Offering a variety of explorations into different worlds, real and imaginary, beautiful and barbaric, this poetry compilation attempts to illuminate some of life’s difficult puzzles. A journey through a series of vivid encounters—ranging from fireflies outside a Gascony farmhouse and John Wayne sailing a converted minesweeper to a bull terrier listening to a CD and the poet standing atop Table Mountain with his granddaughter—this collection probes and celebrates traditional affinities between memory and language, time and loss. In its closing poem, this book suggests that it is the imagination that can best turn darkness inside out.
|Publisher:||Carcanet Press, Limited|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.40(d)|
About the Author
Rodney Pybus is a former newspaper journalist; a former television writer and producer; and a former creative writing, literature, and media university lecturer. He is the author of Cicades in their Summers and Flying Blues and the recipient of awards from the Arts Council England and the Society of Authors, and a winner of the Peterloo International Poetry Competition.
Read an Excerpt
Darkness Inside Out
By Rodney Pybus
Carcanet Press LtdCopyright © 2013 Rodney Pybus
All rights reserved.
Leaves from Each Tree
The earth was small, light blue and so touchingly
alone ... our home that must be defended like a
Aleksei Leonov (Russian cosmonaut)
They'll take your ashes if you have the cash,
Capsuled and hammocked somewhere between death
And immortality ... for a few years only.
Some trip, precious! – nearly five thousand dollars
For a teaspoonful to be swept up at five miles a second
Aboard the latest shiny, shiny Pegasus.
This is a very dear suspension of dust and
Disbelief: just seven grammes of your old self
Circling our poor relic marble every ninety minutes.
This pinch of powder, this soupçon of you-ness,
Like the desiccated scurf of the original spurt
That started your smidgen of history ticking,
Will have to come back down again,
Flaring and smoking, all the way down again.
You can't cheat the snap of oblivion's jaws.
Littering space with gizmos and garbage
Has no more hope than trying to write names
On stone or bronze or water.
Cruising the whirled beauty of our planet's
All very well, but what's the point if you can't see
The brown foot of Arabia or the speedwell
Blue of the seas? The cloud-swirls like
Uncooked pavlova draped from Cape to Cape?
What's the point if there's no fun or feeling? No wonder?
The corporate deals of Celestial Burial Services
Playing half-speed Puck with my bone-dust
And brain-ash are no miracle – what I'd want's to see
From up there the million places one life's too brief for,
To play my own games with time and space,
Like wondering if that little town by the coast
Of Argentina, down there, across the Plate
From Montevideo, might have a brightening pool
Of inland water near ... I'd like to mix up maps and names
And multiply the shades of Veronica Lake
(And a fresh Blue Dahlia?), then I'd zoom out like
A satellite camera or, better still, like
The imagination, and try to find her face below,
Emblazoned on a handkerchief of cloud
Stretching to the Andes, framing her there ...
And she's staring up at me, Constance, peekaboo.
These varieties of ignorance, like the levels
of the manifold earth, pose more questions than you
or I could shake a stick at – the man from Mull
buried at Bamburgh after the Romans left,
vowel changes in Caucasian dialects or the incidence
of spoonbills in eastern England ... and to think
that till yesterday I knew nothing or little
of the provinces of Euskara, three in France,
four in Spain, a hybrid region of allegation
and discontent, with all the houses spruced up
in the same colours in village after village,
snow-white, dark forest, and drying blood.
We've heard the claim of Basque to be older than
all our European tongues and no relation,
but I knew nothing of its sounding like rapid fire,
the Rs and Ks and Xs doubling up, clattering, whooshing,
crackling like old maxims, and I didn't know how green
were the foothills of their western Pyrenees inland
south-east from Baiona, rising forests of pine
and surprising oak, mists wafting through
like pulled gauze over concealed valleys
and inscrutable paths that led, seemingly,
from one country to another – which is an insult
as deep as soil or syntax to those who belong
to these Basque lands. And I did not know that,
over these rich fields and stone outcrops
that could easily have been another border long ago troubled
by blood and reivers, I could expect to see vultures
circling unconcerned by this side or that
of a borderline unmarked by tree or stone or water.
