3VOΓVE

A Retrospective Appraisal of Hollace M. Metzger’s 3VOΓVE

Excerpts from A Review by Rehan Qayoom

January 2013

 

 

It‘s a crazy book and I didn‘t mean to write it.  (1)
 

  Two lovers sat on a park bench overlooking the sea, with their bodies touching each other, holding hands in the moonlight [at dusk, gazing at the sky].
There was silence between them.
So profound was their love for each other, they needed no words to express it. And so they sat in silence, on a park bench [overlooking the sea], with their   bodies touching, holding hands in the moonlight [at dusk, gazing at the sky].
Finally she spoke. “Do you love me, John?” she asked.
“You know I love you, darling,” he replied. “I love you more than tongue can tell. You are the light of my life, my sun, moon and stars. You are my everything. Without you I have no reason for being.”
Again there was silence as the two lovers sat on a park bench [overlooking the sea], their bodies touching, holding hands in the moonlight [at dusk, gazing at the sky].
Once more she spoke. “How much do you love me?” she asked.
He answered: “How much do I love you? Count the stars in the sky. Measure the waters of the oceans with a teaspoon. Number the grains of sand on the sea shore. Impossible, you say.”
“Yes and it is just as impossible for me to say how much I love you.”
“My love for you is higher than the heavens, deeper than Hades, and broader than the Earth. It has no limits, no bounds. Everything must have an ending except my love for you.”
There was more silence as the two lovers sat on a park bench [overlooking the sea] with their bodies touching, holding hands in the moonlight [at dusk, gazing at the sky].
Once more her voice was heard. “Kiss me, John” she implored.
And leaning over, he pressed his lips warmly to hers in fervent osculation.
(2)

Rene Magritte. “The Lovers: ii”, 1928

Reviews are arguably more about the reviewer than about the work reviewed as love poems are more about the feelings of the poet towards the beloved…  Such seems to be the case here as well but it is (the) I/eye mirroring the art/heart…

I do not believe there is any such thing as taking a false turn in life. All is relevant in poetry of such level and calibre. Though one’s paths may twist and double back. In poetry that much is true which is relevant emotionally and I know my poetical opinions are rather (b)anal…

3VOΓVE is an epochal re-presentation of the alchemical bridging of science and/with theology (theogeny, even). It is a symbolic transcendence of the honeybee, the queen bee, no less, the Muse Goddess for whom the mills turn, for whom the coffee berries crackle, whose coughing at intervals reveals that she could be my smoking companion. It is the honey for which “I am all mouth.” Her/its holy otherness is in the integral aspect of an impish Belle Dame Sans Merci that hath yours truly in an aesthetic-ecstatic death-thrall of love’s wonder…

  A tongue known as neither yours nor mine,
split by virtuoso and willingly combined,
it drips syllabic honey from a hollow hive
where only bees would ever before sting,
where not a soul could eʼr learn to sing
and I could neʼer imagine to fly freely from.
   (‘Hands‘, 3VOΓVE)

  Have I already reached an unknown
state of de-sensitivity and deafness,
I’ve yet to read Love’s lips
from any land’s shifting contour –
   (‘Where Sound Resides’, 3VOΓVE)

Metzger‘s paintings and photo-art demand healthy periods of time. Her works (whether created through the medium of a stylus, pen, paintbrush, or a knife) caress the contours of the soul and depict places that cannot be expressed in words, going beyond the mere physical so that now one actually feels like running away/out of oneself and now it feels like she is the only person in the world who loves and knows what it is to love and to be loved. The choice assembling of words in the poetry reads like patterns on an artist‘s canvas: there is at times, quite a brilliant symmetry and always strong elements of structure, design and intricate verbal and metrical techniques. Reflecting the cosmos in a state of flux and the transformations of life itself in order to submit to the law of variation and change rather like the tide rolling in and rolling back out again. It is said that ‘She who leaves a trail of glitter behind, is never forgotten‘:

  I never signed
the painting I sent to you
because I thought
you‘d know who it was from.
I just didn‘t want to dictate
which way it was hung.
I never told you
about the glitter left on your face
after you kissed me
because when you went on stage,
I wanted everyone to know
that you were a star.
(3)

 

The physicality and eroticism in the poems in 3VOΓVE are difficult to match to any other poet (after Neruda). For example (several can be given) in the simile of:

  I could balance a dance
between two left feet
under a Möbius Strip-ping
of shoulders swaying.
(‘Fete de la Musique‘, 3VOΓVE).

