Saturday, 16 January 2021

Nothingness haunts me / Oh yeh?

The Music of Time, John Burnside's recent collection of poetic essays, is entertaining enough for a poetry buff and I enjoy the man's verse: coming to terms with his prose.  We ran swimmingly with Sassoon and Everyone Sang, but our little boat hit a snag with L'Infinito.  

Each passage is framed in time and place. Here we have the young JB wiling away an afternoon, in the summertime? I digress. He fancies a college friend, Louise, will ride along and save him from an exam, the tediousness of Sartre, and as he hopes she... will cycle by with good things from Arjuna or Basil's Bakery... he comes across: Le néant hante l’être. A phrase that will haunt him for years.  Okay.  

John Burnside

I like this negative epiphany - Burnside's reckoning an abundance of epiphanies - his Hidebehind and poetic dread of nothingness.  But the scholar in him doesn't have the breadth, to weigh with this awful nothingness the clear light of the void. The word 'sublime' appears but we do not find the Divine Ground, despite JB telling us they were all mystics back in 76. And yet, to have written this, he was so close to the affirmative epiphany that would have been Arjuna's reply from the Bhagavad Gita, perhaps, if Louise had appeared that day.     

Arjuna and Sri Krishna

In short, to my jaded gaze, in this chapter the dominie has taken over from the seeker after truth. There is some loose talk of the isolation of the soul, loose - from a man given to quoting Mandelstam - and I see philosophers listed, with other sources... I anticipate a courtly bow to Freud.  That's all very well. It's standard fare.  For poetry, i'd also recommend the great religions and Carl Jung.  [Not that I've managed any verse for a month, or since Christmas or so, ho-hum].

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