The Voice That Thunders

I’ve loved Alan Garner’s books ever since I first read The Owl Service – and then wolfed down – Elidor, The Wierdstone of Brisingamen, The Moon of Gomrath. When Red Shift was published – in the Autumn of 1973 – I bought it in hardback – a rare event in those days – and read it at a sitting.

I remember shutting the book finally (carefully) at about 3.00 in the morning; getting out of bed and making my way to the bathroom across the landing – with the uneasy feeling that shadows were slipping off the wall behind me and that a false step might take me out of my safe home in Evesham into the strangeness that was always hovering – you now knew – at the edge of vision.

(If anyone is interested there is a great discussion about Red Shift on the brilliant Backlisted Podcast)

It was the podcast that put me on to The Voice That Thunders – a collection of Garner’s Essays and Lectures – which are just as rich and fierce and individual as the fiction itself.

This, for example, describes more clearly than anything I have read before, what, in my heart, I am always hoping to find in every book I read. Garner writes:

I live, at all times, for imaginative fiction; for ambivalence, not for instruction. When language serves dogma, then literature is lost. I live also, and only, for excellence. My care is not for the cult of egalitarian mediocrity that is sweeping the world today, wherein even the critics are no longer qualified to differentiate, but for literature, which you may notice I have not defined. I would say that, because of its essential ambivalence, “literature” is: words that provoke response; that invite the reader or listener to partake of the creative act. There can be no one meaning for a text. Even that of the writer is but an option.

Literature exists at every level of experience. It is inclusive, not exclusive. It embraces; it does not reduce, however simply it is expressed. The purpose of the storyteller is to relate the truth in a manner that is simple: to integrate without reduction; for it is rarely possible to declare the truth as it is, because the universe presents itself as a Mystery. We have to find parables; we have to tell stories to unriddle the world.

It is a paradox: yet one so important that I must restate it. The job of a storyteller is to speak the truth; but what we feel most deeply cannot be spoken in words. At this level only images connect. And so story becomes symbol; and symbol is myth.

Garner adds – unnecessarily to my mind – that he is:

…using the word “myth” not as meaning “fiction” or “unhistorical”, but as a complex of story that, for various reasons, human beings see as demonstrations of the inner cause of the universe and of human life. Myth is quite different from philosophy in the sense of abstract concepts. The form of myth is concrete always, yet it holds those qualities that demand of the human mind that it recognise a revelation of the function behind the world.

Of course he is. You can find the Voice That Thunders here.

Afterthought – Garner’s story of his own childhood – Where Shall We Run To? – about growing up in the shadow of war, illness and Alderley Edge – is marvellous too. Seek it out!

9781846554728

The Voice That Thunders

Pessimism is for Lightweights

I’m guessing everyone knows this – but I only found it today, and it seemed like something I needed to read:

Think of those that marched this road before
And those that will march here in years to come
The road in shadow and the road in the sun
The road before us and the road all done
History is watching us and what will we become

There is power and strength in optimism
To have faith and to stay true to you
Because if you can look in the mirror
And have belief and promise you
Will share wonder in living things
Beauty, dreams, books and art
Love your neighbour and be kind
And have an open heart

Then you’re already winning at living
You speak up, you show up and stand tall
It’s silence that is complicit
It’s apathy that hurts us all
Pessimism is for lightweights

There is no straight white line
It’s the bumps and curves and obstacles
That make this time yours and mine
Pessimism is for lightweights
Pessimism is for lightweights
This road is never easy and straight
And living is all about living alive and lively
And love will conquer hate

It’s by Salena Godden – buy the book here

Pessimism is for Lightweights

The Awakening

Just came across this lovely poem by Theodore Roethke:

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.

The Awakening

Louis Ferlinghetti is 100!

And still as pertinent as ever.

This is his 2007 poem, Pity the Nation:

Pity the nation whose people are sheep,
and whose shepherds mislead them.
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars, whose sages are silenced,
and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice,
except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero
and aims to rule the world with force and by torture.
Pity the nation that knows no other language but its own
and no other culture but its own.
Pity the nation whose breath is money
and sleeps the sleep of the too well fed.
Pity the nation — oh, pity the people who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away.
My country, tears of thee, sweet land of liberty.”

Louis Ferlinghetti is 100!

A disaster to be a girl…

I thought this was terrific.

First Choral Ode from Norma Jeane Baker of Troy (a translation of Euripides’ Helen) by Anne Carson

[enter Norma Jeane as Mr Truman Capote]

Norma Jeane:
Enter chorus.
I am my own chorus.
I think of my chorus as Mr Truman Capote.
He was a good friend, he told me the truth.
You’ll never admit it when you’ve made a mess,
he said to me once
and that was true.
I can still hear his funny little girl voice – Truman
had a voice like a negligee, always
slipping off one bare shoulder,
just a bit.
And he hated melodrama,
though he loved to quote poetry – highbrow stuff –
here’s one he says is about me –
by Stevie Smith (it’s called ‘Persephone’):

I am that Persephone
Who played with her darlings in Sicily
Against a background of social security.

Oh what a glorious time we had.
Or had we not? They said it was sad.
I was born good, grown bad.

And isn’t that how it always starts, this myth that ends with the girl ‘grown bad’?
She’s in a meadow gathering flowers
twirling her own small sunny hours.
When up rides a man on black horses.
Up rides a man in a black hat.
Up rides a man with a black letter to deliver.
Shall I make you my queen?
She’s maybe 12 or 13.
Rape
is the story of Helen,
Persephone,
Norma Jeane,
Troy.
War is the context
and God is a boy.
Oh my darlings,
they tell you you’re born with a precious pearl.
Truth is,
it’s a disaster to be a girl.

Up came the black horses and the dark King.
And the harsh sunshine was as if it had never been.
In the halls of Hades they said I was queen.
[exit Norma Jeane as Mr Truman Capote]

Anne Carson is working on sonnets to perform in Iceland later this year.

Anne Carson: First Choral Ode from ‘Norma Jeane Baker of Troy’ (a translation of Euripides’ ‘Helen’) via the London Review of Books app

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v41/n05/contents

A disaster to be a girl…