Antony Dunn: A poem and an interview

From The Hill of the Muses
Antony Dunn: Born in 1973, gifted with instinct and aura of joy…

From The Hill of the Muses
This is how I take you with me;
by saying to the empty seat
beside me, Look! how orange is
the sun above the sea. Now squint
to squeeze its circle from the glare.
And look! over your shoulder, how
the Parthenon squares up to it
and whelms itself with orange light,
before the sun, the heat and you
and I all go down together.
I take it you are lost for words
through pines and aloe vera to
the streetlights and the orange trees
as I watch your steps and wonder,
What d’you think? What d’you make of that?

Questions and Answers : an interview around poetry

Giving a symbolic use to nature - sun par agonised to a missing face- may lead to a romantic way of writing. Aren’t you afraid of being criticised about that?

A.D: Perhaps this poem is unusual for me. While I was writing my third collection, Bugs, I promised myself that none of the poems in it would be about me. Some of them are, of course – in indirect ways. This poem is one of the first half-dozen I’ve written since Bugs, and I’m allowing myself to write some more directly personal poems. It’s a romantic poem, sure. And no, criticism is something I stopped being afraid of after the first review of my first book made me burst into tears in a bookshop...

Orange is the dominating colour all over the poem. It prepares the reader for the heat and therefore for love, until it ends as a tree, like the fulfilment of love. In some way, the structure of the poem does not surprise. Is it your aim while writing? A poem does not have to attack the reader's expectations?
A.D: I’d like to think that my poems did surprise their readers. But I do like to write the occasional poem that’s apparently very simple and plain.

The streetlights and the orange trees: the first image refers to a night snapshot but the orange trees somehow refer to daylight. Is this contrast an effective means of expressing your next state of being puzzled as you wonder?
A.D: Not really. As I walked back into Athens from the Hill of the Muses, in the dark, I was struck by the orange of the streetlights and the oranges hanging in the trees. If the image makes the poem’s readers feel a sensation I didn’t intend, then that’s brilliant.

How inspiring the imagined relationship of writer-reader can be for you?
A.D: Very; particularly in a case like this, where the poem is written for a specific person, and then published for everyone. I do like to imagine my poems being read by real people.

When people ask about you, do you tell them you are also a poet?
A.D: I don’t, normally. I tell them I work in arts marketing, which I do. I’d really love to say that what I am is a “Poet” but it’s only part of what I am. I actually have to gather my courage before using the “P” word, for some reason. Maybe it’s a British thing. Many of us worry that ‘lofty’ words like “Poet” sound self-important or pretentious, which is sad. We should all be bolder.

Poetry refers to primitive joy for you or it is also enjoyment?
A.D: There’s something primitive, for me, about writing poems, because it feels like an instinct. I write because I can’t help it. And a lot of the time I don’t actually enjoy writing. It’s hard work, and frustrating, and it brings me face to face with my limitations all the time. Sometimes, though, it’s the most amazing pleasure. And I love reading other people’s poems. That’s enjoyment.
Do you adapt cinema images or paintings in your poems? Is your memory good?
A.D: Well, I can think of a couple of cinema images, yes. There’s a poem in my second book called Breaking News, which grew out of a shot in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In the shot, there are three white suitcases, stacked beside a door. They made me think of a wedding cake, and I couldn’t get the image out of my head. That whole poem was a way of using the image so that I could stop thinking about it, I think. I have a good memory for some things: where I was when I heard a particular song; what something smelled like. I’m terrible with names, though.

Which poets do you read? What are your influences?
A.D: Too many to list, but my big influences when I was starting to write were Norman MacCaig (1910-1996), Ted Hughes (1930-1998), Matthew Sweeney (1952-), Adrian Henri (1972-), Andrew Motion (1952-). Not enough women there, are there?
Current favourites are Kathleen Jamie(1962-), Colette Bryce(1970-), Louis MacNeice (1907-1963), Matthew Hollis (1971-), Michael Symmons Roberts (1963-), Don Paterson(1963-), and Simon Armitage(1963-),. Far, far, far; they are too many to list.