  The hairs you grew above
your lip that grate me to
a ubiquitous
and pleasurable rouge.
The rose before you –
(‘The Rose Before You‘, 3VOΓVE).

Or the ingenious use of the double entendre, aside the synonyms and homophones all which seem to be her forte:

  You, the night, the magic,
the frankincense,
the lost religion,
the rose suspended tightly
between my thighs,
and your eyes –
your gaze, penetrating days’
suspended mornings
while the city’s electric fusion

  followed a divinity’s hand
planning new mountains
into a realm beyond it. 
(‘You, The Night, The‘, 3VOΓVE).

Metzger‘s imagery of the rose can also be seen to reflect the short story ‘The Nightingale & the Rose‘ by Oscar Wilde…

Metzger has written about ‘Twitch‘ elsewheres but it seems as if everything she has ever transcribed is poetry. The only other poet I know of who can claim that (and does) is Tony Harrison:

  Poetry is all I write, whether for books, or readings, or for the National Theatre, or for the opera house and concert hall, or even for TV. (4)

The poetry becomes new every time it is read. The word-choice so apt as if every word were to rhyme with the next, the entire poem becoming wholly constructed in this way like an ornament of natural pearls.

 

‘Freedom‘ reveals Metzger at her best and most profound as when she professes the concept of love and speaks of the mechanics of the heart, at her truest when describing emotion. If poetry is anything to go by (being the form of art most able to reflect our strangest and truest feelings and emotions) it is such as she can send. Brave enough to set off to another country purely to live for art’s sake and go on creating it in the face of the utmost and succeed at doing it as well. Breathing God‘s fresh air and drinking water.

  …Every night I used to pray that I‘d find my people- and finally I did- on the open road. We had nothing to lose, nothing to gain, nothing we desired anymore- except to make our lives into a work of art.

  LIVE FAST. DIE YOUNG. BE WILD. AND HAVE FUN.
I believe in the country America used to be. I believe in the person I want to become, I believe in the freedom of the open road.
(5)

 

It is said it is impossible to feel close, both spiritually and mentally to those one hasn’t touched or been touched by physically. I know otherwise and am happy to remain in the dark of others that is my sunshine: her love, her smiles…

For it is here and in her world that dreams are forged and housed/pushed (in) to one ground- shattering, universal, bitter reality depicted in my favourite Graham Greene novel – Far more a record of hate than of love… It is one of the greatest bitter-sweet (this word was early coined by Sappho) mysteries of life that Hell and Paradise occupy the same space…

The very things that the beloved is hated for are the very same things one loves her for.

 

Like water, Metzger always unifies opposites into entire harmonies of sublime redemptive love. It is what she does and what she is.

Metzger is above/beyond/without time and above/beyond/without space and above/beyond/without boundaries. Her art is free from boundaries of colour, race, creed, religion, body, sex, culture, mass-media and what it tells us. It is upon that horizon that she is revealed in all her glory. She is truly at a level the prophets and mystics experienced and knew all about such as I can only grasp at in the dark or glimpse in dreams but though/in her work, art and life. If there is any such thing as love or beauty in the world it is in this and comes out from her raw and throbbing pervading the world, time and what is done. She gives reason to life after all contradicting what is hammered into one daily though quite contrary to expectation in a good way as ‘It’s all poetry to me’. She teaches otherwise, that we are worth what we give, not what we own.

What I would say is that there is rather a lot of sex in 3VOΓVE, which is just as well. Humans are sexual beings. We complete ourselves by making love. Such persons can appear who love one for oneself alone. To whom alone one can best whisper sweet nothings. Falling in love is the only time one sees the world without oneself at the centre of significance, with another startling at its heart… Only love can release from the knots of the ego. Otherwise it isn’t easy to be ruthless, strong, confident and daring, to pour one’s heart out and potentially break another’s heart … to confess love for someone …why? Because one doesn’t have to deal with the tears, to deal with those eyes that stare you straight in the face that beg you to stop, it is easy to hide the embarrassment when the other doesn’t say “I love you too”, to escape the guilt, escape the betrayal, the love.

