a querolous edge
Virginia Woolf would not despise.
It clearly doesn’t take much bared nerve
to feel the intolerable: observe
the whiskies and the cars heading for Wales.
Strange innit? Some glosses to start: ‘The Celebration of Awareness: A Call for Institutional Revolution’ is a book of essays by radical Catholic priest (apparently there is such a thing) Ivan Illich, published 1976. ‘ Quoi faire?’ means ‘what to do’? I think the Virginia Woolf reference is to ‘To the Lighthouse’ where in Part I a load of neurotic people all go to the Isle of Skye and argue about everything, including the weather. I assume Flossie was genuinely the name of Brian Jones’s dog unless someone can correct me on that.
In its shortness, the poem deals with the feeling of being ‘under a cloud’ – and he riffs on that cliche-metaphor. The origins of that feeling are “fathomless”: for no apparent reason we get to that state where everything is ‘intolerable’. Perhaps we almost willingly get ourselves there – “observe / the whiskies and the cars heading for Wales”. I particularly like that last line – makes me think of shapes in the clouds as well as the actual cars bringing families and whisky – going on that holiday where everything ineveitably ends up “querulous”.
Playing on a cliche, making his poem apparently personal and autobiographical, Jones takes us into ordinary existence and that recognisable feeling of irritation. If we have ‘awareness’ of it (and if that use of Illich’s title is meant to have any relevance beyond being a book too complicated to skim through while everyone’s arguing…), the awareness is useless because we just don’t know why it happens and how it’s going to go away.