My Review of Polly Robert’s ‘Grieving with the Animals’ up at The High Window Press

It’s been a while since I posted anything. I just can’t seem to find the time despite a multitude of things I’d love to write & post, owing to my recent indulgence into an MA in English Literary Studies at Exeter University. My studies are mycorrhizally fruitful, bringing me up-to-yet uncharted insights. The future of this blog will no doubt benefit from them, eventually.

For now, & belatedly, I have a review I wrote & which I really should have posted 2 weeks ago when it was published by the amiable David Cooke, editor of The High Window. My thanks to him, as ever, for publishing this review. You’ll need to scroll a bit down the page, here: https://thehighwindowpress.com/2019/11/10/new-titles-from-against-the-grain-press-demspsey-and-windle-and-the-blue-nib/?fbclid=IwAR0InCoplz8jTu1q1aUCTz2Sp1qgjJnUpEGtI9EDCGitI2ccdcFgMCYD83s to find my review, but of course, take some time to read the others.

Here are the D & W page for Polly & her website: https://www.dempseyandwindle.com/polly-roberts.html https://pollyroberts.wordpress.com/

I have an essay on Willa Cather’s My Antonia, which, when I receive my mark, I will post. As a little insight, it regards the exchange (& my identification) of a desiccated mushroom, which I have linked to Americanization in the early 20th Century & Gift Exchange, as expressed by the French anthropologist Marcel Mauss.

Daniel

The weather keeps her

This is the final Yoon Yong poem. I am in the process of writing a proper analysis/epilogue about the poem, as requested by a couple of loyal readers. I hope to have it done by next week.

Thank you for reading these poems. If anyone who would like these poems sent to them as a whole, email me at danielpaulmarshall85@gmail.com & I’ll sort this out for you.

 The weather keeps her 
 
…As the clouds tear open like a nail ripping open a vinyl-house
the rain in sheets colour the landscape grey
 
—graphite thatching in the sketches Sarang makes.
Quickly the fields flood | biblical waters spewing onto the road
 
—from nowhere a mudslide crashes through a wall
colliding with her flank flipping the car into a farm’s culvert.
 
She recovers herself | wipes blood from her lip
& manages to wriggle free of her seat belt
 
stumbling into the knee deep mud | the reservoir of debris
that was the road—her hands cushioning her body's collision
 
with the mud which without her knowing | steals her wedding ring |
she is stranded
 
                          — why do I feel so free?...
                          

My poem Night Thoughts published in Picaroon Poetry Issue #15

Much obliged to Kate Garrett the hard working editor-poet-mother for finding value enough in my poem & giving it a pew in this congregation of poets; especially pleased to see Amy Soricelli in the issue, it’s a breath-taker. You can & should read the issue here.

Marriage is crap

I’ve had a couple of weeks off from Yoon Yong’s weekend in Jeju, talking idleness & reviewing & what not. There are still quite a number of poems remaining from this set. Here we have Yoon Yong doing some reviewing herself.

Marriage is crap
 
…The deep blue sky of wintry Seoul
(that could be a poem’s 1st tetrameter)
 
meeting an American client at Incheon Airport
she was being paid to chaperone
 
to business deals | restaurants & landmarks.
Warm coats & lip balm | her over-moisturized forehead
 
catching the low sun-shine. On those days
I felt like Audrey Hepburn in my red trench coat.
 
She was advanced upon by many men in her work |
many tried-it-on with the authority
 
unique to the white & rich who | expect to meet  
the least resistance from a naïve Asian girl | “6 stone wet-through”
 
who they could wine & dine into their hotel sack
& hack notches in the bed posts with their impeccable form.
 
Immature & flattered she succumbed
once | to the American client full of gutturals & drone.
 
Afterwards she felt numb & silly
but the sex was good.
 
He was different | difficult to like & charmless |
“Not handsome | you know”— if I didn’t get on
 
with marriage | it would be easy to leave
someone I didn’t like that much from day one.
 
I’m not your pet… your animal to parade
on Facebook & Instagram to show your mates how well you did!
 