From your experience how difficult is to be published in England? Do you pay for your first publication?
A.D: No. Never pay for publication; Ever. I don’t know if it’s harder to be published in the UK than it is anywhere else. It’s not easy. My first book was rejected six or seven times before Oxford University Press published it in 1998. But that’s because the early drafts were simply not good enough. Brilliant writing will find a publisher in the end. The sad news is that plenty of really bad writing finds a publisher, too.

How often do you write? Do most of your poems cover one page, so that verbal economy leads to a better result regarding feelings?
A.D: Not often enough. But, like all writers, I have periods of writing a lot, very quickly, and then months and months when nothing happens at all. That’s hard. And yes, most of poems are relatively short, probably because one of the things I really love about poetry is the way it can be so compact. I like a poem to be bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside.

I recommend you visiting http://www.antonydunn.org/ so as to learn more about Antony Dunn 
first published here: http://lego4.blogspot.gr/2008/11/antony-dunn-poem-and-interview.html

Jim Greenhalf/ Britain: A poem and an interview

All happened so normal. First I read by chance a poem of Jim Greenhalf published at the London Magazine while being at the flat of a very estimated and beloved Greek poet. I was so much excited by the writing that later was looking online for more information so as to enrich the meta-feeling – like metamorphosis- caused by the poem with some kind of knowledge. I was lucky. I found the email of Jim Greenhalf and the e-mail correspondence did start.
Days ago, it was a pleasure learning from Jim that my poem ‘‘Gardener’’ reminds him of the movie Being There, with the late Peter Sellers playing the part of a gardener called ''Chance'', who came to be thought of as a man of great wisdom. It was a pleasure because if poetry is the spur for cross-thinking, a lot of good things can happen. Here comes the poem ‘‘Socrates’’ by Jim Greenhalf as well as the interview I had online with him.

Jim Greenhalf


The struggle is to live with quiet gladness
in spite of weather, rent rises,
power bills, stock market fluctuations,
stupid or cowardly governance;
bad faith, cheap grace;
circumstances, time;
young blond barmaids
with plunging necklines.
Midwife of the questing mind,
professor of ignorance.
The way to wisdom is not
for those with secrets to hide.
The authorities got him
for immoral aiding and abetting,
as the English got Joan of Arc
for the heresy of cross-dressing.
More of a gargoyle even
than Paul Verlaine,
but purer than democrats and tyrants.
He had no possessions, no loot,
no off-shore investments in Persia.
What he had was shared with friends,
and when Athens was under military threat
he fought as a foot soldier.
He was sent to shine a light through posterity.
A thorny old bastard bare-heeled
among potsherds and
the broken amphora of history.
He accepted the state's poison ruefully.
The greatest discovery you can make in life
he said, as he wiped the hemlock from his mouth,
is yourself.
Jan/Feb 2008

