The Living Photograph

I love this poem by Jackie Kay.  What other reason is needed for posting?

The Living Photograph

My small grandmother is tall there,
straight-back, white broderie anglaise shirt,
pleated skirt, flat shoes, grey bun,
a kind, old smile round her eyes.
Her big hand holds mine,
white hand in black hand.
Her sharp blue eyes look her own death in the eye.

It was true  after all; that look.
My tall grandmother became small.
Her back round and hunched.
Her soup forgot to boil.
She went to the awful place grandmothers go.
Somewhere unknown, unthinkable.

But there she is still,
in the photo with me at three,
the crinkled smile is still living, breathing.

Jackie Kay

BlogJackieKay

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I Am Not Your Negro

This documentary film is an essential meditation on matters of race and identity. Effectively using archive footage from James Baldwin’s appearances on television and in front of the Cambridge Union, the film covers the writer’s thoughts on civil rights and the treatment of black people by the powerful (mostly white) population.  Footage of events from more recent times is also used, making the all- too- depressing point that the same issues exist today.BlogIamNotYourNegro

Baldwin knew three prominent figures of the civil rights movement in the United States of America: Medgar Evers; Martin Luther King; and Malcolm X.  All three were murdered and the toll on the spirit of Baldwin is clear from the words spoken here.  Samuel L Jackson speaks lines from Baldwin’s writings, including a manuscript that was unfinished at the time of his death.

The footage of the family of Medgar Evers at his funeral is heartbreaking to watch.

James Baldwin fought battles on many fronts in his life.  The thing which is most impressive to me is his consistency of message.  Throughout it all, his sense of injustice has been clearly and calmly articulated.

The documentary was directed by Raoul Peck and was nominated for an academy award in America.

‘I Am Not Your Negro’ is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

The End of Eddy

This autobiographical novel is from young French novelist Edouard Louis.  It tells the hard hitting story of growing up as an outsider in poor circumstances in northern France.  Young Edouard knows he is different; the signs are in the reactions to him from everyone else.  Edouard is an effeminate ten year old boy when we first meet him.  His persona annoys his peer group and worries his parents.

His childhood is a story of learning that survival will depend heavily on regulating how he comes across.  What is surprising, and moving, is that the boy does not blame others for their reactions to him.  He accepts as normal that his manner and his attitudes (and later his sexuality) place him very low on life’s hierarchy.  At the top are the physically tough, his father and cousins among them.  These are the men who dominate his village. Hard physical jobs just to survive turn out tough, physical men whose attitudes to, and treatment of, women are shocking.  Their view of effeminate boys is equally as clear cut.

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There is a sense of triumph to the book, if only because the relating of the childhood experiences suggest survival, if nothing else.  Escape to the city must have provided the author with a second act where he was validated. How else would he have written a book that despite its grim subject is written with such beauty?

‘The End of Eddy’ is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

That Love Is All There Is

This poem by Emily Dickinson reminds me of those days in English lessons as a teenager reading things that did not speak to my condition, only to lodge in my brain and come back to me at a time (and an age) when I made sense of it.

That Love Is All There Is

That Love is all there is,
Is all we know of Love;
It is enough, the freight should be
Proportioned to the groove.

Emily Dickinson

BlogEDickinson

Meeting Point

This poem by Louis MacNeice is worth returning to.  I love the way the first line is also used as the final line for each stanza.  The poem reminds us that life is made up of moments, some of which seem to make time irrelevant.

Meeting Point

Time was away and somewhere else,
There were two glasses and two chairs
And two people with the one pulse
(Somebody stopped the moving stairs)
Time was away and somewhere else.

And they were neither up nor down;
The stream’s music did not stop
Flowing through heather, limpid brown,
Although they sat in a coffee shop
And they were neither up nor down.

The bell was silent in the air
Holding its inverted poise –
Between the clang and clang a flower,
A brazen calyx of no noise:
The bell was silent in the air.

The camels crossed the miles of sand
That stretched around the cups and plates;
The desert was their own, they planned
To portion out the stars and dates:
The camels crossed the miles of sand.

Time was away and somewhere else.
The waiter did not come, the clock
Forgot them and the radio waltz
Came out like water from a rock:
Time was away and somewhere else.

Her fingers flicked away the ash
That bloomed again in tropic trees:
Not caring if the markets crash
When they had forests such as these,
Her fingers flicked away the ash.

God or whatever means the Good
Be praised that time can stop like this,
That what the heart has understood
Can verify in the body’s peace
God or whatever means the Good.

Time was away and she was here
And life no longer what it was,
The bell was silent in the air
And all the room one glow because
Time was away and she was here.

Louis MacNeice

BlogLouisMacNeice

Batman

Reading about the recent death of Adam West who played the Batman of my childhood made me reflect on the fact that the images of our formative years remain with us, despite later re-boots. Therefore, whenever anyone mentions Batman it is the image of the television series from the mid- 60s that comes to mind.

I was of an age that took these things very seriously so I did not, at the time, recognise any of the features that were later described as ‘camp’.  I did not realise that the series was from another country, they spoke English after all.  To me, it was all worth my attention and belief.  I identified more with Robin than Batman, possibly because he was younger and I was a child.

I gave all the later films a miss.  I grew away from Batman and superheroes generally but the truth is that the mid-60s television version remained with me and, when I heard the sad news about Adam West, there were all the images and references from childhood just waiting to return.  Batman, Robin, the Joker, the Riddler and the Penguin were all there (but in black and white- this was British television, 60s style!)

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Sailing to Byzantium

Here is a poem from Yeats to remind us all that we are getting older.bLOGYeats

Sailing to Byzantium

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon‐falls, the mackerel‐crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing‐masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

W B Yeats

This poem is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?