“Then why behave like one | why rant & rave |
with your silly poetic posturing like a tortured | misunderstood teen
 
& your crybaby plea for attention?”
One plus of a deteriorating marriage
 
is that I don’t have to suck his dick anymore.
Then again | liked the control
 
: he’d do anything for me after I made
him tremble in his skin. The closer to climax
 
the more limber & the tighter my grasp on my Judy-marionette
—I'm Punch. I was good at it—I felt a one-up-man-ship
 
: I provided something for him
he was incapable of providing me |
 
no matter the appendage size—no talent
& passionless | dull by nature |
 
he’d have to be another man.
He was on the cusp of a nervous breakdown

in the 1st months after we moved to Korea.
Not her type | a little tubby | not
 
the chiseled jaw line like a box of cooking matches
the American wagged on his face.
 
I thought I’d change with marriage but
instead I grew resentful | bitter & aloof
 
but oddly | prouder & more determined in my femininity
—“kids solve that” I figured as much | but…no.
 
I’d forgotten why I chose him after years of apathy & work.
There is love & affection of sorts (“that is bollocks!”)
 
I don’t give credit where credit is due: I wife in doubt
“who wears the trousers in this relationship eh?”
 
& scorn—he loves his daughter | I think… he…
tried to care for me but I repelled his kindness
 
fearing it weakened the excesses of my womanhood
: I always took care of myself well enough.
 
He’s probably more innocent than my
opinion makes of him—I just can’t help but blame
 
all my unhappiness on his weaknesses.
I mother in doubt… I hate myself for that.
 
I love my daughter more than anything
—am I the problem rather than the solution?
 
He still can't say my name correctly | (is that it?)
pronounces it | ironically as Yin Yang—how does he
 
continually mistake the ‘i’ with ‘oo’ | which makes
a deep ‘you’ sound—the ‘a’ with diphthong ‘eo’.
 
He is an idiot of the rarest sort.
It is panic at being confronted with alien
 
forces beyond his control. I gave up on him getting
it right | he calls me by my English (slave | lol) name
 
Rose | which sounds ridiculous…
I know the way out of a rose…
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Court—a droigneach

(The following is taken from a thread on the blog of the poet Cynthia Jobin  https://littleoldladydotnet.wordpress.com/)

According to my favorite Book of Forms (Lewis Turco, 1968)….DROIGNEACH (pronounced dray-ee-nock) is Irish. Syllabic. A loose stanza form. The single line may consist of from nine to thirteen syllables, and it always ends in a tri-syllabic word. There is rhyme between lines one and three, two and four, etc. There are at least two cross-rhymes in each couplet. There is alliteration in each line—usually the final word of the line alliterates with the preceding stressed word, and it always does so in the last line of each stanza. Stanzas may consist of any number of quatrains.
The poem (not the stanza) ends with the same first syllable, word, or line with which it begins.
A possible scheme:

Lines: syllables and rhymes:
1. x x b x x x x xxa
2. x x x x a x x x xxb
3. x x x x x b xxa
4. x x x x a x x xxb
5. x x x x x d x x xxc
6. x x x c x x x x x x xxd
7. x x d x x x x x x xxc
8. x x x x c x xxd
etcetera.