 

Lessons learnt from 3VOΓVE:

To shun dependence – To always be a giver – To keep giving without expectation for the temporary abode of this world has nothing to offer – Not to seek recognition and it will come, when you stop seeking all that was keeping away is suddenly granted – Do not seek love just give it freely – Do not think that love can offer anything, it is mostly a source of pain, love is only a bliss when shared as a gift from the Divine power of Complete Being.

…I catch myself smile at the sunshine that bursts in the heart(s), of all those who love and know love and are ready to flow with it wherever it goes, to follow Ariadne‘s thread to whatever length it takes to mend aright (as also stated by E. E. Cummings in the poem beginning'[i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)]‘):   (6)

  X – Y – Z
Generations dangling from a rope that gives
and gives
and gives
and gives
and gives
and gives
and gives
and gives
and gives
such seedy succulent Hope!  
(‘Brooklyn Fools‘, 3VOΓVE).

 

With Metzger the riddle of whether or not the Muse exists is re-solved. She is the one who breathes inspiration into the soul (through inhalations and exhalations) and brings the words alive through simple metaphors and explanations of a real, living, breathing being. A Galatea to Pygmalion, a word made flesh, a living myth. She is the ‘Eternal Story‘. (7)

Love is joined by an axis of semi-magical power. Through love come the renewed assurances of wisdom. For the troubadours (Arabic word meaning Lute-player) poetry was the pudding that proved the validity of one’s love: a divine gift, which it still is and not a feat of individual triumph. They worshiped the one who inspired their songs. The fluid transparency of truth, of the celestial luminosity is in the pudding. The proof of the pudding is in the eating (‘First String Bikini‘)…

…She shares in the visions and offers inspiration to live and to write through the vessel of her divine wisdom. In and through her we learn why Rumi wrote that ‘Whoever looked upon a truly beautiful woman saw God.’ With her we find ourselves lying down in green pastures; and being led beside quiet waters!

 

The poems in 3VOΓVE are little-big word-ceremonies that can ‘patch the havoc’. Instead of exposing (worse: sulking over) the failures of the past, supplanting them an Utopian vision of little meaning and constructing fake props, as has been the trend in much of contemporary literature during the first decade of this century, Metzger fashions us a new transparent and affirmative gesture towards re-visioning promise of a new powerful form of literature offering itself as a model of the future. But who could claim this position? Who indeed? It demands a seizure/cessation of the (self-conscious) awareness of 3VOΓVE as a work of poetry. We are led into a world of connection, not separation. We are taken back to and shown the essential holistic nature of poetry.

As per Pope‘s instruction, Metzger has drunk deep from the fountain of gnosis, becoming an ocean surging with love and emotion. Emotions that move within one‘s blood-beats, so that one cannot decide on the language to use to convey them.

Our auctor is already dancing with the stars, up there at the place where the wings of angels burn, with the voice of God that comes whispering with the winnowing winds – Her poetic voice is charged with an intense and terrific heat and passion (and the feeling of being possessed by it) to the utmost ‘- passion where it combusts, or levitates, or mutates into an experience of the supernatural.‘ (8)
It is this truth both beautiful and terrible that is revealed to those who plummet these deeps ‘And they sold him for a paltry price of a few Dirhams, and they were not keen to profit from him.‘ (9)
Humans have an irrepressible need (overriding every other impulse) not just to exist but to thrive. The Great Shaykh ibn al-‘Arabi says ‘The movement which is the existence of the universe is the movement of love.‘ (10)

‘Phonetic’ echoes Lawrence’s ‘Figs’. By the fig covering Adam’s nakedness. By the moment in the rose-garden (the laughter echoing the ecstasy) sacred to Diana and her priestesses and to Mary, the lily, the lily (re-)turning to Eve’s tears at the banishment, turning again to Mary’s tears at the crucifixion, back to the lilies strewn before the Lord upon the Second Coming. The poems call to each other through the precise clairvoyant and subtle harmony of their mathematics (design)… These currents are explored in the earlier poems (‘Apollo & Daphne‘ and ‘Comparing You to Bernini‘) where the prosody is heavily mythologised. (11) The myths (outlined and elaborated in the ‘Author‘s Note‘) become expressive of the story of her own esoteric journey…

Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age. (12)

These symbols gradually become invisible to those conditioned to discount myth (but for the diligent the notes reveal otherwise: they are only subdued) and fulfill and move to accomplish metamorphoses of the alchemy of (true) love and happiness:

