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Sunday, 29 November 2009

Sometimes the house will breathe for me, like an iron lung.

Sometimes the house will breathe for me, like an iron lung.
It happens at the panic point of some new poem,
often late at night or on a summer's evening when
the lines have grown asthmatic and the thought is numb
with fears of what the words might come to mean. It clunks
and grinds, immobilises - keeps my ebbing forms afloat.

Sometimes the house will be my ears, will listen like a bug
an agent planted long ago in these primeval hills
to eavesdrop sounds of alder, owl and adder, bat and badger, all
their worlds - more passing chatter than would keep surveillance teams
on song for years to come. It happens when the voices of
a poem drown the still small voice that gave it birth.

Sometimes the house speaks for (or to) me in an unknown tongue.
It tutts and putters like an outboard out at sea
and offers me the waves and rhythms it has found
among the deeper things that rarely come to be.
Easily mistaken for the muse herself,
it happens when I disregard her knowing words.

Sometimes the house imparts a kind of balance, like an inner ear,
tunes itself to keep in phase with thermals and horizons,
synchronizes movements with them in its posts and beams,
or eases its old bones against the cold. It shivers when
a poem's footings slide in shale - or when the lines strike out
to scale the heights, but then succumb to poesy's vertigo.

37 comments:

Elisabeth said...

I can't think of a thing to say Dave. I hate to be merely admiring. something more 'critical' is needed perhaps. But this one really does it for me. It's wonderful.

You give me hope.

Leatherdykeuk said...

This is an utter delight, Dave. I can picture it so clearly it resonates.

jinksy said...

This is touched with more than a little glitterdust of genius amongst its lines.

Kass said...

However did you think of the house to use as a metaphor for the solitude of poetic process? This poem gets better every time I read it.

Karen said...

You have the most unusual and interesting thoughts! The metaphor is wonderful and the language superb.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I recognise poem's footings sliding in shale - Dave. This poem is a clever use of the house as your "anchor" or, as you say your "iron lung". I like that idea.

I wonder though, if sometimes it is good to abandon the house, as it were, to strike out on one's own, in unknown ground? The trouble is that when I try to do this is flounder - or as Dominic is fond of saying - "get out of your comfort zone sometimes, Mother."
A lot of food for thought in your poem dave, thanks for it.

Helen said...

Hello there!

Your poem gives me cause to reflect on my own home .... to think about how it inspires me, protects me, insulates me, comforts me, motivates me .... and yes, speaks to me!

I loved this post .........

enchantedoak said...

Lovely, lovely rhythms and internal rhymes. A poem that quietly chants, doesn't clunk or grind, but speaks with a still, rather large voice. Nice work with a wonderful metaphor.

John Hayes said...

This is a fine poem--solid as a well-built house. I was particularly struck by the image of house as inner ear that "imparts a kind of balance."

gleaner said...

This is wonderful poem - I love the idea of home as your iron lung.

Dianne said...

Hmmmm'
houses have so many connotations. This one is worn well. I will post one on the cleaning of my mother's and my house after her death, I had to write it in tears in the middle of shampooing the carpets.
First I'm taking a break to figure out the copywrite questions for the blogged work.
I ache with feelings on this line:
"It shivers when
a poem's footings slide in shale - or when the lines strike out
to scale the heights, but then succumb to poesy's vertigo." -backpacking lingo.
Dianne

Rose Marie Raccioppi said...

And Dear Dave, "...or when the lines strike out to scale the heights," this be the telling spirit that calls and calls and calls... so be the delight of poesy.

Lovingly,
APOGEE Poet

Rose Marie Raccioppi said...

PS Dave, your visits are indeed always welcomed. Best always, Rose Marie

Tabor said...

It is interesting how the 'slide in shale' phrase seems to cause a response in many of us readers. The shale fits so well with a house and the sliding fits so well with the fear of missing the poem and falling into something else.

Dave King said...

Note
Since posting this I have changed the first line - and therefore the title also. It now reads as I originally drafted it:
Sometimes the house will breathe for me, like an iron lung.
It was in the process of posting the poem that I changed the line to
Sometimes the os breath and life to me, an iron lung.
Almost at once the original began to look superior, but I decided to sleep on it, to see how it would look in the morning. If anyone has any thoughts on the change - or my changeability - I would be glad to hear.

