(c) Nin Harris 2006-2010
I remember poems discovered as I chased the trail of words down to seek the grappling between known and unknown. Some of these I discovered on my own, happy accidents waiting to happen that I may never forget. And then there are poems that were quoted to me like chocolate-covered, liquor-soaked fruits arrayed in guise of jewelled flowers on a silver tray dusted with fairy-sparkled sugar. A dainty treat set out to capture seaweed-blinded merpoets. Later, as an acolyte of the written word, more. Poems and prose pored over, studied in earnest along with letters as depths are spiraled into, past midnight.
I wonder about these gifts brought to the word-sea and those that the sea gifts back in return. Kelp, seaweed, sand-dollars, shells, mollusks, current-swept crabs, messages in jewel-green bottles from damp cellars hidden from Provencal sunshine. Fins escaping nets, arms flailing in evasion of reefs. Mermaids lured by sunken treasure, glittering combs and words in caskets, left yawning open like oyster shells ready to clamp shut upon glistening pearls.
(March 3, 2006)
On acquiring Anne Carson’s If Not, Winter
You paid this much for a book consisting of blank pages?
Perhaps merciful that they knows not of Anaktoria with whom comparisons have been made, though I remain yet of the tribe that would sing of phaon, actaeon, tammuz, and would sail on a barge only with wyrd sisters towards isle of apples, ever-beating at breast-bone.
Perhaps coldness is spawned from much salt-yearning,
Perhaps heat spliced from rivers of magma,
Perhaps these are textual spurnings
of nature-flouted gifts
from the not-sea.
(March 3, 2006)
Stacks and stacks of books are balanced on other books which are balanced on piles of papers, empty or with words printed on them. I am like an island surrounded by a sea of textual carnage. Head whirling with Yoruba, Obeah, Celtic tales, with wild sargasso seas and dreams on monkey mountains. And then of course, there’s Yeats, good old Yeats. Interesting thing about poets. Some, you may outgrow. Others, you will discover grow on you with more frequent usage, like Seamus Heaney. And with Yeats, I find as I “mature”, different poems strike different resonances with me. There’s eternity for you. It’s in the lines that shift, adapt, mutate with the experience of the reader/beholder. Kind of like how Hesse’s Steppenwolfe has different layers everytime I read it.
(March 7, 2006)
I was going to quote more Yeats, but stopped myself. Instead, I meandered back to the forest of words in the other room (dubbed my “study”) and stalked the poetry shelf, looking for old friends. I found Edna St. Vincent Millay, whom I love well, and I found Rabindranath Tagore. And then I picked up a book of poems by Jorge Luis Borges. I think Borges and I are going to get along very well indeed.
I like typing out my own freeform words and random poetry. But there is something very comforting and immediate about typing out the words of someone else’s poem, as though making it part of you in a wholly different way from reading it aloud or clutching the words behind your breastbone, like a lump of liquid gold you’ve swallowed. I have spent hours thus, with this gold welling up from behind my breastbone, to tease my esophagus in the way reflux now creeps upwards at odd moments of the night when I’ve had something too acidic or pungent to eat.
In teenhood, a strange girl, clutching anthologies of dead poets to her, reading, still reading words of cowslipped meadows, dancing fairies in the luminescent darknesses of the woods, dreamers and mystics all. Words, words. Just words, that are the world and everything around it. What I wouldn’t give to be reading some of those poems for the first time again, just feeling the beauty of that moment arrowing into me with merciless precision, never missing, as the moment shoots sharper than any marksman.
(March 8, 2006)
(c) Nin Harris 2006-2010
I have loved Tam Lin since I was 15. I loved it all the more because I could not find the full poems, instead piecing together scraps of verse from chapter headings of Diana Wynne-Jones’s Fire and Hemlock, dividing pages in a notebook between Thomas the Rhymer and Tam Lin. That much has been stated before.
What has never been outlined: the thick feeling of doom behind breastbone when faerie queens with beguiling, seductive and mysterious powers of persuasion are considered.
The reader always screams inward, urging faithful handmaidens into the opposite direction from that which is prescribed by dictates of the tale.
Don’t do it, you fool, why give up the sea to have your tail split? Why give up the pleasures of the deep so you can dance all wordless, self-conscious with daggers of pain shooting up your calves and thighs?
Why save him a few milliseconds before the very vocal princess with sunlight in her hair will come with parasol and frilled frock to pull him up into the palace, her handmaidens fluttering and fussing over him?
Why must you sacrifice your tongue, your mersisters their curls for love, for a knife you will never use because you are ultimately giving? Why must you cling on when he is turned into an adder, a snake, a lion, a flaming brand that will char you alive? Why must you pull him down from a steed at Miles Cross when she has taken his heart, his eyes, his soul, his thoughts? He will not be made a teind to hell, Janet, but the threat of the rock and the tree remains.
Walk away, Janet, walk away.
The faerie queens of the world will always win.
Go back into the sea, littlest mermaid, go back to your games amidst the shipwrecks and the half-opened chests.
Walk away, ugliest princess, walk away
For there will be a place where you are not ugly, and not required to fight, not required to grapple with live lions and snakes and adders just for the lure and the promise of what is transformed at long last.
Walk away from what seems to be East of the Sun, West of the Moon
Walk away, false goose-girl, or true princess or true fool. Walk away from the true goose-girl or false princess or true love. Let not Falada’s words be in vain, yet again.
Listen, for there will be hallways lined with books, soft carpets for your feet, hot drinks with steam soft-curled upward. Listen, for if you walk away there will be schools of fish, universes of meditating manta-rays and benevolent whales with songs woven just for you. Listen, for there are galaxies of light and color and sound. Listen, because you know you are stronger, more beautiful, more prideful and more magical than this, than this self you have reduced yourself into.
Walk away, princess, walk away.
Here, let me untangle a knot here, a pattern there, a mystery in the loom. Let me worry at a tear in the yellow wallpaper until it opens, wide enough to let you through, let you walk out of the walls, into the garden, onto the path that leads you into the deep green and brown velvet of the woods.
Listen, always a bridesmaid, and never a bride is just a dialectic you can puncture. Don’t be a bridesmaid. Don’t dance at the wedding. Throw off the lace and frills. Run off into the woods, run off into the woods.
Splash into the sea, swim away.
(3 March 2006)