Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Bird Skinner

This post is in honor of my friend Michael Dougherty, who spent four years in the Pacific during WWII (Guadalcanal, Okinawa) and whom I visited in Waimanalo (Oahu, Hawaii) several times in my younger years.  He was the author and the publisher of TO STEAL A KINGDOM - PROBING HAWAIIAN HISTORY, an important, even crucial, well-researched and heartfelt text which influenced the Sovereignty movement in the islands. A sometimes cantankerous old U.S. Marine, he also demonstrated in his life the significance of Dylan Thomas's "do not go gentle into that good night."


Alice Greenway's powerful, and, in my opinion, deeply enduring novel, "The Bird Skinner" is not a book for anyone but the most serious readers of contmporary fiction; it is not an easy glossy read, but a difficult and disturbing tale structurally moving back and forth in time, and using, organically, not gratuituously, the life and work of Stevenson and Hemingway.  After a brief Prologue, it opens with a quote from RLS's (Tusitala, as he was known in Samoa) "Treasure Island" - "Yet some of the men who had sailed with him before expressed their pity to see him so reduced."  The figure of Long John Silver pervades the novel as does the protagonist's reseach into what might have been the actual location of the island.  "It was just the sort of place Stevenson would soon set sail for himself.  Taking his royalties from "Treasure Island" and his tubercular cough, the great writer would leave dour Edinburgh and bleak Britain for good. Sail to the South Seas, to the Gilberts, to Tahiti, and finally to Samoa, where he is buried....Jim finishes his drink and watches the sky light up across the cove.  Stevenson dreamed it all before, Jim thinks. He sent Silver ahead to scout, to reconnoiter, to lead him in." 

"Lowering his foot, he stretches his toes against the rough, scratchy weave of the sun-bleached kilim rug.  Catches an unwelcome glimpse of the stump in the bureau mirror.  The ugly, blunt rounded shape of the thing.  Its grotesque pink hue.  Nestled against it, his uaroused penis curled in its nest of gray hair....Welcome to old age, the final decline. He's still got his mind, as far as he's aware.  He's not sure in what order he'd like to lose his other faculties: eyesight, hearing, bladder.  The inevitable slide.  His set of toes looks lost, unmatched, unsymmetrical.  His one thin leg unfit for the task of hopping."

A dark novel, rooted in the Solomon Islands, and exploring how guilt and regret pervade the present.   

 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Jeremy Hilton, a new poem

transfigured



lovers wreathed like mists
in a star-sharp night
speak of a lost togetherness
amid the surfeit of separation
the strobes of chaos thrown
from tower-blocks like long ghost shadows
in these last human years
of homeless doorways and diesel air

they will shine beyond
the world they vanish from
until the night cries back
for want of their warmth and whispers

and once they've flown
past all the orbits of satellites and moons
we will find they left behind them
a dance of fireflies over the frosted town


     (after Arnold Schoenberg and Niall Wilson)





---Jeremy Hilton, one of Britian's most senior poets, has published 12 collections of poetry, and for over 15 years he edited and published the journal FIRE, some issues of which are online @www.poetrymagazines.org.uk.  

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Tom Raworth, an early poem

On January 23, 2017, Tom posted the following on his blogsite: "Parts of it have been fun and it's been a decent run."

This short poem was the opening text to his exceptional little book, LION LION, (published in 1970 by Asa Benveniste's Trigram Press).


the happy hunters are coming back
eager to be captured, to have someone unravel the knot
but nobody can understand the writing
in the book they found in the lions' lair



(Tom Raworth, 1938 - 2017)