Monday 14 January 2013

'Like an extra heartbeat...'

Oddly, Wendy Cope's Heaven On Earth anthology (see below, Not Writing White) doesn't include anything by Kenneth Koch, whose every poem radiates happiness - but two of his 'New York school' fellows are featured. Frank O'Hara is represented by the cheerily exultant Autobiographia Literaria, moving deftly from parodic lament to parodic self-congratulation - 

When I was a child
I played by myself in a
corner of the schoolyard
all alone.
I hated dolls and I
hated games, animals were
not friendly and birds
flew away.
If anyone was looking
for me I hid behind a
tree and cried out "I am
an orphan."
And here I am, the
center of all beauty!
writing these poems!
And then there's this one, by James Schuyler, celebrating a particular mingling of the sounds of rain and music on a particular day in a small apartment in New York City - 'all this beauty' suddenly together -
Faure Second Piano Quartet
On a day like this the rain comes
down in fat and random drops among
the ailanthus leaves—”the tree
of Heaven”—the leaves that on moon-
lit nights shimmer black and blade-
shaped at this third-floor window.
And there are bunches of small green
Knobs, buds, crowded together. The
rapid music fills in the spaces of
the leaves. And the piano comes in,
like an extra heartbeat, dangerous
and lovely. Slower now, less like
the leaves, more like the rain which
almost isn’t rain, more like thawed-
out hail. All this beauty in the
mess of this small apartment on
West Twentieth in Chelsea, New York.
Slowly the notes pour out, slowly,
more slowly still, fat rain falls.
This is the music Schuyler had in mind, and rather lovely it is...
(As ever, please excuse lack of accents.)

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