  Me, Iʼve never separated lust,
any feeling really, and divine love
and I will never find reason
to begin the practice of blind,
un-divine and incomplete faith.
(‘Comparing You to Bernini‘, 3VOΓVE)

‘Return to You’ reflects those rare moments when one thinks souls reflect each other and is granted strength in the face of fate’s laughter, to make lemonade out of the lemons life throws at one. Life seems to fit into neat little boxes during those Keatsian paradisiacal moments for which one is thankful from the deepest, pure, untrammelled recesses of the heart (which many have convinced one to believe do not exist except at those rare and fleeting moments which soon fly away in the blinking of an eye as birds flee from their nests at dawn). Metzger lets us have a glimpse of the slice of the fruit of the life she lives but offers us the juice. Yet having said that I am still unsure whether those last poems from ‘Ink Stains and What Remains‘:

  to which I ultimately return to,
to honest for words
like “I love you”.

Or more appropriately from ‘Malik‘ onwards could not be regarded as the beginning of a new book.

 

 

i. Only (One) God. ii. Only (One) Love. iii.  Only (One) Hollace

 ‘I Went so Willingly‘   by John Trudell with which this book is prefaced is a powerful and moving poem. The tone has something of Empson’s ‘Just a Smack at Auden’81. The questions that have no answers and sometimes answers people do not like…

‘Nobody else is at this parc alone.’ Story of my life:

  Perhaps this writing is a form of escape from social situations.
Perhaps remaining busy is an acceptable retreat that will not be frowned upon.
But it is. It is not what the others are doing.
(‘Etoile Filant’, 3VOΓVE)

 

Gradually, as the years go by I forget what it is to embrace love, how it feels to touch love at which (according to Plato) one became a poet…

Metzger explores the history of ‘Main‘ (pronounced thus in Urdu to mean I/me):

  It is a simple retrospective of Man‘s evolved habitual use of the hand, with an appended philosophical hypothesis I have developed which foreshadows the decline of interpersonal relationships caused by the physical repetition of pushing objects (buttons, keys, etc.) away when alone, also the apish sense of interpersonal communication and relationship development sharing this information gives. (‘Author‘s Note‘, 3VOΓVE).

This is something she has also explored in her art:

  With a regular brush one experiences sensations of pulling and pushing. The knife is only a pushing motion, its paint needs to be allowed on the canvas in   different speeds, but mostly in a regular stroke, like drafting with an architect‘s flat-tip pen which takes practice to evenly distribute. What this does is allow more precision and control, for me. (13)

I read Metzger‘s words (which are now my lifelines) and those words in ‘To Say ‘Je t‘aime‘’ scare me now ‘This is what makes leaving things behind easy for me. I just leave.‘

‘Where Sound Resides‘ is a sacred and timeless soul-dance danced around the sacrificial fires of yore for as long as forever, it is the bee dance. All the connections are there. Metzger proves to be the great polymath as well as the great beauty of her age, in mind body and spirit, to know that (through her) is to know wonder. ‘Where Sound Resides‘ at least teaches one to accept a decentring of subjectivity and a dispersal of the diversification of identity, it presents a very weak idea of agency by affirming the necessity of you in addition to and inescapable from I (both words which Metzger uses freely and openly in her work with all their connotations).

So many of the poems in 3VOΓVE merit quoting in full.

‘To Love Again‘ is one of those poems:

  To Love…
To…
Love again…
To love two but never three –
To love a past
and what the future could be.
To Love…
You…
rarely me –
What was promised
and, again,
will never be.

As is ‘While Watching You Sleep‘ –

  everybody loved him,
carried a piece
of him with them
but nobody would claim to befriend him,
to love him so tenderly
as they all will,
one day, when he
is no longer with us

‘Boxing‘ in Why the Willow references the Jeff Buckley song ‘Jewel Box‘ but ‘The Inevitable‘ morbidly reminds of ‘Forget Her‘ which is another Buckley song (circuitous to the frightening but lovely and loving ‘To Say ‘Je t‘aime‘’:

  Star crossed child‘s love on the bands of wedding gold
Silver studs of promise hide in the red crushed velvet folds.
Inaction, intention, like emeralds I stole.
My speech of custom gold.
I think I ought to know.

