loved-up poets, exhibit A

The first in a series which may vary with mood, season, inspiration, materials found.

ring a ding ding
bronze winged phallus from the 1st century AD via the Guardian

The rich ores of that barely conscious cry
Forge instantly, spear-sharp, to accuracy:

Not love, or not yet love, the sacred act
Speaks to that ‘worship’, passionate, exact.

The truly human action which of all
Seems most material, most animal,

This rite of adoration, thigh to thigh,
Creates the star-strewn goddess, the deep sky:

What all those churches shoddily declare
When the theologians smoulder, mystics flare,

The long-limbed, clear-eyed Stranger, worshipped in
Incense of breath or transubstantial skin

– excerpt from Statement by Robert Conquest. Read the rest here, and interesting profiles of him — card-carrying communist at Oxford, Thatcher speechwriter, historian, friend of Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin, editor of science fiction anthologies, composer of limericks — here and here.

7 responses to “loved-up poets, exhibit A

  1. That bewinged phallus is adorable!!

    I can’t say the poem does quite as much for me. Especially because his constructions with “or” and “yet” and “though” remind me squirmily of stuff I once wrote. At least I was trying then for a sort of tongue-tied tone; if he’s after that effect here too it’s stymied for me by the greeting-card meter.

    What do you dig about it?

  2. I liked it in a fragmentary way, particular couplets and phrases – “slight noises spread / Around them,” “as through jungles rank with myth,” a few others. Fair enough re: “or” and “yet” and “though.” Part of the problem may be too many words that have “or” inside them. Worship, ores, adoration, for, for, for, forms, etc.

  3. One of my very most favorite effects in language is well-deployed disfluency. It can come in many forms but it’s one of the hardest effects to use well. Like having your fur rubbed the wrong way (a rebours), it can be done clumsily, or done deliciously.

    “Statement”‘s bits of chalky-tasting grammar like

    “black, though less black”

    “Not love, or not yet love”

    “the not extraneous sky”

    fall short of delicious to me.

    I do like a bunch of the phrases and snippets, which together draw a nice temple scene.

  4. Here is a sonnet by Paul Muldoon that gives me chills, and not just from its tastily sprung rhymes and rhythms.


    It was so cold last night the water in the barrel grew a sod
    of water: I asked Taggart and McAnespie to come over
    and we sawed and sawed
    for half an hour until, using a crowbar as lever

    in the way Archimedes always said
    would shift the balance, we were somehow able to manoeuvre
    out and, finally, stand on its side
    in the snow that fifteen- or eighteen-inch-thick manhole cover;

    that ‘manhole cover’ was surely no more ice
    than are McAnespie and Taggart still of this earth;
    when I squinnied through I saw ‘Lefty’ Clery, ‘An Ciotach,’

    grinning from both ends of the school photograph,
    having jooked behind the three-deep rest of us to meet the Kodak’s
    leisurely pan; ‘Two places at once, was it, or one place twice?’

  5. I don’t like “the not extraneous sky” at all but “black, though less black” doesn’t bother me. (Maybe because it reminds me of looking up through the skylight at night in my favorite cabin in Maine). “Not love, or not yet love” sounds clumsy, but as an idea or set of ideas makes perfect sense anyhow.

  6. To be sure, the ideas are unassailable.

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