“An artist is someone who should raise questions rather than give answers. I have no message.” (Michael Haneke)

Today is National Poetry Day in the UK and the theme is Messages. I fully endorse this choice, primarily because I didn’t have to think twice about which retro pop video I could shoehorn into this post:

Arguably any poem is a message, but I’m lazy don’t believe in shying away from the obvious so I’ve chosen two poems that are titled as messages. Nothing kills a poem like analysing it to death, hence not one of my typically waffling posts this week 🙂

Firstly, back to the 8th century and prolific poet Wang Wei (I’m not sure who translated the poem, but I took the version from here). I chose it because it also references autumn, which is apt right now for those of us in the northern hemisphere.

Message to P’ai Ti

Cold and blue now are the mountains
From autumn-rain that beat all day.
By my thatch door, leaning on my staff,
I listen to cicadas in the evening wind.
Sunset lingers at the ferry,
Cooking-smoke floats up from the houses…
Oh, when shall I pledge Cheih-yu [the great hermit] again
And sing a wild poem at Five Willows?

I love the simplicity of the poem, and how evocative it is of a slightly melancholic moment taken to reflect at the end of the day.

Secondly I chose Message by Dorothy Richardson, because it echoes Wang Wei as it also picks up on autumn, and ends with a question, this time to a silent interlocutor rather than the self. I also chose it because I’m really enjoying reading about Jane and Sarah’s experiences reading her Pilgrimage series, but I haven’t yet got round to these novels…

Seeing in flight along the lifting wind,
Like sudden birds peopling an empty sky,
Those last crisped leaves so long you had passed by –
Where dark they hung that had been fire behind
The pasture whose scant blossoms kept in mind
Our summer now grown gold for memory –
Did you remember as you saw them pass,
Flutter and sink, sully the silvered grass,
That each forsaken stem bears, fast asleep,
An eager bud to tell the tale of spring?
Will you forget, hearing darkness weep,
How each hour moves toward their awakening?

I liked how this poem concentrates on one action, a leaf in the air, and yet weaves a wide experience around it, structured in quite a complex way. The iambic pentameter (more or less, Richardson plays with rhythm a bit) echoes Shakespeare’s sonnets, which I just adore. The message of this poem is one I need to remember – I find the dark days of winter hard-going, so I will remind myself how each forsaken stem contains an eager spring bud in those seemingly never-ending grey days of January and February…

To counteract my comparative reticence in this post, some indulgence to finish. A second – yes, second! – 1979 pop video. Happy Thursday 🙂

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17 thoughts on ““An artist is someone who should raise questions rather than give answers. I have no message.” (Michael Haneke)

  1. What a wonderful post! I had a little seated bop to The Specials – always a pleasure – then had to read both poems aloud. The Dorothy Richardson poem got two readings in the end as it totally blew me away (like one of ‘those last crisped leaves’ 😉 ). I didn’t know she’d also written poetry, I’ll have to get hold of some, and I’ll be copying this one out and sticking it on the mirror, like a little literary candle, to help me through the dark winter months. (Oh, and ta for the linky!) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Okay, that’s my poetry for the year 😉 Joking… sort of… not joking. You see, I like what you chose and I enjoyed reading it but I would never read a whole book of poetry, or sift through lots and lots to find something I particularly like. I’m far too lazy. I think I’ll just stick with The Police.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the Specials! I used to find the imagery in their’s and other 70s videos and programs so depressing in the bright shininess of the late 80s, the grey Midlands and north and men in donkey jackets with big bide burns. Now I am drawn to it, which is probably how people probably once felt about looking back at Victorian squalor and workhouses. I’m still not going to watch ‘Kes’, though. That’s going too far.

    Liked by 2 people

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