Interview with Mr. Jim Greenhalf: About Wisdom and Poetry…
When did you write your first poem?its title?
J.G: At secondary school, when I was about 14, I wrote a comic poem called Fludd. In later life I was astonished to find that Robert Fludd actually existed; I think he was a minor English philosopher - I could be wrong. Round about age 18 I wrote a poem called Lesley Mitchell Day, a disingenuously innocent lyric on the subject of unrequited love. Lesley, by the way, was a girl. In England there is a masculine first name variation - Leslie. This 12-line piece opens my collection The Dog's Not Laughing: Poems 1966-1998.
Poetry doesn't have so many themes although the number of subjects may be astronomical. In my experience, poetry that survives the time of its creation, has the ability to cross national and cultural borders.
In which artistic movement would Socrates belong?
J.G: Ah, Antigoni, what an inquiring mind you have my lovely Greek; if only I had the scholarship to respond adequately to your question. Ignorant as I am - no false humility intended - my conviction is that I don't believe the old goat would have pastured on anyone else's hillside. He left the grassy slopes of Parnassus to egotists and fancy young men in love with their own reflection. Plato too, I believe, took completely the opposite view of poets to the pose affected by Shelley - that they are the unofficial legislators of the world. Only a spoilt young man living on unearned income would even think such a thing, let alone say it. Socrates was like the North Star, a loner in the firmament, but a guide to all Mankind.
Have you been translated? Do you believe in poetry translation or you are an amateur of the original sound as well as rythm?
J.G: I believe there is a lady professor of French literature at Charles University who has translated at least two of my poems into French. She saw and heard me perform them at a concert with Jaroslav Hutka, at the Literary Cafe in Prague, on May 11, 2007. The poems were: Frederick the Great and Voltaire Debate Truth and Beauty and The Difference Between Poetry and Everything Else.
Without translations where would any of us be? What would English literature be without the dramas, comedies and satires of the Greeks and Romans? Where would French literature be without them? What would James Joyce have done without The Odyssey on which to model the structure of Ulysses? By the way, I think it's a pity he used so much artifice to do it; contrivance can get in the way when it's over-done. Where would Boris Pasternak have been without his beloved Shakespeare? If nation is to talk into nation let them do it through their arts, not through the artifice of technocratic idiocies such as the European Union - empire building without the save grace either of a spiritual dimension as in the Holy Roman Empire or the political vision of Napoleon. Hitler is another matter.
Which question you hate to be asked? Was it included in the previous ones?
J.G: The question is most revile goes something like...What inspires me to write? Oh, you know, I would love to write but I just don't seem to have the time. How do I do it? I go away and die. Writing is not the ultimate purpose of Mankind, or humankind if you prefer. Serving, healing, feeding, supplying, repairing, defending, advancing, maintaining, loving, worshipping - these are the great purposes of life on the blue planet. I write because I'm, I have no head for heights and I can't swim; I write because no one taught me how to be a soldier or a missionary or an engine driver; I write because I never made it as a footballer. I write out of failure; but writing is no longer just therapy: I left that behind when I turned 40. Beckett said: "Fail better". And that's what I try to do: fail better next time.
What symbolises Socrates for you?
J.G: A goat. A goat feeds on nettles and water. A goat has no fear of heights and no fear of depths. A goat knows how to follow a difficult path, or create one, and live at peace with its lot under the clouds. Those born under the baleful sign of Capricorn are goats. I am a goat, although it does not follow that I am Socrates. I wish I had played football like Socrates, the great Brazilian star of the 1982 World Cup. But my style was more, shall we say, sporadic than Socratic.
How a city could be poetic?
J.G: 'How a city could be poetic?' is like your 'early of September', Antigoni: not quite correct gramatically, but all the better for being innocently wrong. If you had asked: 'How can a city be poetic?' I would have laughed. Europe is filled with consultants advising city authorities how they can regenerate using business and the arts (a little) to attract big bucks from the European Union and other sources. Well, a city may gain all the glory of the world and in the process lose its soul. If a city whores after the kind of free-market liberalisation that has caused so much damage to the United States, the United Kingdom and to other parts of the world, it will certainly lose much more than it gains in fast food franchises and apartments that few can afford.
Cities evolve through time. A street or a square may be planned and constructed; but the soul of a place cannot be designed on an architect's elephant board or computer screen. Berlin, Paris, London, Bradford each in its own way inspires poetry; but few would describe Bradford as 'poetic' the way they would Florence or the skyline of New York City.
A poet usually lives in the shadow, behind celebrities as poetry refers more to an existential identity rather than to a role playing game. Do you agree?
J.G: Yes. Poetry is about sinking wells into the oil fields of experience and pumping up the crude. Writing is the art of refining the crude - but not over-refining it.
Poetry can get benefit from information? You are also a journalist with a variety of awards.
J.G: You have placed 'poetry' and 'journalism' together, perhaps in juxtaposition to accentuate the difference between them. I would only say that journalism, which the late Allen Ginsberg, Charles Bukowski and Anselm Hollo sometimes come close to - with great skill and panache is a more public function than the writing of poetry. However, the act of writing both requires common disciplines: writing to purpose and to measure (not necessarily rhyming and scanning); using appropriate words to deliver the meaning; editing out words that are either superfluous or grandiloquent.
As to information, well, I could say 'Your eyes are brown' or 'Auschwitz was a murder factory', or 'the EU is a political tyranny'. But if I say, 'Your eyes are as brown as Amontillado', then I am imparting something more to mere fact. The same applies to the other two examples.
Moral courage is subject to ethics (ethical action) instead of being applied on moral sense?
J.G: By definition 'moral courage' is active, not merely an intellectual category. 'Moral sense' may mean knowing the right thing to do; but knowledge alone does not always result in right action. The conflict between these two things - knowing and doing - is at the heart of almost all of Shakespeare's tragedies. And then what about doing the morally wrong thing - killing someone - for an ethically impeccable reason - to rid the world of a terrible threat? For me, courage is active, whether it means facing up to illness or distress or risking bodily injury by going to another's rescue. It also means dealing with the idea of mortality. The Socratic method, at least to this bear of alarmingly little brain, rests upon an inner strength derived from coming to terms with the fact of death. I believe Boethius took the same road, before the Roman state killed him.
Under which circumstances you write?
J.G: Usually the least propitious: in a noisy, germ-trap of an office; and alone after work, at weekends and while on annual leave. Unlike Mahler, I do not have three months of bliss every summer by a alpine lake; nor is there a dacha waiting in a leafy Moravian glade. I think as I walk city streets - me, my own private lyceum; I write as I work, letting disparate ideas and images come and go while I concentrate on something else; and when I am neither thinking nor writing, I wait for that little hidden light to come on, like the light in a fridge, to set me humming. These answers were first written out by hand this morning in the busy Diner of Salts Mill, Saltaire (google it). I write less at work than I used to because there is more work to do but fewer people to do it. Most of my writing is done at home, a rented apartment in Ilkley. 