Elisabeth
You are absolutely right: it is good to hear criticism, but do not worry about it - I'm mature enough to be able to stand a lot of praise! Thanks for it.

Leatherdykeuk
Much thanks for such a generous comment.

jinksy
That is a lovely remark. Thanks.

kass
Actually, the first line just popped into my head a propos of nothing and it all developed from there - which makes it all the more extraordinary that I changed that very line when posting it!

Karen
Thanks again for such kind remarks.

Weaver
It depends on the house in question, doesn't it? The house may not always be a comfort zone, but you may have given me a germ of an idea. Thanks.

Helen
Yes, it can be a slightly spooky experience, can it not? Valuable, though - as is your comment.

enchantedoak
Thank you. I have had so many great compliments - and for a poem that I all but abandoned, more than once. So you see how much the comments mean.

John
Actually, that thought came last, but I think is the one with which I am most pleased. Thanks.

gleaner
Thanks, that was very much the "anchor" metaphor whist I was writing it.

Diane
I shall look forward to reading your coming poem. Thank you for your comments on mine.

Rose Marie
Yes, you are absolutely right about that. There's no point in writing unless you are attempting to scale some height or other.

Tabor
Yes, I agree it does seem to be chiming with a lot of people - in emails as well as in the comments.
I wasn't sure why that might be, but I think you may have pointed us in a possible direction.

Dave King said...

Erratum
The original first line, as given in my note above, should have read;

Sometimes the house is breath and life for me, an iron lung.

Shadow said...

when i am searching for the right words, its like my hearing increases, looking for tips and crumbs that may be falling and be just the thing to get the ink flowing again...

A Cuban In London said...

Ever since I came across the magnificent poem 'Últimos DÍas De Una Casa" (Last Days of a House) by the Cuban poet Dulce María Loynaz I have been fascinated by houses and the effect they have on us.

Your poem renders your domicile a sensitive and sensorial nature. And that perfectly captures how I feel about houses, especially the old ones, the history lived there, the ideas fostered and developed.

That vertigo to which you refer at the end brought to mind the aforementioned Dulce María Loynaz's poem, a critique to the philistines who destroy a nation's cultural heritage. Your passage reads more optimistic despite the verb 'succumb' in it. The house of your poem is no victim but the receiver of the ultimate accolade: poetry.

Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

The fundamental and sharp use of a "correlative object" makes this poem great Dave. You are on the same wavelength of the second chapter of "To The Lighthouse" by Virginia Woolf, where a house speaks on its own hinges, even if in this case it's a house without its owners, abandoned actually but alive with earth amd memories.

Lucas said...

The metaphor works I think because it is based in a kind of reality: namely that our environment is an extension of ourselves. The house in your poem is conscious and its consciousness is a deep reality. I like especially the lines "It happens when the voices of/a poem drown the still small voice that gave it birth."
In this case the poem is sobeautifully crafted that the still small voice buoyant to the end!

Stephen Dell'Aria said...

Enchanting, Dave. You never fail to bring to light new combinations and feelings that the commonplace cannot approach. You are a true poet.

readingsully2 said...

Oh, wow Dave....I have thought for a long time that my house is alive...so to speak. :)

Dave King said...

Shadow
Is that your inner hearing or the normal one? (Serious question.)

A Cuban in London
I find myself somewhat fascinated by the poem you mention. Shall have to lookit up. In my poem it is of course the poem to which it refers - not the house - that succumbs. Thanks for an absorbing comment.

Tommaso
I do know the VW poem - not as well as I should - but shall have to look it up afresh. Thanks for that.

Lucas
Yes, I think you are very close to the point from which the poem took off. Fascinating to hear you saying it. Thanks.

Stephen
Wow! What can I say, but thank you?

readingsully2
Mmmm, me too - but don't tell anyone I said that.

Crafty Green Poet said...

a wonderful extended metaphor....

Poetikat said...

Beautiful. I think I'd like your house very much.
Funny, my house doesn't sing to me as yours does; it is the garden beyond that does that.

Rachel Fenton said...

There are so many lines I could point to and aahhh at, suffice: I really like this poem, especially the humour in the last.