Although ‘The Price to Pay‘ references the Bob Dylan song ‘Seven Curses‘ it is also reminiscent of Blake’s ‘The Garden of Love’ and suddenly reminds of Mir’s verse in Urdu along the same lines:

  One hears that the City of Love
Is surrounded by an overcrowding of tombs
(14)

‘Songe Lucide de ce Matin‘ takes silent days to ingest before speaking in echoes guised as the silver side of mirrors, in the words of the poet John Siddique to ‘reject literatures that only find their way into the world through privilege and connections, which contains the death of the soul in its syllables.’ The use of rhyme in this poem is something quite extraordinary in its naturalness (identity with artillery with artistry with reality, nature with nowhere with desire with fire with pleasure). Things are taken as they ask to be taken as in ‘Chanel No. 5‘, the writing writes itself, unintentionally. For this as much as for much more, Metzger will be remembered throughout history as one of the greatest artists of our time:

  Because of its complex nature,
it could have been anywhere… or nowhere.
The sensation, as an intimate dream of desire
with another, fills the body in a cooling fire –  
(‘Songe Lucide de ce Matin‘, 3VOΓVE)

During my sojourn through this poem I was reminded not only of ‘I Should Have Known‘ by Parveen Shakir but of ‘Sakura‘ (Transciptions of Time, 149). Metzger‘s note on the imagery of ‘Our Lady‘s looming sea serpent‘ is well worth a read.

A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world. (15)

The ecstasy of this poem is reminiscent of Jo Shapcott’s ‘Piss Flower’ and it also echoes lines from ‘A Lover to a Beloved!‘ by Faiz…

  Your face, hidden, can only
be defined inside my imagination
as I do not know you when
you do not speak, are silent.
(‘Becomes Us‘, 3VOΓVE).

Silence can sometimes create time to breathe so one may inhale the bare solid, unchanging essentials of nature, the trees the landscape as capstones to connect. It is such a silence which Metzger justifies in ‘One if by Land. Two if by sea‘…Without silence one is left with little time to reflect in a doing, going, hungry world packed with unanswered and, probably, unanswerable questions.
Silence is also one of Metzger‘s major themes.

There are 52 silences in 3VOΓVE.

 

Col-lab-irration

‘L‘invitation au Voyage‘ and ‘Do Not Ask‘ are poems that offer such a Thought-Fox of an abundance of vowels. A panther-prowl-me of close-staying comprehension. The clear soothing light of the moon contradistincting the burning heat and blinding light of the sun and one is reminded of George Mackay Brown’s maxim ‘Prose is for the sun and the day – poetry is for the moon and the stars and night.’
‘And lo, the Beast looked upon the face of Beauty. And it stayed its hand from killing. And from that day, it was as one dead.‘ (16) Sex is also death. For at the very moment conception occurs the spermatozoa’s tail is lopped off by the enclosing, enveloping womb so it can no longer swim. Thus Eros and Thanatos are conjoined. The French for orgasm is petit mort… As such, Metzger‘s poetry is always composed on an edge, in excelsis, amplified, feeling every little thing – unafraid to risk falling, even if it meant death.

Marcel Duchamp. “Nu (esquisse), jeune homme triste dans un train”, 1912

The height of the joy, the moment when the world can improve no further, is both the end of joy and the beginning of melancholy. (17)

Metzger is unashamed of using the word love more than any other poet I can name. Educating (to) the convolutions of the heart within the space of a few words, sometimes just one small word. She can be uniquely whimsical, perspicacious, meticulously flamboyant and yet never preaches or argue in Daedalian or difficult abstractions. Her meanings and intentions are brought alive throughout and through-in the rhythms of words. I vowed long ago to deal with poetry and not the life in my own writing but sometimes it is so compelling a story that it is hard not to get involved (I can only say that those who are regularly wheeled out to pass comment upon such things are generally unreliable witnesses):

There is so strong a consonance in the English language between story and history that no one seemed able or willing to distinguish one from the other. (18)

I do believe Metzger is deserving of the ultimate of love, respect and loyalty for contributions to the world of all the poems as for ‘The Land of Do‘, (Transcriptions of Time, 138), ‘Important‘ (Eternal Story, 66) and ‘Definition of Do‘ – Anyone who is unwilling to give her that is (in my humble vouch) undeserving of her. Alas, as Pascal said:

  Le cœur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît point. On le sent en mille choses. C’est le cœur qui sent Dieu, et non la raison. Voilà ce que c’est que la foi parfaite, Dieu sensible au cœur. (19)