Wisdom and self-consciousness: what's their relationship?
J.G: Self-consciousness evolves through the natural processes of cognition. I believe that we are born with innate propensities, for language, for example. I have always felt antagonistic to the Behaviourist school of psychology which attributes human development to personal background and environment. Art usually defies the circumstances of its creation. How else could Van Gogh, personally penniless for the ten years in which he drew and painted until he killed himself at the age of 37, how could he had painted all those sunflowers and sunsets and pictures of fruitful nature? Behaviourists say that we only act in our own best interests. But that simplistic explanation is contradicted by prison. If human beings only acted in their best interests only prisoners of conscience and the persecuted would be in jail. I do not believe we are born as blank sheets of paper which life then encodes with a script we cannot change. Were this the case, children would not surprise (and sometimes alarm) adults by uttering words and phrases they have neither heard nor been taught.
Wisdom, however, can only come about as the result of lived experience. Received wisdom, like epigrams - 'Cynicism is knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing' (Oscar Wilde) is something different. A child may make adults weep with a glance and a prodigy may cause gasps of astonishment with amazing facility to play music or work through complex mathematical formulae; but the genius at the keyboard or log table is likely to be inexperienced and vulnerable in the way that Socrates was not. Wisdom is a construct that evolves from experience rather than a flash of intuitive insight. But intuition is NOT the polar opposite of rationality; it is, instead, another way of reasoning - with jump leads instead of deductive cause and effect and inductive effect to cause (the difference is rarely clear to this bear). Intuition is a flash of fire from the gods. Prometheus is another hero.
Dear Mr. Greenhalf , Thank you very much indeed.
*poems of Jim Greenhalf can also be read online: http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=10078
Also visit:

*first published here: http://lego4.blogspot.gr/2008/10/jim-greenhalf-britain-poem-and.html



While the garden was running to weeds
They decided to have
Their first breakfast together
In that green air
The affinity they felt for each other
Was very quick
Instead of handshakes
They changed milkshakes
And their talking was running to the garden

It was a pleasure watching them
From his moody room
With his fingers entwined
As if he was not alone any more
It was then he slightly realized
How damn used to acting he was

Looking at the garden was interrupted by rain
He fiercely closed the spotty window
While rain spots were dripping into
The unfinished milkshakes on the wooden table

The couple was kissing under a burst of clouds
With hands in gloves entwined at the top
Like a yellow penthouse
Goodbye smelled anemones in the rain
The next day he decided to take on the duties
Of the garden
He announced his desire in front of us
Everyone in the hostel should do something
And he chose to keep an eye
On the weeds

It was a pleasant offer for all of us
Some need to be
Observers in life
I couldn’t deprive him of his right to be

He was made for gardening.

