I admire Dart, but it raises a fluster of queries, like wintry rooks. This cultured young woman, from an educated middle class family, is busy trying to be unintellectual and Lawrentian, having read Homer in adolescence. She refers, in an interview with Mick Delap of Magma to

 

the amazingness of children’s minds before they learn to read. They have a completely Homeric way of living and that’s fascinating … I’m not able to become intellectual because I’m always cooking, sweeping, and I love that. I love to be caught up in the physicality of maintaining life […][1]

 

It’s a question of where she’s coming from, as people say. It’s the most bookish people (e.g. Pound) who perform anti-literary antics; but the values she takes for granted are threatened everywhere. Has she not looked around?  This is like Henri Cartier-Bresson, as left-wing as everyone else in his time (Spain, thirties), saying that the notion of the artist is “bourgeois crap”; yet he is saturated in every kind of art and it is this indeed that makes his achievement what it is.

 

The Joyce connection is noted by David Wheatley in the Guardian on July 13th 03. As with Joyce himself, the very frenzy of particularities and sensation bespeaks the dungeon of literature.

 

Oswald says

 

I don’t like what the Greek mind turned into. Once writing was involved it became too intellectual and fragmented, and I think that’s what I’ve always been concerned to get away from.

 

One should perhaps recognise that this is true for her, at least, in her artistic development, and is not supposed to be a general prescription.

 

I do not think an absorption with nature and the outdoor life in any way debars her from consideration as a poet of ontological themes, since nature and our place in it are one of the major religious preoccupations. As she says (in the same interview cited above), the Tithonus story

 

communicates to me exactly the relationship one has with the outdoor world. We’re human and we grow old, whereas the natural world replenishes itself all the time. It’s got the same relationship that gods and humans have with each other – always disconnected. We don’t quite understand their way of working […]

 

The question of form is more complex. She says:

 

It’s a form where the breaks are emotional rather than logical. It’s not measured out. I suppose each verse is like a paragraph. I’ve got a habit of avoiding conventional metre and looking out for more naturally shaped sounds. I like lines that go on and on, and they always call for a particular kind of line to follow on, so there’s a kind of organic setting of sounds.

 

But the ability to supply all the line-breaks, punctuation, suppressed conjunctions, ellipses and so on requires a high level of literary (anti-literary) sophistication in the reader, although, as she says, simplicity and the momentum of speech work towards accessibility.

 

30th December 03; revised 25th August 2004


[1] At http://www.magmapoetry.com/Magma26/oswaldPresiding.html. There is also a good – sometimes unintentionally amusing – interview with Oswald in Woman’s Hour which one can listen to at http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/womanshour/21_10_02/tuesday/info3.shtml.

Advertisements