 

The internet is a very powerful tool. It creates a false sense of reality and a delusion of escapism and intimacy in people who are not intimate – Indeed, who don’t even know each other at all – It is lethal for teenagers. They are at an age when they are incapable of understanding that such a being with someone (emailing, chatting, even texting) does not amount to a relationship and because of the mental nutrition this gives in the form of violent sexual fantasies even most adults refuse to or become incapable of accepting this fact. None of it amounts to a relationship unless of course, you decide to meet very early on and quickly. Otherwise things develop that prevent you from meeting each other. Something of this is in ‘@ La Terrasse’

Maryam Hashemi. “Demon love”

 

The unrealistic is devoid of spirit-soul, mere Achilles’ heels of words like lies like robbery like war like murder. Not only does mankind possess wisdom more than any other living creature but also greed, avarice, Mammon-worship, and love of power. Reality consists of that which is sensed, ‘proved upon our pulses‘ (20) and ‘not standing upon external testimony, but carried alive into the heart by passion;’ (21) as such, I also fear that the Word falls upon deaf ears except to those who open doors for ladies, wear dark glasses, affect a black cassock. They are those who are the chosen initiates because they choose to commit themselves to the price we have, in the final instance, to pay. These days love is measured too as Eliot says ‘I have measured out my life in coffee spoons;’ (22) but that ‘love is not love’ (23) as Shakespeare says. I suppose the difference lies in where one is physically. Rumi says:

  When I am with you, we stay up all night, when you’re not here, I can’t get to sleep
God be praised for these 2 insomnias and the difference between them!

Regarding ‘The Lingerie Shop’s Tears‘ – Love is what will remain of us, long after the end. Metzger never uses the L word in vain and it is never unmeant/clichéd. For me, in me, it has never yet failed even once to create love whenever I read it or hear her say it. It is really stupid to say that Metzger is just a pretty face. My spellchecker strikes in red Hollace suggesting alcohol. Now that is an idea! I shall drink deep…

 

‘Return to the Labyrinth (Find Me)‘ denotes the best-preserved (example of the) thirteenth century medieval labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral, no doubt echoing of an earlier pagan symbol. When it is open to pilgrims, many walk it on their knees in love and trust. New York can feel like a labyrinth with its creeping walls, as can the subways of London or the shadows of neon-lit corners of Keats’ ‘dark Soho,’ (24)

I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me‘. (25)

‘In Their Next Life‘ and ‘Breathless‘ have also made true the beautiful woman who ‘cannot breathe‘…

 

Breath : The ‘Elixir’ of Poetry

– Ziba Karbassi

Oxygen is the component of air that makes breath possible.
Although it is only one fifth part of air itself, it is that crucial part that makes life possible.
The poet begins the creative process from the body and the senses, from touching and looking.
It is the concentration of the breath that takes poet to a new level of perception, sharpening sight and hearing. Without this ‘elixir‘ of the breath, poetry is like air without oxygen: the living word and energy of poetry is born from the metamorphosis of words that travel along the line of breath.
The ‘born‘ poet knows this and so knows how to recreate the word, turning it into a vector of energy : no longer merchandise but ‘happening‘, a force capable of lifting off the page and carrying us away.
Language that is rooted in breath knows how to instill the pulse of rhythm into poetry. Or in other words, the pulse of the senses will be infused within language by the poet. This is how poetry becomes a music of the body, how it gradually transforms both the poet and the surrounding world to create a life of its own.

The poetry of breath withholds and accumulates energy within language. And then suddenly it is set off in a leap of the senses. Words fixed in language don‘t lose their life essence but give birth to one another, as if each word were the open womb of the next. Words that continually and sensually love one another, giving birth to the great emotions: grief, joy, hatred, love, affection, desire, obsession, vulnerability, folly, revenge. For a split second the poet is left breathless: it is in that split second that perception is crystallised around one sensation and, as in a chemical reaction, releases the word.
It is then up to the poet as an expert technician to do the rest.

 

There are incredible photographs of Metzger at windows, looking in, looking out, up, down, Looking Down to See Up. These images also pummel their way into her poetry crept upon by the darkness of the poetry as in ‘From Your Closed Window‘ in 3VOΓVE. Curious as to how these images always come back:

  The only time you saw me,
so beautifully, was when
this window was open and you found
a silhouette, not an expression.
(‘Rough Draft‘, 3VOΓVE).

