Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘winterson’ Category

From Jeanette Winterson at jeanettewinterson.com

January

Honour the fate you are…

That’s from the Auden poem ATLANTIS in our January Poem of the Month. It seems like a good thing to remember, surfing into the New Year, with all its challenges and surprises, difficulties and dreams. I don’t want it to sound like I believe in pre-destination – fate is never that, but it is the web of possibilities from which we unthread our particular journey.

It may be that we don’t honour ourselves enough – in the sense of respecting our real nature – actual and developing. The business of trying to be ourselves is a full-time occupation – which is not to say give up your job and your family, but is to say don’t be troubled by the size of the task. Individuality is not a small thing.

I have said many times that I believe poetry can make a huge difference to how we feel about ourselves and about ourselves in the world. I have just been reading The Letters of Ted Hughes, really engaging stuff, and well worth getting hold of. He says somewhere what I have found for myself, that reading poetry out loud is revelatory. It is in part the incantation, which is ancient and mystical, something we used to do, and rarely do now. It is in part the sound and feel of breath, your breath mingling with the breath of the poet. It is in part recitation, the pleasure of pushing the thing out of your body at the same time as taking it into the body.

I find that if I recite something a few times, I can learn it without really trying – though I know this happens through habit, and won’t happen to someone straightaway. But it will fend off memory loss, and it will give you something to play with in your head the next time you are stuck on a tube-train, or in a queue, or any other situation that requires personal resources, great or small.

In any case, poetry is such an antidote to babble that a dose of it once a day reminds us what language is – and what it isn’t.

Try it for the New Year – a poem every day read out loud. It can be the same poem or different poems, or a sequence of poems, whatever you like. Think of it as a stretch exercise.

read more from Jeanette Winterson

So, to start you off, here is the Auden poem Jeanette chose:

ATLANTIS

Being set on the idea
Of getting to Atlantis
You have discovered of course
Only the Ship of Fools
Is making the voyage this year,
As gales of abnormal force
Are predicted, and that you
Must therefore be ready to
Behave absurdly enough
To pass for one of The Boys,
At least appearing to love
Hard liquor, horseplay and noise.

Should storms, as may well happen,
Drive you to anchor a week
In some old harbour-city
Of Ionia, then speak
With her witty scholars, men
Who have proved there cannot be
Such a place as Atlantis:
Learn their logic, but notice how its subtlety betrays
Their enormous simple grief;
Thus they shall teach you the ways
To doubt that you may believe.

If later, you run aground
Among the headlands of Thrace,
Where with torches all night long
A naked barbaric race
Leaps frenziedly to the sound
Of conch and dissonant gong;
On that stony savage shore
Strip off your clothes and dance, for
Unless you are capable
Of forgetting completely
About Atlantis, you will
Never finish your journey.

Again, should you come to gay
Carthage or Corinth, take part
In their endless gaiety;
And if in some bar a tart,
As she strokes your hair, should say
‘This is Atlantis, dearie,’
Listen with attentiveness
To her life-story: unless
You become acquainted now
With each refuge that tries to
Counterfeit Atlantis, how
Will you recognise the true?

Assuming you beach at last
Near Atlantis, and begin
That terrible trek inland
Through squalid woods and frozen
Tundras where all are soon lost;
If, forsaken then, you stand,
Dismissal everywhere,
Stone and snow, silence and air,
O remember the great dead
And honour the fate you are,
Travelling and tormented,
Dialectic and bizarre.

Stagger onwards rejoicing;
And even then if, perhaps
Having actually got
To the last col, you collapse
With all Atlantis shining
Below you yet you cannot
Descend, you should still be proud
Just to peep at Atlantis,
In a poetic vision:
Give thanks and lie down in peace,
Having seen your salvation.

All the little household gods
Have started crying, but say
Goodbye now, and put out to sea.
Farewell, my dear, farewell: may
Hermes, master of the roads
And the four dwarf Kabiri,
Protect and serve you always;
And may the Ancient of Days
Provide for all you must do
His invisible guidance,
Lifting up, dear, upon you
The light of His countenance.

Read Full Post »

self portrait by nina alvarez“Are real people fictions? We mostly understand ourselves through an endless series of stories told to ourselves by ourselves and others. The so-called facts of our individual worlds are highly coloured and arbitrary, facts that fit whatever fiction we have chosen to believe in. It is necessary to have a story, an alibi that gets us through the day, but what happens when the story becomes a scripture? When we can no longer recognise anything outside our own reality? We have to be careful not to live in a state of constant self-censorship, where whatever conflicts with our world-view is dismissed or diluted until it ceases to be a bother. Struggling against the limitations we place upon our minds is our own imaginative capacity, a recognition of an inner life often at odds with the external figurings we spend so much energy supporting. When we let ourselves respond to poetry, to music, to pictures, we are clearing a space where new stories can root, in effect we are clearing a space for new stories about ourselves.”

-from Art Objects by Jeanette Winterson

Photo: Girlfriend Photographer by Nina Alvarez

Read Full Post »