Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Losing it

Last week was not the best week for me. First, on Monday, I lost a dog lead when taking the dogs for a walk at the vlei. It was one of those special ones with a clasp at each end and not easy to replace. I have lost things there before and was sure I would not see the lead again, but I did tell a few fellow walkers about it, just in case. Then on Tuesday, I completely forgot to go to the Exercise class probably because Gairo, my domestic worker, had swopped her Tuesday workday for Wednesday and this put me out. The next thing to go wrong was a booking for a course at Summer School. My friend Julie had asked me if I would go to a poetry course with her. She was going to do the booking. On Wednesday morning she turned up at my house having been unable to book on her computer. We had no success on mine either so decided to drive up to the University Centre for Extramural Studies and sort out the booking in person. We found the building which houses this Centre without  taking more than three or four wrong turnings, but the drive had taken longer than expected and we had arrived just when most of the staff were on their lunch break. After a battle to find the information we needed and after filling out a very long and involved form, we registered for the course.  Then came the problem of payment. The office that dealt with fees was closed for lunch. I didn't want to stay until after two because Gairo, (the one who had changed her work day ) was waiting to be taken home as she had to  fetch her child from school. Eventually the lady behind the counter was persuaded to accept credit cards.  Then all we had to do was check on venue and time.
"Short Form Poetry? But that's this week not next week. The course started two days ago."
Julie and I were devastated, We could have sworn that the dates were 22nd to 26th not 15th to 19th, How could we have made such a mistake.  We must have been looking at the dates for another course.  We had to cancel at once. What a disaster! But just then the course co-ordinator, who happened to be an old friend,  appeared.
'Why don't you  attend the remaining two, sessions. We'll sort out the fees later."
So that's  what we did.

Wednesday is always a busy day. I had been to a U3A meeting in the morning. The trip up to UCT had taken several hours and I had just enough time to pick up my notes for our Evergreen poetry club meeting which started at three that afternoon. I also had a church meeting at 6 and I just had enough time to feed the dogs before rushing off to that. That is why I only got to the vlei the next day. I was a bit later than usual after the "short form poetry" too. One of my dog walking friends gave me some good news
"Paul has your dog's lead. He's gone home already, but you can get it from him tomorrow."
I knew just who she meant. Everybody living near the vlei knows Paul. He is the one who owns no fewer than six rescue dogs and takes them to the vlei every morning and evening without fail.   I would be sure to see him the next time I walked my dogs. But, somehow,what with one thing and another, I kept on missing Paul. I finally caught up with him.
"Oh no!"he exclaimed.  "I brought the lead with me every day, but finally  I gave up and today I left it at home.  Be sure to come tomorrow and I  will bring it tomorrow"
The next day, I discovered that I had lost my watch. It was one of Gairo's workdays so I asked her to look for it when she was cleaning the house. Unfortunately she failed to find it. It was one of the hottest days this month and I when I got the dogs ready to go for their walk, I realised that the heat of the afternoon had made me think it earlier than it actually was. When I got to the vlei I could see no sign of Paul.
"He must have gone home already," I thought
If only I could have sent him a message, but all that week( I did say it was a bad week, didn't I ) my phone would only send messages in Spanish.
I gave the dogs a quick run and then drove to Paul's house. He has no bell at the gate, so I shouted for him, but there was no reply and no dog barking either.
So it was back to the vlei and sure enough, there was Paul, just about to walk his dogs home. I called out to him and he reluctantly turned back.
"When I didn't see you ,I'm afraid I gave the lead to Hazel" he said. "She lives in the house two houses from the corner."
So I proceeded to a house which I thought was the one he meant.
"No, There is no Hazel here, but I think the chairlady of the Neighbourhood Watch is called Hazel. I'll give you her number."
"Is she a a tall person who has a limp?"
"I don't think so, but I'll try her anyway."
But the chairlady was not there.
I took the number and rang later.
"Have you a dog lead that belongs to me?"
To my amazement , the answer was "Yes" and soon I had my lead back. "Thank you Hazel" Although Hazel was not the Hazel I thought she was. but a quite different Hazel.
However, in spite of everything, there were some good things about last week. The two poetry sessions were really worthwhile, and somehow the fees seem to have been forgotten. The lead did come back and since then I have managed to get someone to fix my phone so it speaks English again.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Modern Poetry

I have not been writing much lately. This is partly because .I have started a course on Modern American Poetry. Not the famous Modpo, but a course run by Illinois university. I don't think it as good as Modpo, but I like the way it does include a number of poems(and poets) that are not part of Modpo. Poms covered so far are of the kind that I can relate to. These all fall in the period that is known as "Modern" and not "Post Modern" and date back to the early 20th century. But I have recently read some poems which were highly praised by prestigious American critics and these I am afraid I cannot relate to at all. It is not just that they are difficult to understand.  Of course I am old-fashioned enough to prefer poems that make sense to me, but I can often enjoy teasing out the meaning from a poem that seems obscure at first reading. I don't really like poems that are made up of numbers of seemingly unrelated images like those of Ashbery's later work., but I can get enjoyment from the vivid description in the word-pictures Ashbery paints. I can also enjoy the music of  many modern poems  though I may not understand what they are about.

I think it was in the New Yorker, (sometimes pages of this journal get sent to me) that I  read about some young American poets who had all received prizes for their poetry. I instituted a Google search and that is when I decided that Twenty-first Century Poetry/Contemporary Poetry/ or perhaps Post-Modern Poetry had past me by. I have experienced various set-backs recently. I was rejected at the MacGregor festival.The new on-line literary journal, the name of which I can never remember, informed me that the poems I had submitted were not of a high enough standard and the poem I thought had been accepted by the journal, Stanzas was not included in its latest issue. I read these prizewinning poems carefully several times, but I could make neither head nor tail of any of them.  It was not just a case of a series of unrelated statements or unrelated images, they seemed to me to be just a number of unrelated words set haphazard on a page. I read them aloud because I have found many poems come to life only when read aloud. Some of Gertrude Stein's work which looks at first glance like the "word-salad" of a schizophrenic, trips delightfully off the tongue and makes its own kind of sense when you hear it. But this was not the case with this poetry. It is true that American speech has its own  cadences and rhythm so perhaps I am missing something by reading the poems in my clipped South African English, but I don't think it is that. It must be I who is not in tune with the literature of the New Century. Perhaps I should consider retirement. At Eighty-three it is not surprising to find oneself a has-been.