Tuesday, January 31, 2012

From ‘Appointment with Sophie Calle’ by Paula Green (a taster)

Young Girl’s Dream When I was seven I believed in God when I was eleven I
believed in the difficult ease of words when I was fifteen I believed I would
always paint when I was twenty-one I painted myself half dressed by my
bedroom mirror in a range of browns a few years later I shut my eyes on my
brushes I opened them years later when I saw Van Gogh’s Starry Night and
so I fell in love again

The Break-up You hear all kinds of stories about love discoveries that lead to
love break-ups but I have never reached my hand in a coat pocket nor under
a car seat to find a bundle of letters nor a strange receipt I cannot open my
own break-ups and share the details these were grey areas is this over where
does that part end where does this part begin if I dig hard enough I might 
find grey pain although the last exit was a sharp and sudden jolt as I left with
only my car keys then a few days later S bumped into me in a record store
and followed me around the shop with his own way of ending ‘I will follow
you to the end of the earth and kill you’ I was out of his life

The Erection You have the habit of catching me out with your confessions
I have never written about sex in my poetry invented or otherwise I have
erected all kinds of walls around these things I withhold in other words my 
autobiography is always selective

The Rival Thérèse Lloyd has started a trend last night I dreamt a James
Brown dream James Brown the poet not the singer a few weeks ago I 
heard Chris Knox talking on the radio to Kim Hill about his stage antics
with a razor blade and so in my dream James Brown decided to step out of
character and do some stage tricks too before he started doing his poems he
ate excrement and drank Coca-Cola when he had finished he kissed the air
with his fingers he then went into a great performance of a long poem that
he knew by heart he kept looking at me in the audience as if to say I know
you are behind this so watch it I blushed and blamed Julia Morison for using
excrement in her paintings when I woke in the dark I realised I had to have
composed the poem coming out of his mouth but I couldn’t remember any
of the words Wystan Curnow was tucked in the dark at the back of a room
with a lectern light he was giving a lecture on the futility of confessions this
became the dream of the poem I have never received


                                            Editor, Helen Rickerby

One of the cool things about the Tuesday Poem, and having your turn at being the editor of tis hub blog especially, is having the opportunity to share your favourite poems with other people. ‘Appointment with Sophie Calle’ is one of my favourite poems, and I would love to have shared the whole thing with you, but it’s a very long poem. So I’ve just chosen four little pieces, which are poems in themselves, to act as a taster. I hope you’ll go and seek it out and read the whole thing. You’ll find it in Making Lists for Frances Hodgkins, which was published by Auckland University Press in 2007.

It's a wonderful book, but this poem (or poem sequence - with long poems divided into sections like this, there is always that dilemma of whether it's a poem or a sequence, or both) is a stand out for me, and one I've returned to over and over. The Sophie Calle of the title is a French conceptual artist - I hadn't heard of her before reading this poem, but her artwork is worth reading about. She is someone who weaves lives - her own and other people's - into art. One project involved getting her mother to hire a private investigator to follow Calle around and take photographs of her. He didn't know she knew he was following her, and she led him around places that meant something to her. The aim was an attempt 'to provide photographic evidence of my own existence'.

In Making Lists for Frances Hodgkins Green was doing something analogous I think - weaving bits of her own life into art. She says of this book 'as I lay in bed for months recovering from an illness I decided to write an autobiography in the light of art'. In this and other poems in the book she is responding the work of other artists - painters and writers. Each piece in 'Appointment with Sophie Calle' takes the title of an artwork by Calle as its beginning and jumping-off point for a little nugget of story, which I am assuming to be autobiographical, but who can be sure. The little stories are charming, quirky, serious and funny by turns - sometimes all at once.

I chose these four pieces because they were some of my favourites, because I think they show a bit of the range of the whole, and because I think they express one of the themes of the poem, and the collection: the tension in self revelation, especially for this poet. As she says in 'The Erection': 'I have erected all kinds of walls around these things I withhold in other words my autobiography is always selective'.

One of the most striking things about this poem is the lack of punctuation - and the fact that its still perfectly comprehensible. Without the usual restraints of commas and fullstops, the words tumble out, flow out, gush out. Wonderful!

Paula Green is the author of five collections of  poetry, most recently Slip Stream (AUP 2010). She's also published a number of children's books, and co-wrote 99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry (Random House, 2010) with Harry Ricketts. She has recently edited a book of New Zealand love poetry, Dear Heart, which will be published in April. There's an interesting interview with her online here: http://lumiere.net.nz/reader/arts.php/item/1615, and you can view her reading some poems from Making Lists for Francis Hodgkins, including 'The Rival', here on the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre website: http://www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz/features/green/index.asp.

And I hope some of the other Tuesday Poems in the right sidebar will catch your fancy - do click on some.

Helen Rickerby is a poet from Wellington, where she works a day job as web editor. In what's left of her time she also publishes books as Seraph Press and is co-managing editor of JAAM magazine. She's published two collections of poetry and a handbound chapbook Heading North. She blogs at http://wingedink.blogspot.com/.


Elizabeth Welsh said...

Really, really love 'Young Girl's Dream'. The lack of punctuation does produce a surprising rhythm of flux & flow - what a technique. Thank you for sharing, Helen.

Kathleen Jones said...

I really love these, Helen. I'm experimenting quite a bit with prose/poetry myself at the moment. This is great and I loved the rather surreal juxtaposition of images and references.

helen said...

Great choice and great commentary, Helen. I really like Paula Green's work. Thanks for giving me something toothsome to read while I eat breakfast. x Helen

Helen Lowe said...

Very intriguing--and I agree with Elizabeth that the lack of punctuation really adds to the surreal 'dream like', even faux-naif, qualities of these excerpts.

Keith Westwater said...

Thanks Helen for bringing Paula's poem to the Tuesday Poem blog - I too like the lack of punctuation and the stream of consciousness effect it has. I have a copy of 'Making Lists..." on my bookshelf and am definitely going to roll about in it again.

Rachel Fenton said...

Thanks for posting these snippets of Paula's poem. Reminded me of reading V W's Mrs Dalloway, but funkier. Great stuff, got to get the book now.