Notes on the Process

I asked someone I know, a translator called Neil Patrick Doherty, who is studied in the Irish language, what droigneach means. He told me it means ‘thorny’. Very fitting. I don’t know if this is because the form is a thorny one, or if it ends up turning the poet thorny?
One of the first things I thought when tackling the droigneach was, what can I get away with? I needed to make room for myself, to maneuver in my function. I have cheated by giving myself the option of hinging rhyming words both on their alliterative as well as assonant potential & of course, its use as a full end/start rhyme. This provides options, which is something desperately needed in a form as formidable as this. In addition, this opens up the form to more interesting acoustics & halts the dulling of the scansion, where the perfect fit of words becomes more a matter of getting the fit, rather ingenuity coming into the process.
My subject too had to be one that wasn’t simply there to be experimented on. I don’t like this idea & wanted the poem to mean something. I chose law, love & divorce; I think the context is clear enough that I don’t need to spell it out. In addition, law & love become metonymy for form & function. The theme of movement, freedom & imbalance applying in my mind both to marriage & poetry.
“In my beginning is my end.” This is problematic as the opening 1st or 2nd beats must rhyme with the final tri-syllabic beat of the 2nd line: xbxxxxxxxxxa / xaxxxxxxb. However, because the opening must be repeated at the end, it must be tri-syllabic too.
I had shot myself in the foot here as I had already devised the ‘eternal / cubicle / nuptial / eternal’ rhyme scheme for the 1st & 4th verse. My remedy for this was ‘movable’, which was assonantal with ‘overcast’ & end rhymed with ‘nuptial’. It further had functional usage, the relation between ‘eternal’ & ‘nuptial’ with ‘movable’ within the context of the subject, should be clear. This solution, also made the opening line flow nicely, establishing the subject & opening up maneuverability. Is this cheating? If it is, I am bloody proud of myself.
Before all this, there was the matter of tri-syllabic end rhymes. This is actually quite a hopeful point about the form, as tri-syllabic words are abundant. I am not ashamed to say I used a rhyming dictionary for this, but only because I had most of my rhymes already & wanted to make sure there weren’t better rhymes & also to finish off my rhyme sets. I don’t even know why I am apologizing, as thesauruses, dictionaries etcetera are all just tools there to be used.  
The cross rhymes I decided to loosen & I acquiesce that some are questionable. The ‘Korea’/ ‘her hair’ might arguably be a more tacitly sonic slant end rhyme, & may be questionable; as is ‘curious’ & ‘odours’, although I personally think this works nicely. I was loath to omit function for form here & no matter how much I tried I just couldn’t fix these. It worked to my advantage on ‘acacias’ & ‘a cue to kiss’ though. The major hurdle really is the cross rhythm. It really is cumbersome. You can easily trip up here & lose in tackling this hurdle, the movement of your function.
I haven’t tried to continue the last line of each verse with the beginning of the next. I have allowed each verse their freedom.
Without my little cheats, I don’t think I’d have enjoyed writing this as much as I did; it is the effort to find the tweaks, which is really pulling apart the mechanism, which makes using difficult forms worthwhile to me.
I think poets have largely abandoned form because they concern themselves so much with function, which has usurped form to become the formal principle. However, it doesn’t have to be the case that function & form cannot coexist in the belly of a formal poem. To avoid the imbalance, it takes immense concentration. I have been working on this all week, sitting at my computer replacing words, maneuvering the scansion, all while paying mind to how the poem’s meaning might be more effective.. Before typing it, I filled 6 heavily scrawled pages in my pocket notebook, then a further 4 in my manuscript sized notebook & I have lost count of the minute iterations on the computer. & while I may not have a perfect poem (when does that ever really happen?) I have something I know has been worked out, it has balance & is in some part unique for being attempted & wrestled into being.
People write feeling toned free verse all the time without criticism, & when we do attempt to criticize it, there is a canon of popular poets who have popularized the form, so we end up without a leg to stand on & the correct backlash is probably to call this snobbery. I am not saying free verse cannot be musical, nor that it isn’t credible, only that there is a reason it has usurped verse forms & while one of them may be that the freedom it offers, makes for better poetry, it has also made it easier to write poetry, in that the shape of the poem becomes organically through the developmental expounding of function. This is attractive. It invites the poet to take full control of their poem from the inception. But I’d argue that, to be better at free verse, would be to understand the mechanics of various forms & have them at your disposal. There is nothing really hindering you then from developing your own shapes as well as borrowing from tradition. That would be truly free.
So I forgive myself for finding solutions to as stubborn a form as this, I hope you will too.
It isn’t perfect, but I’d be very impressed to read a droigneach poem, which manages to balance form & function in the way that a poet might with the sonnet, or even a strict form like the sestina or villanelle. The sonnet allows for immense freedoms compared to the droigneach.
While I recommend any serious poet should attempt this, I don’t know as I’ll be returning to it in a hurry.
Without further ado, here is Court.

Following Jobin’s model my poems structure looks as follows: 

xxxbxxxxxxxxa
axxxxxxxxxxxxb
bxxxxxxxxxxxa
axxxxxxxxxxxb

xxxxxxxxxxxxc
cxxxxxxxxxxxxd
dxxxxxxxxxxxxc
cxxxxxxxxxxxxd

(You get the idea. In fact, you might say 'I've stored' is
in sonic relation to the 'd' rhyme scheme: 'curious' & 'odours'. & further,
the 3rd verse beginning 'In felt' is alliterative to 'uniting' & 'us: noting'.)



