Dystopian Novel – Found Poem

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We by Yevgeny Zamyatin is a remarkable dystopian novel published in 1921. It is a chilling narrative about control and collectivism and more subtle that Orwell’s 1984. The language (in translation) is curiously poetic and the imagery is surreal. Will Self in his Introduction to the Vintage edition talks about the ‘stuttering enjambments . . agonies of elipsis’  and ‘daring synasthesia’ of the narrative style. The protaganist does not even have a name – he is simply D503. I have tried to convey something of this nightmarish vision in this prose poem.

A MESOSTIC is like an acrostic except the vertical text runs down the middle of the main text.

=====in these hours oBserve the chastely lowered blinds in some rooms
==while others walk alOng avenues in the dark
=the infinite intersectiOn of citizens
========I’m at a desK all night

+                      +                    +
====hear squelshing fOotsteps behind me
===============I Feel as if my hands swinging by my sides don’t belong
but run between folded buildings searching for the woman I saw

yesterday             imagine the

====mocking angle of Her eyebrows raised above the windows of her eyes
=============see sOme people with their feet glued to the ceiling
========you think yoU are capable of love
==========he punctuRed me with his eyes
=====the only answer iS surgery

+                       +                         +

=============I will Be totally frank
============the absOlute solution to the mystery of happiness
=============has nOt yet fully materialised
=====one day we’ll lacK for nothing

+                        +                          +

========one day all Of these 86,400 seconds will be in the Table of Hours
============it’s difFicult to believe people used to live without precise regulation
getting up and going to bed

+                         +                          +

==whenever it occurreD to them I came
=====to a vision of mAthematical nirvana
===above a shape barelY visible clothed in ciphers of light

====descending from Skies – a new saviour

+                          +                            +

==============he Ushered me into the operation room with a smile
=========I knew reaSon & logic would triumph

+                           +                            +

I had to use the odd formating to try to get the vertical text to line up!

The drawing is my own.

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Portrait of Annick

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This is a painting I did way back in 1966 of my (then) French girlfriend. That’s 49 years ago when I was 20! Oh, where are you now Annick? One of the lecturers at college, who saw it, had the audacity to say he could see an expresssion of love in the painting!

All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts. His acts being seven ages.

Gauguin’s Soliloquy

aftergauguin

Gauguin’s Soliloquy – after Robert Browning

Gr-r-r – there goes my heart’s torment,
take your damn easel for a walk, do –
if hatred could kill men, Vincent,
God’s blood, would mine not kill you!
What? You’re going to pick sunflowers –
well, don’t bring them back to the sink,
I don’t want you painting here for hours.

Well, thank God, that lunatic’s gone –
he not only paints in oils but eats the stuff too!
Last night he went for me with a razor –
he slashed a canvas which I had to mend with glue.
He can only paint what’s in front of him;
I use my imagination as well as chrome yellow
while he complains of being a victim!

I expect you know he sponges off his brother?
Poor Theo has to send canvas and paints,
Vincent spends half the money on gin,
it’s enough to try the patience of saints,
I don’t think I can stand it much longer:
I’m in danger of committing a mortal sin
I don’t want to end up in the slammer.

Ah, I know what I’ll do, if you please,
I’ll pack up my things while he’s out –
I’ve always wanted to go to the South Seas;
the hot sun will be good for my gout!
Yes, I’ll paint native Tahitians – after they undress.
I’ll become famous for my Gardens of Eden
while mad, bad Vincent will die—penni-less!

The starting point for this was Robert Browning’s Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister from which you will see I’ve filtched the first two lines. Browning may be thought old fashioned and ‘Victorian’ but his trade mark dramatic monologues still feel original and alive to me.

It is well known that Van Gogh and Gauguin shared a house – the Yellow House in Arles – for a while and wondered about setting up an artists’ colony. The two artists were pretty temperamental characters and predictably they soon got on each others nerves!

Gauguin wrote a biased account of their time together which blames Vincent for everything that went wrong. As usual reality was more complicated. The stereotypical ‘crazy artist’  gets in the way of the actual complexities. I’ve always warmed more to Van Gogh’s paintings (than Gauguin’s ) and by reading his Letters, realised while he must have been hell to live with, he was  well- read, a visionary like Blake, intellectually and spiritually inquisitive and sensitive to suffering – but of course mentally unstable. There are many theories about this latter point. One of the more recent biographies is The Love of Many Things by David Sweetman which I have yet to read (apart from dipping into it). I would also like some day to visit the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

The incidents in the poem are based on real events.

Shunryu Suzuki: Beginner’s mind

▶ Shunryu Suzuki: Repetition – YouTube.

This is one of the first books about Buddhist meditation I bought many years ago, along with Christmas Humphreys’ – the latter author was a populariser of Buddhism when there were not so many books by practitioners as there are now!

For this excellent clear reading from Shunryu Suzuki’s book you will need to CLICK on SOURCE: Shunryu Suzuki. (below)

SORRY – THE VIDEO IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE FOR COPYRIGHT REASONS.

Source: Shunryu Suzuki: Beginner’s mind