  Me. Iʼm seated – Still,
by an open door, an open window
(‘Full Sky, Temporal and Clearing‘, 3VOΓVE).

A pattern emerges and floats about my head through this beautiful poetry. Nothing ever happens here – As Alan Bennett said, ‘Life is generally something that happens elsewhere.’ At least, I know that mine is, and that which happens to other people. And there is the Larkin line ‘Something like nothing, happens anywhere’. Holding onto the past like a man who is ready for the grave or looking for a way to escape the pain of the present by holding onto the past. The Persian poet Mehdi Akhavān-Sāles wrote ‘The garden of leaflessness: who dares to say that it isn‘t beautiful‘.

The view from my own window has never been too pleasant – Except from the window of my childhood. Now I look out for want of reaching out to grasp onto something, anything, if I cannot look out I am bemused, dismayed, it feels like being shut in a box. I look at the aeroplanes in the sky, think of the vastness of God‘s Earth and all the people living in it. The age which I share with the great and good of my time. Those I love. Those gone, those yet to come and take our places sharing the same heavenly canopy. Here are some earlier examples from Metzger‘s work:

  “Couples walk past me,
not noticing, and tonight,
I fade into windows
reflecting moonlight from
a moon I cannot even see.”

  “You‘re still sleeping.
  I look out the window
  above your open lips,
  your praying hands,
  and I see Gods
  and Goddesses
  protecting a new city
  that doesn‘t know
  where to go.”

  “I hope, when I go,
  you will open
  your window
  (the one you opened
  to let me in)
  so that the dust
  left on your floor
  from my jacket
  catches the imprint
  left from the
  undersides
  of my thighs
  as I last packed
  my things
  before whispering
  ―Goodbye.”

  “I want to suspend your soul
  in that burning bottle,
  out my window in the night,
  above pavement
  carrying heavy hearts home
  under moonlight
  even they cannot lift
  their eyes to see.”

  “Little bird,
  what news have you from
  my Love’s window panes?
  When he called out her name”

  “I am the voice
  the blind man heard
  singing through an unseen,
  opened window.”

  “The ballerina spins,
  my opened window welcomes your hand,
  your soul.”

Also her need for windows in ‘Timeless‘, in ‘Expired Citizen‘ and in ‘Watching Clouds Pass over Glass‘, she searches for open windows to let her soul through as in ‘Big Love‘ and opens every window herself from without and within (see especially ‘Fete de la Musique‘, ‘Songe Lucide de ce Matin‘ and the notes to these poems). The beautiful poem ‘Windows‘ itself ciphers all these linkages.

 

 

The Muse’s  Shadow

The ‘Third Person‘ whom Metzger likes to cipher can also sometimes become the literary critic as in Obaidullah Aleem‘s scathing article ‘Third Person‘:

Our apparatniks will continue making the usual squalid mess called History: all we can pray for it that artists, chefs and saints may still appear to blithe it. (26)

  My poetry, the necessity
to be open and somewhat free
has dredged a hole in the Earth.
(‘Love Letter‘, 3VOΓVE)

The work of art, in this case, of poetry must go on; regardless, we must go on lighting our little candles in the big wind. There is no other way. The flame is oblivious to itself burning when giving light to the world around though at times it may feel like one is crying out in the wilderness…

pub. by William Blake, 17 May 1793

 

Still, the validity of art is in the communicating of it. We exist only in relation to others. It is a grave sin to deprive the world of that; poetry is that much poorer…

Harrison says something really interesting about the channelling of poetry elsewhere that if one were to give someone their blood one couldn‘t just give it to them, it had to go through certain channels. The pain of art and creativity are ends to those means…

  …The secret of all scientific investigation and discovery lies in a constant quest for the relief of pain and discomfort. The motivation behind scientific exploration and discovery is based less on a desire to gain luxuries than on a need to escape pain. Luxury itself is, after all, a further extension of the same tendency to move away from a state of discomfort to a state of comparative ease. (27)

 

Sometimes, I wish Metzger would look up in the sense of looking forward to redressing these wrongs and express herself in this form. This is where I think the poem ‘Tomb‘ fails though as a poem it does work for a time on a certain level. This tone also comes out in Why the Willow but the willow branch is also a Buddhist symbol of compassion as Metzger herself has pointed out, giving a beautiful image of a woman whose tears also mirror the beauty of the world surrounding her. (28) It is of serious concern if this tone persists as it does persistently, for example, in some of Plath‘s poetry.