Court

We make laws movable, then ask, if love’s eternal? 
Etiolate men hand forms out to sign; overcast
weather pastes these grey panelled corridors—cubicles
collect years of error, processed by bureaucrats.
 
I’ve stored this memory: our stroll beneath acacias
—a cue to kiss: a symbol on a door, curious
odours. May-warm, she wore white linen, loose; Korea
her hair & skin, she said the sign was ‘just cultural’.
 
In felt seats, divorcees fidget, whispering,
waiting, while the judge, divided, our annealer,
annuls our coupled tensions, one thing uniting
us: noting the mistake in picking one another.
 
He asks our names, to confirm we want the annulment.
So it went…we closed what opened nuptial
—nodded, then the judge stamped our document.
Not being obedient, we make laws movable?

My jealousy a phantom limb…

Always taking submissions for Underfoot. Send 8 poems— any length, previously published is fine, along with a bio & a paragraph on you process, poetic philosophy, what poetry means to you, or all 3 rolled up together; i am interested in transparency, i want to see through you— to danielpaulmarshall85@gmail.com.

My jealousy a phantom limb
—the young French lad
studying architecture | his love
a Korean girl with a broken leg

but a fixed heart— bit of serendipity
: (i met them last night
in a local café down the road).
Everyone is important | sadness

sustains | there is function |
mobility though heels dig-in |
hesitant to being dragged home
—elsewhere | lovers remain

: how is it that we gamble
good for uncertainty…?
Though i witnessed the departure
of these young lovers | i still

think train stations more upsetting
than airports…some…thing
about | grounded travel | the limit
of distances | obdurate tracks.

Evening broke the clouds
& too | likeness of talk in
the open where the nearness
of sun is eclipsed by want.

Renovation-aesthetic

(Remember, what follows is opinion, as always in these essays, it is not an incontestable truth.)

Renovating-aesthetic

The following passage is from Robert Browning’s Red Cotton Night Cap Country or Turf & Towers:

Have you, the travelled lady, found yourself
Inside a ruin, fane or bath or cirque,
Renowned in story, dear through youthful dream?
If not,—imagination serves as well.
Try fancy-land, go back a thousand years,
Or forward, half the number, and confront
Some work of art gnawn hollow by Time’s tooth,
Hellenic temple, Roman theatre,
Gothic cathedral, Gallic Tuilleries,
But ruined, one and whichsoe’er you like.
Obstructions choke what still remains intact,
Yet proffer change that’s picturesque in them;
Since little life begins where great life ends,
And vegetation soon amalgamates,
Smooths novel shape from out the shapeless old,
Till broken column, battered cornice block
The centre with a bulk half weeds and flowers,
Half relics you devoutly recognize.
Devoutly recognizing,—hark, a voice
Not to be disregarded! “Man worked here
Once on a time; here needs again to work;
Ruins obstruct, which man must remedy.”
Would you demur “let time fulfil his task,
And, till the scythe-sweep find no obstacle
Let man be patient?”

In short Browning is saying, the ruin obstructs the progress of time, & in consequence, life; the work of man— the shell-of-what-was worked for prior generations & it is in its nature to continue to be of use. In its disused state, “picturesque” yes, but as he says “little life begins where great life ends.”
Browning’s protagonist Monsieur Leonce Miranda, renovates an old priory inherited from his father, called Clairvaux. Rather than live in a comfortable Paris apartment on the Place Vendome, Monsieur Miranda opts to renovate the ruin & house his love Clara de Millefleur there.
There are scenes in which Monsieur Miranda ascends the tower & surveys the land; the tower at Clairvaux becomes a metaphor of self-mastery, of working on oneself, of noting the inner mechanics of self, as if the labour expended on the task compensated for the stain of sin.
The tribulations of Monsieur Miranda make the renovation of a priory ironic; what was Browning saying about religion, owing that Monsieur Miranda’s efforts fail? Browning has some interesting speculations in religious matters, which i may go into in another post.
(Aside: Though the poem is by no means one of Browning’s most popular & can prove a difficult read, it is worth the effort for his diverse, unexpected speculations & the strength & ease of his line. Moreover it is an interesting approach to a long poem, being a conversation between Browning & his friend Anne Thackeray. The critic C.H.Herford called the style of the poem “special versified correspondence”. Browning borrows some of the journalist’s methods in the telling of this story. Browning is an overlooked Victorian in my opinion, worthy of more devotion, with a much more interesting vocabulary than say, Tennyson, who is a lesser poet.)