Cloudia said...

A magical post, my friend.




Aloha,


Comfort Spiral

Mariana Soffer said...

Very good poem, I felt it deeply, let me do a daring thing in your blog: Post the lyrics of a song that was reminded to me by your writtings (it is a song I love)

Faith, you're driving me away
You do it everyday
You don't mean it
But it hurts like hell

My brain says I'm receiving pain
A lack of oxygen
From my life support
My iron lung

We're too young to fall asleep
To cynical to speak
We are losing it
Can't you tell?

We scratch our eternal itch
A twentieth century bitch
And we are grateful for
Our iron lung

The headshrinkers, they want everything
My uncle Bill, my Belisha beacon
The headshrinkers, they want everything
My uncle Bill, my Belisha beacon

Suck, suck your teenage thumb
Toilet trained and dumb
When the power runs out
We'll just hum

This, this is our new song
Just like the last one
A total waste of time
My iron lung
The headshrinkers, they want everything
My uncle Bill, my Belisha beacon
The headshrinkers, they want everything
My uncle Bill, my Belisha beacon

And if you're frightened
You can be frightened
You can be, it's OK
And if you're frightened
You can be frightened
You can be, it's OK

The headshrinkers, they want everything
My uncle Bill, my Belisha beacon

Carl said...

My home and the things in it can affect my art greatly. I find my best work as a painter comes out when I am in a comfortable space and the house is making its idiosynchratic noises. I notice this more in the winter when the heat is on and the happy hissing, bubbling banging noises of my old steam system tell me they are working. It is a different experience than my photography where I am out in the woods and feeling nature around me as my guide.

Carl

Dianne said...

ok mine is up, and really the parallels are uncanny, this is what it was July '08!
Peace,

Jim Murdoch said...

Some nice stuff in this. You do have a way with long lines. I just don't think that way at all. I love "tutts and putters" but I stumbled on the two 'outs' in "an outboard out at sea" – maybe it's just how I read it – but that's the only thing I can pass negative comment on; one syllable too many.

The opening stanza touched me the most being an asthmatic but it's really the first two lines that will grab a reader and make him sit up. I just love the idea of a "panic point" in a work in progress; I've had a few of those. For me it's really a point of no return: do I go on or do I give up for today, perhaps even completely?

I would have a look at the third stanza again. It's fine but I think it could be better. There were more aquatic and maritime images that kept coming to my mind – flotsam and jetsam, for example, or the muse as siren or mermaid.

Dave King said...

Crafty Green Poet
Very many thanks for that. Always good to hear from you.

Poetikat
Lovely thought - about the garden. I like that!

Rachel
Thanks for those kind words.

Cloudia
Magic, I believe, is like beauty - in the beholder. Thanks.

Mariana
I'm not sure why you thought that daring. I hope not because you thought I might be offended.
It is a compliment, indeed, to say that mt poem reminded you of that one. Many thanks for it.

Carl
I can appreciate what you are saying - but what about the noises in the woods?

Dianne
Uncanny indeed - this internet can be quite eerie at times.

Jim
I did nearly give up at the panic point of that poem, but that is not what gave me the phrase; I had already penned it by then. My thanks for the comments on the third stanza. I do think you are on to something there. I shall revisit it as they say. I have to say, though, that I do feel quite happy with outboard out at sea, although I was unsure for a while. The repetiton was deliberate

Jeanne said...

Dave, this is lovely. I think it may be my favorite of all that I've read. The combination of sound-play (assonance, consonance, the occasional rhyme) and the wonderful metaphors enthrall me. And I love that you used the house as the central image.

Carl said...

Ah the noises of the woods are another story. I have had a poem kicking around trying to get out for a few months about the stream singing a lament to the falling of the leaves in a language I can hear but not understand.

CS

Dave King said...

Jeanne
Thank you so much for that. It is really very useful to know these things.

Dave King said...

Carl
I have had one testing my powers of endurance for a year or more. It relates to what sounded like the rippling of a stream in the tree tops.

Carl said...

I have to carry a tape recorder or a notepad when I hike. The poem just poured out while I was walking and seemed brilliant at the time. Have been trying to get it back for months and it is just not the same.