Bette Davis has no reason to be jealous of Michelangelo Antonioni
and yet when I slept over at her house, in the late nineteen-seventies,
she kept me up all night complaining about a formerly illustrious career.
How her words came out is more important than the words themselves.

“I’m not in *Zabriskie Point*. I’m not in *Blow-Up*.
I’m not in *L’Avventura*. I’m not in *Isadora*.
I’m not in *Georgy Girl*. I’m not in *Woodstock*.
I’m not in any great sixties epics.

“I’m not in *Darling*. I’m not in *Midnight Cowboy*.
I’m not in *Easy Rider*. I’m not in *Valley of the Dolls*.
Why didn’t they give me the Garland/Hayward role
in *Valley*? Why didn’t they film *The Love Machine* starring me?

“Why didn’t they film *Every Night, Josephine!* starring me?
Why didn’t they remake *I’ll Cry Tomorrow* starring me?
Or redo *Mata Hari*? I’m a limitless god, like Apollo,
but certainly I’d have done remakes in my dotage.

“I’m not in *Morgan*. I’m not in *8 1/2*.
Ignorant armies crash my party.
I’m the haunted Bette always in your thoughts.
I’d have done any part, had they asked. Had they asked.”

And then I woke, and discovered myself in the act of speaking, slowly, methodically;
and from the cup of tea, ambiguous steam-clouds, like locusts, were issuing,
in which I could read the pattern of my future,
a wilderness stretching farther than the exiled eye could see.

//

Read in and ripped from http://wiz.cath.vt.edu/pipermail/new-poetry/2002-November/020974.html, following a bit of a search around for some Koestenbaum poems, after having been bought Koestenbaum’s My 1980s & other essays by a friend from a display in a bookshop in Williamsburg, which includes an excellent essay on O’Hara: ‘Frank O’Hara’s excitement’.

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The yorks have front wheels rivet-straight
so steer from behind, lean into the weight
like when you hang out from a boat against
the wind. Collect from where they sort the drifts
of mail off the troughs: swivel out
the full sleeve, and Eric’ll tell you about
bar codes (to scan quantity: don’t overfill).
After that, there’s primary, roads 1
2, 3 and 4, and sky road, which is mainly Scotland.
The trolleys form arcades; the function of
the space depends on how they’re ranged.
I’ve grown fond of how their cages catch
the light and line it up, low and level –
across the tops of all of them you see
the shuttered drum of the machine: it sifts
the inbound stuff and flicks it round the loop,
it leaps like fish. The way these trolleys pivot
makes me think of doors in floorplans,
geometry of entry, so the lino here’s
a blank of unrecorded draughstmanship.
If you’ve ever seen those clocks which seem to write
the time across the air, with a ticker like
a metronome but strobing out 04:10
with LEDs – I’d say it’s quite like that,
a blur but somehow sense is made.
With us all running parallel, surface tension
makes the link and mail gets through,
just how a drop holds slide and cover slip
together, both the focus and the glue.
Ask Pat: she comes back every year for Christmas.

//

‘Going Postal’ is a long-ish series of observations on casual work in a postal sorting office, and won this year’s John Kinsella / Tracy Ryan Poetry Prize. This is the opening.

[Read in The Churchill Review 2013.]

MCMXIV, by Philip Larkin

5 January 2014

Those long uneven lines
Standing as patiently
As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park,
The crowns of hats, the sun
On moustached archaic faces
Grinning as if it were all
An August Bank Holiday lark;

And the shut shops, the bleached
Established names on the sunblinds,
The farthings and sovereigns,
And dark-clothed children at play
Called after kings and queens,
The tin advertisements
For cocoa and twist, and the pubs
Wide open all day;

And the countryside not caring:
The place names all hazed over
With flowering grasses, and fields
Shadowing Domesday lines
Under wheat’s restless silence;
The differently-dressed servants
With tiny rooms in huge houses,
The dust behind limousines;

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word – the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages,
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again.

//

2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War – the start of four years of rolling dates to commemorate. From the perspective of someone living in what is now Belgium, it will be interesting to see the contrast with how, amidst this, the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo is marked in June 2015. No popular recreation of the Battle of the Somme, I expect.

2014 also marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of this poem in Larkin’s third collection, The Whitsun Weddings. The ‘marriages / lasting a little while longer’ are the most tellingly Larkinesque contribution from the poem to our stock of perceptions about the war, the tidy gardens perhaps the most moving. So much (English) literary history cites the Great War as an event of mass disillusionment, and Larkin’s final stanza is a famous crystallisation of this. Therefore, it’s interesting to read Anthony Quinn’s review of Mark Bostridge’s The Fateful Year: England in 2014: the war is the defining event of the year in our memories, but it was, for many reasons, a full and fractious year.

[Read in Collected Poems by Philip Larkin, ripped from http://exhibits.lib.byu.edu/wwi/influence/MCMXIV.html.]