Why leave a ruin to the ravages of time? i can only speak for England (but i’d hazard to say the same concerns most cultures): we do it because we suppose in the ruin is relic & relic is a matter of identity, it connects us with an authenticity, a chapter of our history that we take pride in, that we amalgamate together to compose our cultural identity. Why we venerate periods of time few really understand, & even with such scant understanding, find indomitable commonality, becomes stranger to me as i get older— nationalism is built on such monuments. Why we have made family fun out of dungeons is very peculiar. It discombobulates to think the largest exodus from a war torn nation, since WWII is taking place across the continent of Europe, & idle landmarks are preserved for passive Sunday outings & the country is deemed full.
England is full of ruins. i remember some outrage about Tesco (a supermarket chain) renovating an old church & people were saying how disrespectful it was, yet they don’t care when the chain-pub Wetherspoon’s turns a stone masons or cinema, or any other 2nd grade listed building, into a pub. The church was idle, a business moved in, employed people, provided a service to a local community, made a use out of it: “vegetation soon amalgamates.”

Roger Scruton made a documentary some years ago called Why Beauty Matters, for the BBC. His concern, that “we are losing beauty, and there is a danger that with it, we will lose the meaning of life.” because, he continues, “[beauty] is not just a subjective thing, but a universal need of human beings.”
i don’t entirely agree with Scruton. He relies heavily on a spiritual dimension that establishes the talent & vision in the artist, suggesting that in tandem with talent, there is an element beyond the will of the artist.
He oscillates between examples of modern ugliness, starting with Duchamp’s urinal, & what tend to be irrefutable examples of high art, often Renaissance works that people don’t usual have a leg to stand on when criticizing, part-of-the-canon art; such as Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, which, if i am honest, i think a horrible painting. When he says things like true art (& beauty) “show the real in the light of the ideal” he just shoots himself in the foot. i don’t see how this isn’t subjective, which he says true art isn’t, it is revelation & realization of a universal, irrefragable truth expressed through the aesthetic.
What is the outcome of such a upholding? Does art not fail to change in response to the ideas that we fall prey to?
In his hometown of Reading, Scruton tours abandoned offices & a bus station built in the 60s, on the premise of Louis Sullivan’s edict “form follows function”. The buildings are plastered in graffiti, a wrecked eye sore. “No one wants to be in them” he explains; they are ugly. However, he takes us to a relic of the past, an old forge turned café, lovingly restored, full of people. You get the picture.
i see much the same in Jeju where i live. The old native houses sell without struggle & people, though they take a great deal of hard work to restore, put the effort & capital into the endeavor. However, we might contest, that our beauty is informed by what we are told is beautiful & that demolished, disused buildings, whatever their history, don’t have to remain so, if we only alter our perception of what is generally regarded as beautiful. Is a structure aesthetically valuable because of its history & decoration, or can the use it is put to, the cause it works for, not be the object of its beauty? Surely a worthy endeavor with enough effort can elbow an aesthetic leaning into the renovation? If a ruin can be renovated then surely an ugly factory built under Sullivan’s tutelage can be beautiful in its usefulness?
The historical landmarks Browning asks his friend Anne to picture, are not languishing unwonted due to ugliness, they need only reformatting for a new purpose, they need less attention & could have maximum effect. Imagine Buckingham Palace, rather than packed with paying selfie obsessed tourists, full of refugee families. Instead of Saint Paul’s Cathedral serving up the diatribe of Christianity, imagine if it housed the homeless on London’s streets; same goes for the numerous cathedrals across the whole of Europe. Idealism, yes; but this is what Scruton thinks high art does to us.
Do we really have the space available in this overpopulated world, to be as finicky as Scruton is saying our sense of the aesthetic is? i am not challenging beauty’s importance, but that it isn’t a matter of what Scruton determines is important based on art that is canonized as high art by an elite. i don’t particularly wish to defend Duchamp or Damien Hirst, why do i need to— i certainly don’t think Scruton sees the whole picture though.

