[ilds] DG Bitter Lemons -- A WATER-COLOUR OF VENICE

Pamela Francis albigensian at hotmail.com
Fri Jul 6 15:06:15 PDT 2007

I will be willing to back Charles' claim--and I hope others will take the 
time to explore LD's poetry in more detail.  I also hope that we have a few 
sessions--ok, at least one, on the poetry at the next OMG.  My personal fav 
from this era is Sarajevo, and my as yet unwritten book on English writers 
in the Balkans will be title "a peace harmless with nightingales."  I just 
love that image.  I'm also fond of "Episode", apparently originally titled 

But I always wonder, why doesn't anyone read/teach his poetry anymore?  Is 
it overshadowed by LD's fame as a novelist?  Or is it a reflection of a 
general lack of interest in English poetry in mid-century (other 
poet/novelists have suffered the same fate: Robert Graves, Graham 
Greene--yes, Greene wrote poetry--, etc.)  The Norton's entries for the era 
are all decidedly poets--Auden, Dylan Thomas, Philip Larkin.  Do we 
necessarily think of a writer as one or the other (poet or novelist) but 
never both?  Is this sort of ambidexterity seen as sign of inferior talent, 
or maybe wishy-washiness?  In any case, it's a shame, b/c I find LD's poetry 
much more visual than even the Quartet.  In the novels, the characters are 
the thing--in the poetry, the word's the thing.  From "Lesbos":

The Pleiades are sinking calm as paint
And earth's huge camber follows out
Turning in sleep, the oceanic curve,

Defined in concave like a human eye
Or cheek pressed warm on the dark's cheek,
Like dancers to a music they deserve...

I hope that everyone will pick up their Collected Poems and spend an 
afternoon with it. If you've never done this before, it will be like the 
first time you read the first few pages of Justine; if you're familiar with 
the poetry, it will be like the visit of an old friend, celebrated with a 
bottle of the local vintage...

>From: Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
>Reply-To: Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>, ilds at lists.uvic.ca
>To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
>Subject: Re: [ilds] DG Bitter Lemons -- A WATER-COLOUR OF VENICE
>Date: Fri, 6 Jul 2007 13:40:14 -0700 (GMT-07:00)
>Charles, perhaps you could expand on that claim.
>-----Original Message-----
> >From: slighcl <slighcl at wfu.edu>
> >Sent: Jul 5, 2007 8:14 PM
> >To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> >Subject: Re: [ilds] DG Bitter Lemons -- A WATER-COLOUR OF VENICE
> >
> >Has anyone ever put forward a claim that Durrell's poetry from the
> >1950s--/The Tree of Idleness/ &c.--is his strongest verse?
> >
> >***
> >
> >            Durrell, Lawrence:  A WATER-COLOUR OF VENICE [from Collected
> >            Poems: 1931-1974 (1985), Faber and Faber]
> >
> >            Zarian was saying: Florence is youth,
> >            And after it Ravenna, age,
> >            Then Venice, second-childhood.
> >
> >            The pools of burning stone where time
> >            And water, the old siege-masters,
> >            Have run their saps beneath
> >            A thousand saddle-bridges,
> >            Puffed up by marble griffins drinking,
> >
> >            [Page 214 ]
> >
> >            And all set free to float on loops
> >            Of her canals like great intestines
> >            Now snapped off like a berg to float,
> >            Where now, like others, you have come alone,
> >            To trap your sunset in a yellow glass,
> >            And watch the silversmith at work
> >            Chasing the famous salver of the bay ...
> >
> >            Here sense dissolves, combines to print only
> >            These bitten choirs of stone on water,
> >            To the rumble of old cloth bells,
> >            The cadging of confetti pigeons,
> >            A boatman singing from his long black coffin ...
> >
> >            To all that has been said before
> >            You can add nothing, only that here,
> >            Thick as a brushstroke sleep has laid
> >            Its fleecy unconcern on every visage,
> >
> >            At the bottom of every soul a spoonful of sleep.
> >
> >            1955/1950
> >
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