*first published here: http://lego4.blogspot.gr/search?updated-max=2008-10-17T20:21:00%2B03:00&max-results=7


Le passé/ The past by Asghar Farhadi: a pitch of excitement

There is much to say about “The past” by Asghar Farhadi but above all its highlight is definitely the strong and articulate scenario that follows the lead of an exciting movie despite the soberness of the story and the emotive co-issues it approaches regarding the effects after an attempted suicide as well as after a divorce on both children and adults. Farhadi’s movie should be seen by some Greek directors who “play” internationally in between languages of melodramatic banalities without adding anything new in the contemporary art and culture.   

It is true that any kind of divorce robs us of the daily grind of family; like a “short or sudden death”, a divorce leaves hollow places in hearts. However, problems can be alleviated by accepting the reality so as to attain reconciliation with our past. This is the secret key of any emotive issue: reconciliation. In general, the movie “The past” (“Le Passé”) by Asghar Farhadi narrates the way to reconciliation even when the passage through grief is inevitable, from the beginning of rain drops at the airport until the end of two hands linked together like wings of a “hand-painted” life. The well constructed scenario of this physical-made movie is a proof that emotive issues can be approached by skilled directors who know how to make a difference and exploit all the data they have for the spectators’ needs.

To start with, it is commonly deduced that dealing with death in life is very significant. As a whole, life in motion is also a retrospection of death issues when past and present tend to be interwoven. “The past”, then, explores aspects of a death-dealing culture, whereas we are exposed to a death-denying culture of a greedy and affluent society in the real life. The movie is a mixture of difficult cases: first, a couple –Marie Brisson (exceptional Bérénice Bejo, i.e. “The artist”) and Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) - gets a divorce after their leading a separate life. This is the main issue. However, there are following co-issues to blossom out. One of them regards the new relationship of Marie Brisson with Samir (Tahar Rahim) followed by the attempted suicide of his wife. The reasons why she took this decision are to be looked into especially by the teenager Lucie (Pauline Burlet), daughter of Marie. Next, the children’s moods – as they live under these conditions and shape their own personal attitudes of anxiety, fear, anger or/and grief- relate to another issue to be examined closely, with respect to each character, according to the script. For instance, Fouad (Elyes Aguis), son of Samir, is nervous because he has undergone an emotional overdose comparing to his age. This is another subject that the movie handles successfully by showing the actions of which the sheath is the essence of contradictory emotions.   

Thus, it would be interesting to recall the five steps of grief defined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in the 1960s: these are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. As a result, the masterful performance of Bérénice Bejo and all the cast, portrays the limits of the emotions when things aggravate and we realize how we get embittered because of confusion. Furthermore, the way that lights are used is also an indicator of a masterful construction, which doesn’t stick to the problem representation but surpasses it artistically. This turns also to be a suggestion for people to savor life fully and throw caution to the wind, as it is about their own, one and only life. In conclusion, Farhadi digs deeper into human psyche; he creates beauty and truth, if it can be put in words. Until the end, there is another corner of the problem to be seen clearly, as if making cinema were as enigmatic as the rest of a life based on matching incongruities.   


The tin drum by Volker Schlöndorff

The movie version of The Tin Drum directed by Volker Schlöndorff -twenty years later after the novel by Günter Grass (1959) - ends as it begins, with a tribute to the importance of responsibility examined through the eyes of Oscar Matzerath (exceptional David Bennent), who never grows up. In reality, Oscar symbolizes every man that keeps going in an uneducated and superficially innocent society, instead of taking the plunge into a responsible political life. Following Oscar’s childish eyes, as Günter Grass has mentioned, Schlöndorff just tells the story on one line. This is the success point of the movie that won both the Palme d’Or and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film of that year, in 1979, whereas its aesthetics partially calls up to German expressionism. Until today The Tin Drum has the power to make us reflect upon the past of Nazi history, indicating we are a sum of multiple perspectives upon our past and present; Grass knows it very well, for his past reconsideration made him choose the road to his present activism, that is, give vent to a strong voice against Nazism, German austerity measures and peoples’ repression. Overall, the sound of the tin drum in the movie is the counter-balance of this annoying social sleep; the tin drum awakes the spectre of memory, the importance of which is priceless so as to attain real endurance and joy.