Interestingly, a short sub chapter of George Santayana’s The Sense of Beauty is titled The Influence of the Passion of Love. In this chapter Santayana expresses something deeply profound that “If any one were desirous to produce a being with a great susceptibility to beauty, he could not invent an instrument better designed for that object than sex.”
But sex is not constricted to the act of copulation, the effect of our desire for it is the same effect that instigates our sense of beauty for things or devotions, it becomes a blanket term: “If the stimulus does not appear as a definite image [a lover], the values evoked are dispersed over the world, and we are said to have become lovers of nature, and to have discovered the beauty and meaning of things.” Including art.
Returning to Scruton’s question of why beauty matters? We have an answer. Beauty endows things with a sort of “sexual passion” (as Santayana puts it) thus we are attracted to them & give them value. This is probably just Plato’s Eros termed differently; i think Santayana goes into more depth though.
It may be a monstrous thing to say & i may risk making myself very unpopular, but beautiful people, models or actors & the like have an advantage over others when they walk into a room, they are responded to with our gaze, a mark of value that jumps ahead of any knowledge of who the person is— don’t judge a book by its cover we say. We don’t aim to but sometimes we slip up with the parapraxes of our attentions.
I have always thought it a genius move on nature’s part to make the infants of any species, cute. What is cuteness if not a sort of evolutionary reaction to the possibility of neglect or loss, designed to elicit the cooperation of the environment; to get people to care for you, educate, feed etc? How many times do we see in a film, someone who hates kids take the kid under their guardianship?

i always like to get something about how the poet fits into this & we do of course. We poets & writer-types are all mining each other in some way. i acquiesce to the charge, it is probably called learning.
i’ll read a poem, it jolts something in me enough to want to make use of it; there is a theme or subject the poet raises & i think to myself “i like that, it’d fit snugly in something i’ve been working on, but i could make it more in my aesthetic register.” The thing extracted feels so connected with something we would say but never got around to thinking yet, it feels natural to borrow it for our own circumstance. No compunction necessary.
What would be the opposite of this? A sort of inverted aesthetic, where the poem is so terrible we ache to set the balance straight. Would this reaction still begin from an aesthetic point? Does the bad aesthetic of a crap poem teach us how not to write a poem & in the negative influence retain some aesthetic if only indirectly?
Eliot as we know was a great borrower, the greatest i’d say. His borrowing was a sort of renovation of the towers of the past, giving them a lick of paint & some new curtains.
i don’t think it necessary to borrow from that towering past, i’ll take what i can learn from it, then alter that new information. This is more interesting & cogent, not spraying graffiti over it, more noting it & writing what it left in the gaps, which is pretty much everything it isn’t & could never be; in that way it doesn’t only get re-contextualized it gets a new format too, enough so it wouldn’t recognize itself. My sense of its beauty is in the “sexual passion” for it, masked as my attention, my respect to still let it take me under its wing, even if the influence ends in challenge. It is partly our challenge of the past that enables us to keep our feet firmly in the happenings of the present.

Next time you’re out at an art gallery or buying pottery in an antiques shop, reading a poem or even about to eat a cream cake, i hope your hounded by the feeling of a “sexual passion” for the object; however, remember it may not be an idea, but mechanism— the trigger of beauty.

