Thursday, July 21, 2011

Laura Mullen, William Wordsworth, and Dorothy Wordsworth

Bernadette Mayer, I believe, once called clouds "the absolute structure of desire." And old crone one minute, a basket of camels the next. A game one best plays with another.Yet the one with which Wordsworth identifies reminds one of little, perhaps, except an empty, airy buoyancy. Note, it too is alone, presumptively sharing his later "bliss of solitude."

On the day of Wordsworth's lonely wandering, he was accompanied by Dorothy who, in her journal, speaks often of her companion. (It's also interesting to note the precision and clarity of her descriptions of the flora and the weather compared to her brother's!) Perhaps she was obliterated by on of William's  "spots of time," or an "emotion recollected in tranquility" had a caustic effect on his memory. Laura Mullen's book investigates this "blind spot[-of-time]," the hurricane Katrina, and much more. Intelligent and wonderfully written, I highly recommend it. My blurb: "I envy you the first reading of this book."

I Wandered Her Voice
   (retrospective mix)

Floats on high
Almost crying                                 though much
                                                     of what constitutes
                                                     the present (what
                                                     wealth) should be read
(Undulating landscape "rolling hills" beside her take)
                                                     closely even interrogated,
When all at once (at once part of his elaborate math: singular gaze
In tension against the mass or) crowd [I saw] (revision)
Host the device a little fast or slow a slur or skipping
A cricket owns the world / Plays legs and face / Plays every last
                                                     Possible cover version
Close to the lake, under the table,
All summer, dreaming of surviving
                                                     It could be self-pity, the tape
Fluttering and dancing
Continuous loop margin the parable
My past your past our impossible
Insect-sized life, actually
                                                     Never ending

                                                     Sudden lurch of sound
No one else                                    (How lonely altocumulus?) Plays
Version after version hurrying
Off to the dance, n'est-ce pas?         Oh, but it's so Late! Last (fake
Bliss) chance!                                 Sister as mist
Numbers nothing, reminds us she was accompanied, sees the blossoms
Some lying down, resting "as if for weariness," whose dream
What 'progress' impossible having
Waved away these visions of other
                                                      Dancers frozen posed
                                                      Out-done out of it
"Late"                                             Waves
On step forward two steps                When on my completely transparent
                                                          goes by right
Recording and then
                                                     What wealth
And then
Cortege of                                      Only
My heart                                        This show

The surface in places removed by the force 

                                   --Laura Mullen, from Dark Archive
                                     (Berkeley: U of California P, 2011)


         ["I wandered lonely as a cloud"]

          I wandered lonely as a cloud
          That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
          When all at once I saw a crowd,
          A host, of golden daffodils;
          Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
          Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

          Continuous as the stars that shine
          And twinkle on the milky way,
          They stretched in never-ending line
          Along the margin of a bay:                                  
          Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
          Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

          The waves beside them danced; but they
          Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
          A poet could not but be gay,
          In such a jocund company:
          I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
          What wealth the show to me had brought:

          For oft, when on my couch I lie
          In vacant or in pensive mood,                               
          They flash upon that inward eye
          Which is the bliss of solitude;
          And then my heart with pleasure fills,
          And dances with the daffodils.

                                           -- William Wordsworth


Thursday 15th. It was a threatening misty morning--but mild. We set off after dinner from Eusemere. Mrs Clarkson went a short way with us but turned back. The wind was furious and we thought we must have returned. We first rested in the large Boat-house, then under a furze Bush opposite Mr Clarkson's. Saw the plough going in the field. The wind seized our breath the Lake was rough. There was a Boat by itself floating in the middle of the Bay below Water Millock. We rested again in the Water Millock Lane. The hawthorns are black and green, the birches here and there greenish but there is yet more of purple to be seen on the Twigs. We got over into a field to avoid some cows--people working, a few primroses by the roadside, woodsorrel flower, the anemone, scentless violets, strawberries, and that starry yellow flower which Mrs C. calls pile wort. When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side. We fancied that the lake had floated the seeds ashore and that the little colony had so sprung up. But as we went along there were more and yet more and at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here and there a little knot and a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity and unity and life of that one busy highway. We rested again and again. The Bays were stormy, and we heard the waves at different distances and in the middle of the water like the sea. Rain came on--we were wet when we reached Luffs but we called in. Luckily all was chearless and gloomy so we faced the storm--we must have been wet if we had waited--put on dry clothes at Dobson's. I was very kindly treated by a young woman, the Landlady looked sour but it is her way. She gave us a goodish supper. Excellent ham and potatoes. We paid 7/ when we came away. William was sitting by a bright fire when I came downstairs. He soon made his way to the Library piled up in a corner of the window. He brought out a volume of Enfield's Speaker, another miscellany, and an odd volume of Congreve's plays. We had a glass of warm rum and water. We enjoyed ourselves and wished for Mary. It rained and blew when we went to bed. N.B. Deer in Gowbarrow park like skeletons.

                    --Excerpt from Dorothy Wordsworth's Grasmere Journal, 15 April 1802



A Professor at Louisiana State University, Laura Mullen is the author of four collections of poetry--The Surface, After I Was Dead, Subject and Dark Archive--as well as two hybrid texts, The Tales of Horror, and Murmur. The composer Jason Eckardt’s setting of “The Distance (This)” (from Subject) premiered in New York and Helsinki and will be released on Mode records in August 2011. New work is out or forthcoming in Action Yes!, Cerise Press, Ghost Town, The Denver Quarterly, Viz Arts, and New American Writing. Mullen is a contributing editor for the on-line poetry movie site Rabbit Light Movies.

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