Saturday, 8 May 2010

One for the Poetry Bus

Driven this week by The Scaldervillage Voice. This week's trip took me to a church in New Zealand. It's a short one:

Empty Church

do the cars
driving past
in the street
make a sound
that echoes round
the white walls
even if
there's no-one there
to hear it?


I was looking through Philip Larkin's Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse this morning and came across this poem by DH Lawrence. I've never really liked Lawrence's poetry: for a start, I associate it with school, in a bad way. I seem to remember desperately trying to keep my eyes open on warm afternoons, trying to take in animal poems out of a scruffy, ink-stained book. I find his zest for life slightly disturbing, too, for reasons I can't really put my finger on. But this morning this poem made a deep impression on me, probably because we're looking after an injured cat. OK, so the cat is domesticated, not wild, but I think I now not only know but have directly experienced exactly what Lawrence is getting at. In the past I'd have not paid this much attention. Perhaps I should've:

Self Pity
by DH Lawrence

I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.


Rachel Fox said...

We studied a lot of Lawrence prose in secondary school. It was good for successful essays (lots of easy stuff to write about) but I've never enjoyed it much since. This has kept me away from his poetry too to a large extent.

Argent said...

Loving the koan-like poem there Dominic. The little grush stroke "white walls", nice!. DH's aminal poems are excellent but I hated studying The Raindow at A-Level, really, really not for me.

Sorlil said...

Your poem made me smile. Luckily for me I never studied Lawrence at school, I really like his poetry but as for Heaney's The Tollund Man...

Karen said...

I like your question, although I guess the answer depends on what you believe about church to begin with. I've always liked Lawerence and remember this one struck me as true.

A Cuban In London said...

That was a great poem. I lvoe the inquisitiveness and curiosity in the piece. It rang so many bells with me.

Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

P Nolan said...

New Zen-land :-)

Titus said...

It's one spooky ride this week! We were discussing this very thing around the dinner table last night, and have a small diagram of waveforms (generically titled "Mummy's Doodles" by the boys) sat at my side right now.
I like this Dominic, and I'm going to print it off I like it so much.

I'm also trailing around and making bizarre movie references this week. In one of my favourite bubblegum films, "G.I. Jane", the Viggo Mortensen character ("Yes Sir Master Chief, Sir") walks around quoting the Lawrence poem endlessly whilst subjecting the potential SEAL recruits to various circles of hell.

the watercats said...

nice poem... there's something about empty churches!... they un-nerve me.. as for the d.h thingy poem... I'm seriously liking that! humans always think too much.. but then... how come we presume other creatures don't pity themselves? we always like to think nature is better than us in some ways... the reality is.. we are it and it is us.. no?... maybe?... (I'm tired now)

John Hayes said...

I love your empty church poem! Not a Lawrence fan.

Anonymous said...

Really like your poem there, nice twist on the idea. And i love the DH Lawrence poem, quoted it myself on my other blog a little while ago. Isn't it a damning indictment of our school system that it so thoroughly turns young people off reading poetry:-(
thanks for sharing

The Bug said...

There's nothing quite like an empty church to inspire either comfort or terror (depending on how bad I've been)... Excellent poem.

Jeanne Iris said...

I believe you have the same photo as me. Church of St. Stephen the Martyr in Opotiki, New Zealand?

Also interesting is that in my short story introduction, I, too, mention the sound of wheels racing outside the chapel.

Wonderful perspective, Dominic!

NanU said...

Nice one, Dominic.
I often wonder similar things about churches.

Frances said...

I remember this being quoted in a film (GI Jane - the one with Demi Moore) and I never knew its origins until today. Thanks for this.

Pure Fiction said...

I much prefer your poem to Lawrence's - wasn't there some philosopher who argued that if no-one was there to witness an event then technically it hadn't happened (or something like that . . . hmmmmm)
Anyway, I love the way the lines echo and play off each other in this.

Dominic Rivron said...

RF: Yes, and I think the poetry has the advantage for school that it's easyish to imitate.

Argent: Ihave enjoyed reading some of his short stories, but not his novels.

Sorlil: I like Heaney's bog people poems: I'd read PV Glob's Bog People book before I read them.

Karen: Perhaps. There is that implication, I suppose, is God there to hear it?

A Cuban in London: Thanks. I'm pleased you like it.

P Nolan: Mu. :)

Titus: Great! Thanks for letting me know.

the watercats: Good point! It's something I've often thought about. We like forests and try to escape from cities - but surely cities aren't any less natural than beaver dams and anthills?

John Hayes: Pleased you like it.

crazyfieldmouse: Doing it at school turned me off Lawrence's poetry, but when I'm working I think I see more inspiration going on in schools, than turning-off.
It's right for us to concerned about how the arts are sold to children but there are lots of good things going on!

The Bug: Thanks. Pleased you like it!

Jeanne Iris: A different church: Holy Trinity Church, Greymouth, NZ. There must be someone out there photographing New Zealand churches!

Can't beat a bit of blog synchronicity.

NanU: I always feel odd in empty buildings.

Frances: You're back! I've not seen the film. I didn't know it was well-known.

Pure Fiction: Thanks for saying so! I seem to remember that someone refused to let Bishop Berkeley into his house for dinner because he couldn't prove he was on the other side of the door or something like that.

Poetikat said...

Some of my most confused early days in university were spent wading through, "Women in Love". I only know one of D.H.L's poems and that is "The Snake". I remember it from an anthology my dad owned called "New Horizons". (I have a copy now.) He certainly does get it though, doesn't he? I've dealth with a few seriously ill cats in my day and it's true - no feeling sorry at all. We are all such moaners really, aren't we?

Loved your cars echoing around the church, by the way.
Have a look at my "Stuffed Shirts" when you get the chance.

How is your puss doing?


Anonymous said...

Ah, the old philosophical question! Very nicely rendered here, Dominic.

Rachel Fenton said...

Someone once did the tree falling line in a seminar I was in and I have never felt compelled to hoot out loud as much as I felt it then. I literally had to stick my fist in my mouth. Such ernestness! Great take.

D.H.L - I love to hate him. Read a ton of his prose and poetry and I fight it but I always go back for more...I like how he seems always to be grappling with faith and humanity and..well, but all that tosh about women and catkins! Then I've had enough....

Terresa said...

Love DH Lawrence. Visited his red brick home in the Midlands once back in college.

PS: I have a thing for churches, especially very old ones...