Quartet for the Lion
i.m. Leos Janácek 1854–1928
Even the greatest beauty of tone feels cold if
the artist has not the strength to break it –
or if not to break it, to boil over – even if
not dying, to burn – even if not to burn, to
hurry – even if not to hurry, to exaggerate.
'The sea, the earth', Hukvaldy, 10 June 1926
(trans. Vilem & Margaret Tausky)
(i) Leaves from each tree
Art's no soft touch. They are the disciplines
of his own fire, these days
he thrashes the ivories
till the brightness stops him,
finger-ends dripping as if
above the mouth of a broken fighter.
Yet how he can make silence fall too:
the leaves from each tree
to the ground.
Everything he knows has a voice, and through
such windows as tone makes clear
he plays an inspector of souls:
not just the women snatched from gossip on a tram
but the robin on the fence-post,
the cry of a vixen disappearing
into the wood, one of his hens saying goodnight
from the garden table.
He cups his smiling hands
round every drop of sound: makes light of contradictions
as, after all, fluid with possibility.
Every breaking of silence he counts
as a lovely shock to his ear, brief patterns of fissure
he will make inventions from,
and down whatever discordant path
his notes give voice back to the world,
he finds phrases so intimate sometimes
in their soft hammering that they can
draw out, then shake loose a poised
And his tunes cut like wire.
(ii) Olga and the others
Just a few notes at a time,
she never spoke for long.
His daughter's voice, even in her teens,
always took the composer by surprise.
Her low voice, shy.
But memory scribbled enough
for an adagio later
for Olga, the fresh flowers on her grave,
and an overgrown path
in the woods near Hukvaldy.
Those pale notes now
are like seeds from the grass brought down
by the passing blade,
and seeding, year over year,
their lovely selves.
(iii) Not symphoniously, but the Kreutzer
There are none so deaf ...
as those blinded by the flashbulbs.
Out of sight and earshot
he waits, not biding his years, teaching
not for a talent's faute de mieux
pupils with straw in their heads.
The confident hair of his youth goes white.
Some filch their sounds
from where they're told heaven lies,
their fame levitating
on the puffs of the crowd's applause,
crying Holy, holy, holy
our marvellously abstract art!
He makes the swirling world
his own, not so much in the dancing place
of instruments, not symphoniously,
but with the voice, the raw song
and a human hand scrubbing, impassioned,
at a string.
He makes of love an off-beat, a guttural sentence
in a dialect as gentle as butter, and a snatch
of bird-call hard to bear.
At dusk he sits under the rustle
of the trees' approval. And even this
he could annotate,
looking into the world, tuning it,
remembering how it begins: 'It is early spring
and the second day of our journey ...'
(iv) Madam, the source
Is it a path or a stream? I love these lime trees,
the flowers blown and falling
that will need sweeping, and the leaves, later.
We can sit for hours, too easily, surrounded by good ideas
going brown. Is it a path or a stream?
Madam, when in 1917 I saw your tears,
your child in your arms, your husband away
to war ... It must always come from life, he said,
refusing a ride back home on the tram, all its Brno names
rattling away in German.
The notes don't just sit down on the keys!
Madam, these letters of mine, these small black notes ...
Tunes that hit like water. I too need a town with a river
through it like a throat, and the voices rushing,
sawing back and forth, bows on the strings. Intimate life.
He was right, the old maestro, ready to climb the path
up through the forest, to put his palm to the trickle
where the river starts: it is so slight but gathering,
like a child pulling a wooden cart over cobbles,
like the song of the goldfinch which breaks every day
through the bars of her owner's cage, like your voice
through its tears, the shout in the street
before the bullets and the bloody fighting.
It all begins in life: he showed me
how a cadence of love, of pain, speaks and dies;
how strongly its memory rivers into song.
