Thursday, December 26, 2013

Perspective, Part Twelve: Distance

Today, I've had two poems circling around each other.  I've been doing my best not to pin them down.  I have no desire to concoct an "explanation" for why they have appeared beside one another.  However, at one point a single word floated up:  distance.  And then I told myself to stop thinking.

Eric Hesketh Hubbard (1892-1957), "The Cuckmere Valley, East Sussex"

          Tinker's Wife

I saw her amid the dunghill debris
Looking for things
Such as an old pair of shoes or gaiters.
She was a young woman,
A tinker's wife.
Her face had streaks of care
Like wires across it,
But she was supple
As a young goat
On a windy hill.

She searched on the dunghill debris,
Tripping gingerly
Over tin canisters
And sharp-broken
Dinner plates.

Patrick Kavanagh, Ploughman and Other Poems (1936).

Anne Isabella Brooke, "Wharfedale from above Bolton Abbey" (1954)

     The grasses of the garden,
They fall,
     And lie as they fall.

Ryokan (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 4: Autumn-Winter (Hokuseido Press 1952), page 366.

I have no idea what distance has to do with any of this.  And I don't want to seem coy or pretentious by bringing it up.  I'm not harboring any secrets. I'm merely reporting what happened.

Bertram Priestman, "Kilnsey Crag, Wharfedale, Yorkshire" (1929)


Bovey Belle said...

I think perhaps the distance is in the perspective of the writer Mr Pentz?

I was pleased to see the Haiku, as having discovered in the past week that Edward Thomas had more than a passing knowledge of Japanese poetry from his work as a reviewer, I begin to see his own work in a totally different light (thank you Judy Kendall, although I need a dictionary to understand your writing!) With Japanese poetry, as I understand it, it is pruned to the essential, and it is what is left out which is as important as what remains? Have I understood that correctly?

However, I digress. The Kavanagh poem is a beautiful observation of those for whom life's necessities must be discovered in a less traditional habitat! "Her face had streaks of care" sums it up beautifully. A hard life. We used to have gypsies begging at the door for cast-offs, and trying to sell things they had made, so I can understand the perspective of this piece.

Beautiful paintings, as ever.

Brian said...

When it comes, the Landscape listens--

Shadows--hold their breath--

When it goes, 'tis like the Distance

On the look of Death--

Stephen Pentz said...

Bovey Belle: I haven't read Kendall's book yet, but I hope to, especially since you mention that she discusses ET and Japanese poetry. I seem to recall you and I talking about "the hundred last leaves stream upon the willow." In a letter to Eleanor Farjeon, he says this of the line: "I am only fearing it has a sort of Japanesy suddenness of ending." Hence, I suspected he had some knowledge of Japanese poetry, but now I want to find out more.

Yes, your description of Japanese poetry is a good one. I would only add that what you say is true of Japanese art and culture as a whole, with haiku being just one manifestation of this centuries-old aesthetic, which is in turn influenced by even older Chinese, Buddhist, and, to some extent, Taoist influences.

As for "distance": yes, I see what you mean.

Thank you for the thoughts.

Stephen Pentz said...

Brian: thank you very much for the Dickinson, which sounds about right -- that "certain Slant of light" she writes of, with its "Distance", is the sort of feeling that fits well with the poems, I think.

Thanks again.