Plagued by the fact & the facts of life

Near the end of Camus’ The Plague, Dr. Bernard Rieux says “But, you know, I feel more fellowship with the defeated than with saints. Heroism and sanctity don’t really appeal to me, I imagine. What interests me is being a man.”
After reading this, my skin & bones, the rhythms of my organs, the coursing of my fluids, became acutely apparent to me— i realized absolutely that i am a person, an individual, part of a collective, a wider community that despite the cultural nuances & affinities that set us apart, is composed of what i am composed & capable as i am capable.
Regardless of the plainness & brevity of Rieux’s discovery, it is perhaps one of the profoundest moments in literature. It has accompanied me daily since i read it some 2 weeks hence. i actually gasped, letting out a howl of joy, after reading it. It brought me closer to something i have been incapable of formulating in words, overthinking it, i had failed to give it structure & realization, until now. It was so simple, right there in the plain reflection of the word man. By which i mean a shortening of mankind.
i couldn’t have met with it at a more critical time: i have never been more intrigued by my humanity; more thankful of the sheer unlikeliness of it.
Have you ever stopped for a moment & intuited your humanity, taken the deep measure of it & noted the absurdity of being what you are, how, where & why you are? Forgotten about the influential, ancillary by-products of our humanity: God, religion, spirituality, politics; nothing of so much dilemma or purpose; just the bare fact of your existence. What i mean by the bare fact of existence, is a co-operation of intrinsic potentials for understanding the fact of life & the facts of life, not as opposing principles of a [wo]man or Man’s characteristics, but essential ingredients in the remedying of problems.
i marvel at the fluke of it, the banal miracle of it. Maybe it takes a reader to arrive at this insight; for me literature, is the purest medium for substantiating thoughts of this caliber. Culture is after all, imminent in society & whether we know it or not, informs the method by which we can understand our place in it & our creation of it.
In The Plague Rieux & Tarrou, are stand out characters. It seems no coincidence to me that their names, though physically dissimilar, rhyme. & furthermore, rhyme with Camus. They are literary aspects of Camus: one, devoted, plain, honorable, utilitarian & the other, romantic, talkative, fanciful, mysterious. Both of them saintly in their respective aspects: one unaware of it, one all too aware & searching; both with their own methodologies.
Rieux, lives according to the fact of life, whereas Tarrou lives, in pursuit of the facts of life. One is stationary, comfortable, the other, a wanderer.
People can be categorized according to these distinctions. There are those content in the simplicity of devotion to an ideal, which can be family, career (duty or calling) or faith; & those who are unsettled, always alert to the duplicity of experience & the continuity of learning through a mixture of experience & study. Both have something of the calling about them, but they breed quite different characters.
However unalike they seem, Rieux & Tarrou have a common aim: plague.
The plague, whatever metaphorical, metaphysical or pathological form it takes requires the combination & co-operation of both the fact & facts of life. Our plague in question is not necessarily one dimensional, though it may be; it may take one, or combine numerously: it can remove us from the need of one another through suspicion or fear of infection; it can be the abuse of power, to profit from catastrophe, to cause catastrophe for personal gain; the application of punishment in unequal measure to wrongdoing or the punishment of God or nature; it can be minor or major misunderstandings; the inability to love or an overwhelming need to love at all costs; it can be ignorance of your & by extension, others’ humanity—in short, it can be any problem.
There is no use surmounting a problem, without something to live for on the other side. This usually works in tandem to fill a gap left open by the problem. We may survive a terrible illness due to the skill of virologists & doctors, but it is the support, love & friendship of those around us, that give the survival meaning. This is Cottard’s major problem: he has no purpose, he is desperately in need of the Absurd, or simple human contact, which he gets from plague & which he didn’t have before plague. In tackling plague, it is more formidable a problem if the fact or the facts of life, go it alone— they must unite, & advise each other as Rieux & Tarrou, do so succesfully.
Rieux & Tarrou as archetypes of Camus, puts me somewhat in mind of William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven & Hell, for me, a crowning moment in man’s insight about himself.
“1. Man has no body distinct from his Soul; for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five sense, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.
2. Energy is the only life, and is from the Body; and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
3. Energy is Eternal Delight.”
To make the link to Camus, i’d say Rieux is the Body & Tarrou the Soul; Camus, the Energy & Reason. i suppose Northrop Frye would say this link is inevitable owing to the template of myth featuring & structuring all literature.
There similarity in character strikes me too: they were both consistent in their goals & pure in character: working & reasoning for the betterment of people. They were concerned with people & did their utmost to reform society, while simultaneously informing it.
The archetypes are not separate however, there distinction is made only when we anatomize the whole man, using a sort of mythopoeia to dissect in order to understand & formulate strategy, to counter ruination or plague. What i mean is, knowing the function & category of each part in the whole, enables us to better portion out tasks for each part, so as to deliver more effect blows to the ruination or plague.
Tarrou is not a doctor & Rieux is not aware of his saintliness, but only his duty. Together they form a formidable unit to cope with both the body & the soul of the populace.
So what am i getting at? Well, don’t be, solely a mindless body, or merely a mindful soul; fail beautifully to issue yourself the character of one who divests themselves in just the fact of life, or only the pursuit, of the facts of life. Realize your humanity in its corporeality & the extension of the uniqueness of that corporeality being a capacity to think. Thinking is an extension of humanity that is not permitted an animal. An animal reacts, it doesn’t have the means to perceptively alleviate its problems or enjoy its life with the strategies enabled by the density of a consciousness that can reason, enjoy, love, perceive & more.
It seems so daft & obvious to say all this. But i bet many people haven’t considered the uniqueness of humanity & taken that they possess a unique part of it, too much for granted. This is an error & the remedy allows us to enjoy ourselves & others with greater insight & intensity.