Speaking of Angels
I don't believe in angels
(even when I can see them lined up more than fifty feet
above my head
back to back in pairs as if uncertain about what's to be or not)
I'm quite impervious
to the pale curtains they wear for dresses, their gold-plate
haloes and curls
and bedtime-story wings like quattrocento Disney
supposed to make you
trust the status of their prequels and special announcements
The ones above me now
I can see by the clerestory's falling light were once spangled
in red and green and silver –
so high up they escaped Cromwell's lads on the rampage in 1644
and I will admit to
their faded wooden charms ... but the kind of inspired uttering
I can take more happily
on trust comes from the crafty player of a baryton
that's like a rare enhanced viol
a cello look-alike with secret strings whose plucked notes as well as bowed
tell me something
more persuasive, not to say heavenly, from their steel and gut –
that what's most sublime
is what's most human, soaring right up to the startled angels
their wings outstretched like transfixed fliers
hawk moths or some other casual migrants)
as if unable to resist
this awkward truth, but still gaping in disbelief
(at Blythburgh Church, Suffolk)
Cob and Pen
for Ken Smith and Judi Benson, May 2003
The pen is back after
An absence of days.
Brooding, shuffling, settling ...
We should be so lucky.
You know the feeling
And so do I, though they,
Cob and pen, know what
Will come, as we do not
Who write stuff, I tell myself,
Walking the dogs past
Each day her island nest,
Reed-throne like a green
And tidy platter. More words
That once someone like me
Would have cut a quill
From one like her, to make sense of.
(Even now, on the screen, I can
Tap out into visibility
'Quill' and 'pen' as if
To conjure a flight-feather,
Trimmed and pertinent with ink,
That might scratch 'Havana
And back', or in your case
'Hell and back' – you
With your grand pen.)
The cob stands up high
In fast-running water
And flaps his great sheets
At me, with a hissing loud
Enough to put frighteners
On a bull-terrier called Poppy.
Brave cob, look after her,
This year, next year, and on –
Your precious pen, and neither
Properly mute, nor will be.
So, without any of the old bird/
Word games, back to work
In almost too-green meadows
Where this early-summer morning
I'd like to fetch you (still penned in,
Still indoors, isolated
With the light behind you) some
Canny ideas that come in drifts
Like earthy constellations
Of buttercups ... and above,
Swifts wheel and hurtle past,
Black minute-birds that stop
For none of us. But for
Your return, your re-entry into
The no longer trite 'land of the living'
I wish you both, pen and cob,
A song-thrush on the shed roof,
All spotty with tune.
i.m. Ken Smith (1938–2003)
Excerpted from Darkness Inside Out by Rodney Pybus. Copyright © 2013 Rodney Pybus. Excerpted by permission of Carcanet Press Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Leaves from Each Tree,
Quartet for the Lion,
Speaking of Angels,
Cob and Pen,
Chanteloube and the Pleasures of the Text,
Three Hoopoes in a Drawer,
The Man from Elsewhere,
Bridling at Birdsong,
'Our Friends in the North',
That Other Martinet,
October Flowers in Prague,
Like Voluptuous Birds,
Reading the Air at Southwold,
Down on the Cape,
View from the Table Top,
Economics at 100 Tennyson Street,
Outside the Café Mozart,
Just So Long (As),
No End of a Lesson,
Back to the Future,
'Anything Is Beautiful If You Say It Is',
Straight, No Chaser,
Last Reel at the Essoldo,
New Designs from the Autumn Catalogue,
The Peppered Moth, Among Other Things,
Six in Sepia,
A Fig of Consequence,
Darkness Inside Out,
S'quim & Stuff,
Still a Way from Good Hope,
About the Author,
Also by Rodney Pybus from Carcanet Press,
What People are Saying About This
"So pure and sinuous and all of a piece. . . . . Wonderfully graceful . . . words that seem natural and moving at the mind’s speed—like improvisation, but everything spot on." —Ted Hughes, poet, Birthday Letters