Anthony Howell: 3 poems

  Anthony Howell

  3 poems:

  Annulling the Contract
  It is not so much through
    a Fertility of Invention

It is always the same window, one out of which they have climbed

Into the garden; leaving the house to its dreams at the fringes of sleep:

Out of it by the back stairs or in by my half of the bedroom;

Always the same low window in a corner of that parlour into which

And out of which they have climbed in bare feet in the moonlight.

Water their dreams in the back of the parlour with its low window

Opening onto that wing of the garden which has the forest branches hanging over it.

That aria in the parlour which is climbing up and up to the bedroom

By the window then opening so freshly onto that sleep into which they glide,

Is climbing in through a low window and then up the back stairs

To the door of the guest bedroom or to that of the Moorish bedroom

Next to it. The window-sill is merely a ‘has been’ following the secluded smells

With the same edge of that water which Boy and then Igor, Burhardt, Rudi and Eric

All pronounce bare to the moonlight. The back door of the garden

The guest so obscured is through the next window up the stairs.

Jenny and Arja — all pronounce it ‘Aria’ — wash their

feet in the house, or wash my feet

In the parlour opening onto that secluded corner half obscured

By a rhododendron. Always the same back window climbed. Always,

Always the same low pair of branches out of which they wing,

To glide up the stairs and into the forest. Burhardt is bare and, boy, they

Are in through that window, getting their legs over Arja and Jeanne;

Rudi is hanging over the stairs next to the Moorish ghost which hides in the wall.

The lawn slopes up to the edge of the low brickwork where the window

Is always the same; the opening, out of which they have climbed onto the fringes

Of kilims where the lawn slopes up to it, a window into and

Out of which they have climbed, Giacomo and Jeanne, getting

Their legs over the sill, or following a ghost which is merely a pair

Of split pantaloons up the back stairs to the guest bedroom which has been

Freshly decorated or to the Moorish one next door where the walls are hung

With kilims, one of which hides the door to the bedroom. Which? The one

Next door. Then it is Igor and Eric, at wing in the moonlight, is bare brickwork

Which has feet in it, low in the wall where the walls of the house are hung

With decorated Moorish pantaloons, and into the garden next door

To the window Jenny and Giacomo climbed through — or they split a guest in.

  Annulling the Contract

Originally the genitals of Pegasus provided a moisturiser
That eased the infinite present into a finite self.
But everything is peripheral now: potentates and pop-stars,
The lover who rejects you, able to provoke heart-attacks
And erect road-blocks as the bride returns to France.
I don’t think you’re for me, thank you.

The chance number sentences what relates to expression
To the hold. Force a disappearing art to love anything disarmed.
Watching generates an underlying number and is all together
As you’re never to agree – for the lover eased is in mind.

And when you say ’agree to anything’,
What specifically do you have in mind for
A woman to agree to? A dice-throw
Never abolishes chance. Good macroscopic form always
Depends on microscopic processes.
The disappearing number is what ‘relates to my body,’

But I don’t think you provided moisturiser for me.
The trial of Phryne is a microscopic dice-throw
While the heart-attacks at road-blocks always
Have thank you in mind. Avoidance of what you do
Is good form. Originally into the self,
Pop-stars The Who erect a clock in my body.

The irrational number generates an expression
Underlying art while I put together all is sentences.
Delusion or avoidance is the final force in France,
And love disarmed is watching the clock at the trial of Phryne.

The woman now abolishes the final present
That put able potentates on Pegasus specifically.
A macroscopic infinite is peripheral, I hold,
And when you say ‘agree to provoke delusion’ or
‘The bride rejects the genitals,’ everything
Returns to irrational finite processes. Depends.

  It is not so much through a Fertility of Invention

‘It is not so much through a fertility of invention

that we occasionally
find expedients, as through a poverty of judgement,
which makes us listen to everything
that imagination presents
and hinders us from discerning what is best.’

Imagination makes such a monstrosity of the poet,

who’s as inexorably
moved by ecstasy as by aromas of a blood-bath;
yet pilots whisper of fishermen,
and of barbed harpoons to the shark
— thus Hermes guided the singer out of Hell.

We create more fuss when an entablature of commandments

from some authority
calls for penalties, than when the evidence uncovered
directs a question at remedies
which our situation prefers
and shows us how some deception furnished hate.

Illumination fades with a diversity of enchantments

that will invariably
end as flickerings—until obscurity is total:
the darkness mingles the mountainside
with accumulations of cloud,
and underneath this tarpaulin where’s our tent?

What denies the drought is this entirety of the language

that so continually
spreads its influence, and some propensity for listening
which brought the forest to meditate
where sands would blaze in the sun,
and kept the lamb by the lion’s side unharmed.

Annulling the Contract and Rhododendron work with the notion of a limited vocabulary; the constraint being that every word in the poem has to be used twice, or an even number of times. Thus ‘Pegasus’ might appear twice while the definite article might appear four times. A word cannot be used an odd number of times. There is never ‘a remainder’.

A poem or a text using this process I have named a Statheron — derived from the Greek word for stability. It can have many shapes, being a process rather than a form.

I have worked with limited vocabularies for many years, sometimes in texts where each and every word in a paragraph has to be employed in another paragraph. The process is then repeated for several more paragraphs.

Another strategy has been to work with palimpsests — this was in the days when Tippex was essential to corrections! A sentence could be replaced by other words which exactly mirrored the rhythm of that sentence, thus a second (third, fourth or fifth) sentence could be ‘overlaid’ on the initial one, engendering new meanings. This method generated Orpheus and Hermes, a book length poem derived from an original root of some thirty-six sentences. It is not so much through a Fertility of Invention is a lyric from this work. Each verse is a sentence scanning in its entirety with the first sentence (which happens to be a maxim by La Rochefoucauld)

 — Anthony Howell


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