the longer I live the more I mistrust theatricality, the false glamour cast by performance...
cosmic dream radio , Episode 14
Sight-reading Adrienne Rich's 1977 poem.
what on earth was I thinking?
What a weekend. Piles of logs from two fallen trees piled up behind the house, a broken well line, a boiler on the fritz, grass knee high, and bugs everywhere. The bugs are bad because of the rain. There's been a lot of rain. The basement floor is wet.
Why do I have such trouble with Adrienne Rich? In college they told me she was the great contemporary poet (this was in the 90's) and I wanted to care because I aspired to be a poet and I am a woman and I wanted that territory charted. But I only marked a few things as resonant. Her potted plants make an escape for the wild. "Song" with its first-line refrain: "You're wondering if I'm lonely..." which I should do but hadn't the energy to do justice to this one night I had alone in my upstairs room.
So I randomly thumbed through and read things into a mike, trying to get used to my new auditing software (Cubase, in case you care). "Corpse-Plant". Something about desire. Delete them both. I felt too tired. Flip again. This one starts with driving and mutilated deer. I've tried to write about that, too, these wild, meek creatures, invasive and vulnerable to our gas-powered speed machines. Deer symbolizing something gentle, feminine that wreaks destructiveness without violence toward us. Deer are nature's perverse revenge. Softly invading from the wilderness-unbalanced. Destroying wilderness and gardens, carrying disease.
Rich's poem is not about that. Focus. Read. Without much energy. But the poem catches. It doesn't need my effort it's its own lightbeam traveling steadily ahead, powered by one of those etudes by Franz Lizst.
I lose it a bit in the middle (my fault, not the poems) and don't do justice the last stanza. But since we're mistrusting theatricality, this is utterly devoid of it. It's read by a tired woman who wants very much a connection with an ancestress (there are not many in the written record) and with these non-self-selected words does the best she can do.
Here's the end to carry you without my interference:
...Such a composition has nothing to do with eternity,
the striving for greatness, brilliance
only with the musing of a mind
one with her body, experienced fingers quietly pushing
dark against bright; silk against roughness,
putting the tenets of a life together
with no mere will to mastery,
only care for the many-lived, unending
forms in which she finds herself,
becoming now the sherd of broken glass
slicing light in a corner, dangerous
to flesh, now the plentiful, soft leaf
that wrapped round the throbbing finger, soothes the wound;
and now the stone foundation, rockshelf further
forming underneath everything that grows.
ps: In class we said "Ahdrienne". I hope that's right.
Someone blogged the entire text of this poem online.
sing, woman, sing. deer crash through windows. hell hounds want to play. this crappy bar? you've been here before. nothing's changed. let's turn this basement into a club. everyone's looking for someplace to go.