Dame Edith Sitwell

Glad to be back after a long absence. I’m thinking of myself as the DJ on WPAM:  Poets Read Poetry is the show’s theme and the individual poems, the tunes.

At last night’s meeting our topic was “Poems We Don’t Understand.” That left the field wide-open for interpretation. Andrew wrote something brilliant on the subject of understanding. If I can get a copy I’ll place on a future blog.

Andrew brought in this poem:

Bells of Gray Crystal

Bells of gray crystal
Break on each bough—
The swans’ breath will mist all
The cold airs now.
Like tall pagodas
Two people go.
Trail their long codas
Of talk through the snow.
Lonely are these
And lonely and I ….
The clouds, gray Chinese geese
Sleek though the sky.

Dame Edith Sitwell

We felt no need to understand this in the traditional sense. Frank commented on the emotional richness of the descriptions; Jo enjoyed its great sounds and we all agreed that it was a beautiful poem in an enigmatic way.

As Andrew read it aloud I thought about Dame Edith Sitwell: I remembered seeing a Beaton portrait of her in profile: the severe, angular face and sharp nose accentuated by the high, baldly Gothic forehead above shaved and thinly penciled brows. Now what mattered to me were the long, thin fingers that bore her signature: a collection of massive aquamarine rings.

My mind went then to an experience one summer in Rio. During a long Champagne and Samba party I  went outside to a terrace where I stood, transfixed, as the misty atmosphere surrounding primordial looking mountains and sea  turned  otherworldly shades of blue in a turn of color that signaled dawn’s approach.

Then, riding back to my hotel I was struck by the look of the surf lapping the sand at Copacabana in the early morning light. Crushed aquamarines.  The word aquamarine made me think of Edith Sitwell. Funny, to have the eccentric, aristocratic poet on my mind as surfers walked toward the first wave of the day and coconut vendors, who had slept beside their carts all night, stirred and stretched, at the insistence of intensifying sunshine.

Before collapsing into bed for I wrote in my Rio notebook: crushed aquamarines.

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