Thankfully, Metzger understands this and points to the positivity of this aspect when she points out that silence and death (in her poetry) usually refer to Neruda‘s ‘Poema XV‘ which nevertheless ends upon this notable positivity:

  Me gustas cuando callas porque estas como ausente.
Distante y dolorosa como si hubieras muerto.
Una palabra entonces, una sonrisa bastan.
Y estoy alegre, alegre de que no sea cierto.
(29)

 

… and the rest of it. ‘In a City Without Clubs‘ recreates a somewhat similar scene and attitude to one depicted by Rochester:

  Whilst I, my pleasure to pursue,
Whole nights am taking in
The lusty juice of grapes, take you
The juice of lusty men.
(30)

‘Paris, Encore‘ reminds of the line in King Lear ‘Prithee, nuncle, tell me whether a madman be a gentleman or a yeoman?‘ (31) As well as the inimitable line from an ode of Horace ‘carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.‘ Imitated most sentimentally in one of the rare happy poems per se by Herrick ‘To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time.‘ Francis Bacon said ‘Begin what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake‘:

  Far art thou wandered now in search of health
And milder breezes,–melancholy lot!
But thou art with us, with us in the past,
The present, with us in the times to come.
There is no grief, no sorrow, no despair,
No languor, no dejection, no dismay,
No absence scarcely can there be, for those
Who love as we do. Speed thee well!  
(William Wordsworth. ‘The Prelude‘).

Wordsworth is referred to in ‘L|ines‘ and the note to ‘One if by Land, Two if by Sea‘. His haunting Lucy Poems are my own favourite, particularly ‘A slumber did my spirit seal‘.

By this stage 3VOΓVE has reached a state akin to the Leigh Hunt poem ‘Jenny Kissed Me‘.

In ‘Fly, Move Through‘ Metzger says ‘There are cycles in life.‘ These cyclical transformations (another one of Metzger‘s abiding themes) bend back against themselves in her poetry, to take shape/form in a death-denial and folding (in) of time thus over- running/overturning death/oblivion through transfiguration. Also by ciphering the Pythagorian or Ovidian mythologies of metamorphoses in text and through her art in general, poetry being the one art which can reflect our strongest feelings.

 

The last lines of the book from the poem ‘Merci‘ reflect the ultimate reality, which is that of returning to the beloved, Muhammad‘s ﷺ last words were ‘To the ultimate beloved‘ and the Quranic invocation at a time of loss is that of ‘We belong to Allah and return to Him‘…

  You are desire and peace.
You are passion and belief.
You are what you are in the absence of me.
And you will never be those things
with me for as long as I remain
safely in this cyclical silence.
Oh, how I do return to you.
(‘Return To You‘, 3VOΓVE).

 

Traces in time is, in the end, what everything comes down to.

Buy  3VOΓVE  Here

Read the original, full Review Here

© Rehan Qayoom, 2012.
rehanqayoompoet.blogspot.com

Rehan Qayoom is a poet, editor and translator educated at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has featured in numerous magazines, periodicals and performed his work across the world. His books include Seeking Betjeman Country (2006), Prose 1997 – 2008 (2009), After Parveen Shakir (2012), The Borders (2012). About Time (2011) is a collection of his poetry in English.He is the editor of the prose and poetry of Morney Wilson, published as Martyr DollRemains, The Recordings (2011) and Chiragh Jaltey Hen: The Unpublished Poetry of Obaidullah Aleem (2012). He lives in London surrounded by books.

 

 

1  Graves, Robert. To Patricia Cunningham. Grevel Lindop. ‘A Crazy Book: Robert Graves & The White Goddess'. PN Review, (September/October 1997). 27-29. 
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4  Tony Harrison in Bloodaxe Critical Anthologies 1: Tony Harrison. Edited by Neil Astley. (Bloodaxe, 1991). 9.
5  Rey, Lana Del. ‘Ride‘. Born to Die – The Paradise Edition. (2012).
6  And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest. I will go; and where thou lodgest. I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: The Holy Bible. Ruth 1: 16.
Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. The Holy Bible. John 13: 26.
7  Unfettered, pure love
 that was real.
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 You are there forever.
 Thank You.
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 that you were mine.
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