My hometown of Lewes in the UK can look grey on a rainy day. This is the view, this morning, from one of my windows. Depressing you might think – wet slate roofs, grey sky, shiny tar-macadam roads, damp brickwork – but I like it. Lewes has a stoic dignity on such days.
The back of the house has a livelier feel – gathering puddles, wet leaves, soggy fallen rose petals and saturated colours on autumn flowers and fruits.
Whenever I see a puddle I want to splash around in it even if I should’ve learnt to stop such childish behaviour a long time ago. I have always liked rain as long as it doesn’t outstay its welcome.
At this time of year when there is still so much colour in the garden, a good soaking of rain brings a sheen like a coat of French polish to even that most melancholy of sights, discarded rose petals and apples, especially my bright red ones, look positively seductive with their rainy varnish.
Tempting though it is to go out there and get thoroughly wet, I shall stay indoors as I have a lot of writing to do and I also have to catch up on the inspirational (and free) online Coursera.com 10-week course that I’m doing with the University of Pennsylvania – Modern and Contemporary American Poetry. https://www.coursera.org/course/modernpoetry Now a rainy day is perfect if you need to sit comfortably indoors reading poetry. In the UK, it is National Poetry Day, so how appropriate to sit here reading modern American poetry – well, you know what I mean., there’s more to poetry than John Betjeman and William Wordsworth, love them though I do.
This absorbing and challenging course is helping me to close-read all those poems that I used to pass over thinking what the **** is that all about. This week, we’re doing that most obscure of writers, Gertrude Stein (1874 -1946), short prose like paragraphs that only gradually reveal themselves as poetry. This is single line with a title is Water Raining:
by Gertrude Stein
Water astonishing and difficult altogether makes a meadow and a stroke.
That’s it, folks! Linger with these words for a while if you have the time and, maybe, think of an Impressionist painting. I never thought I’d like Gertrude Stein but, hey, I do now.
Last week we were studying some poems by William Carlos Williams (1883 -1963) including this one, The Red Wheelbarrow (1923), from his ‘Imagist’ period – appropriate too on this pleasantly rainy day. To me, at first, it just read like a rather average sentence about a blogger’s garden (see above) until I was forced to sit and read each word and grouping of words with an analytical and open mind as well as more than a bit of patience. Much cleverer people than me have been arguing over this little poem in the 90 years since it was published. Already, not quite half-way through this course, I can hear these uncompromisingly revolutionary writers telling me to cut the crap, to take out all those unnecessary words when I, in my foolishness, try to write my own poetry. I suspect that I will now always see William Carlos Williams’ red wheelbarrow on a wet day like today.
The Red Wheelbarrow
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
I’m getting ready for the imminent publication (31st October 2013) of my first novel, Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love, the story of a young fogey living in Brighton in 1967 who has a lot to learn when the flowering hippie counter culture changes him and the world around him.