Rodge

A spartan living room | old 3 bar fire on full pelt | a Wedgewood Elizabeth II 50th anniversary coronation plate on the mantelpiece with a chipped edge | next to a pair of dice & an incomplete Rubik’s Cube. Rodge |late middle age & peculiar | far away glazed expression | is sat on a rug in the middle of the room surrounded by various sized spanners | hammers | monkey wrenches & screwdrivers— there is no furniture. The door goes rata tat tat…rata tat tat…no one answers so Plinky just walks in.

Plinky: “Erm…Rodge mate? You in ‘ere? Er… crikey Rodge. What y’doin?”
Rodge: “Wotz it luk like? I’m tekin’ this ship engine t’bits. Gunna use it t’decorate the ‘ouse wiv. Marge will be chuffed t’bits wen she gets off ‘er hols. Best thing fer it i reckon is dangle it from the ceilin’ like a fancy chandelier.”
Plinky: “O…right Rodge. Erm… I dunno if Marge is gonna be so ‘appy ’bout that pal. Why’s d’ya decide t’do all this?”
Rodge: “Cuz me brekkie told us to. Said Marge’d luv it fer our wedding anniversary.”
Plinky: “Yer brekkie?”
Rodge: “Is there a parrot or n’echo in ‘ere? Yeh! Me alph-a-bett-y spag’etti told us. Read me horoscope n’all an that con-f’rmd wot me alph-a-bett-y spag’etti said: ‘you will find a ship engine in an unlikely place & put it to decorative use for a special person.’ So’s that’s wut i’m doin’.”
Plinky: “Who prepared yer brekkie mate?”
Rodge: “Cooked it me self cuz Marge is gone away. Only fing in the cupboard was alph-a-bett-y spag’etti. The likeli’ood of it eh? The shippin’ forecast told me t’gu on wiv out it an all. Sea change. Clean sailing all the way southeast’rly | which is my fav direction. But I mailed you about that. Got me a new penny | an I got one fer Margaret too.”
Plinky: “O yeh | smashin’ stuff that is Rodge.”
Rodge: “Y’gunna ‘elp me or jus’ keep badgerin’ me?”
Plinky: “Gimme five pal. I gotta mek a phone call.”
Rodge: “Well ‘urry yerself | the best bits cummin up | y’don’ wunna miss it.”
Plinky: “Don’t ya wurry Rodge pal | it’ll tek no time‘t all— wudn’t miss the best bit fer the world… (in the hallway Plinky dials— beep beep beep beep ring ring ring)… is that New Cross Infirmary? My pal Rodge is goin’ off on a wrong’n cud y’send sumone out please | his wife died recently: I fink he’s ‘avin’ a mental crumble. The address is…”

Rodge never got to finish decorating his house.

Enter through a door:…

Enter through a door : exit a window
— the Dunning-Kruger Effect | an abstract dip
an invert parabola mocking egoism.
As i poured milk | a car outside
in synch | let out a strain in its throat
: the world’s phenomena are telling.
Later when the rain |…| we played chess

in the garden | & after moves to corner |
a rook & queen quarreled with each other
— a power vacuum naturally took hold.
i wish the world was mostly dead
& then i wouldn’t have to raise my voice.

“The heart will get what it deserves
: to be nothing more than a muscle |

huffing viscid fluids to a pulmonary thump.”
Daniel R. Robinson makes weeping C modal
—there is no music so gentle.
The farewell hand in hand | she weeps
C modal: “you’re a large bird in a small cage
— i should have set you free years ago.”