Coming up on the 15th of February at Poetry East, the London Buddhist Centre, an exploration of Auden’s great poem of political fears and disenchantment: ‘September 1st, 1939’, with Ian Samson who has recently published a book dedicated to an in-depth exploration of the poem.
But what would that great poet of political engagement in the twentieth century have made of the current state of the world? Would it have brought out the ambivalently committed English socialist of the earlier years, or the Christian humanitarian Auden of maturity? Would he have understood that modern right wing populism is not quite the same thing as the fascism that he knew, and proceeded to dissect the differences and similarities with prophetic brilliance?
A partial answer to these impossible questions is provided for me at any rate by the still pertinent introduction to Faber’s 1979 selection of Auden by Edward Mendelson:
” In Auden’s unbroken vision of history, the ancient discontents survived in contemporary forms, but so did the ancient sources of personal and literary vitality. Modernism, disenfranchised from the past by its own sense of isolated modernity, could bring literary tradition into the present only as battered ironic fragments as in Eliot or by visionary heroic efforts like Pound’s to ‘make it new’. For Auden, it had never grown old. A laconic old English toughness survived in his poetry as did an Augustan civility…. Modernism tended to look back toward the reigns of a native aristocracy, too often it found the reflected glory of ancient tradition in political leaders who promised to restore social grandeur and unity through coercive Force. Auden’s refusal to idealize the past saved him from comparable fits of mistaken generosity. His poems and essays present the idea of the good society as, at best, a possibility never actually to be achieved, but towards which one must always work.’
Urthona goes zen for our next issue due out next summer. American Zen. Buddhism and in particular Zen have had a profound influence on on American arts and literature over the last 100 years. We plan to cover:
* Buddhism and American poetry from Ezra Pound to Jane Hirshfield. And the Beats of course.
* Zen and Abstract Expressionism.
* Interview with a contemporary master of Zen brush painting.
Similar to last year’s excellent event at the West London Buddhist Centre (address below), on 1st July we have another issue launch of Urthona, the Buddhist Arts magazine. Introduced by its poetry editor, Dharmavadana. There will be readings from four poets featured in issue 33 – Caroline Maldonado, Cath Drake, Ian Marriott and Subhadassi – Satyadaka reading his brilliant new Rilke translations, editor Ratnagarbha with translations from Dante, plus music from the Bright Moments Duo: Jonathan Cohen (Piano), Francois Moreau (Double Bass) play jazz and Latin standards and originals, Music for Head, Heart and Feet. And some surprises! You’ll be able to purchase copies of the new Urthona on the night.
There will also be meditation in the main shrine room from 6 pm, introduced and guided for those who are new to it and would like a taster.
Booking is not necessary and the event is free but the West London Centre does appreciate donations.
Urthona # 33 launch 7 – 9 pm Saturday 1st July
West London Buddhist Centre,
Royal Oak House,
45a Porchester Rd,
London W2 5DP.
020 7727 9382
More details here:
A walk in Cambridge on a razor bright February afternoon. The market square below is in shadow with warm slumberous lights beginning to glow from the various stalls. Long furtive shadows from bicycles and pedestrians on the streets. Even manhole covers seem scalded with an otherworldly radiance. Up above old bricks are etched with light as if they were made of some strange kind of opaque crystal. The sun melts mediaeval pinnacles into molten gold – everything is changed…. Continue reading “Cambridge on a winter afternoon”
Werner Herzog Talks about nature, art, and filmmaking. This has got to be podcast of the year. His advice to budding filmmakers read, read, read great literature. The book he wants to highlight: JA Baker’s great classic of English nature writing The Peregrine. Herzog finds here writing of a calibre that has not appeared since the short stories of Conrad – truthfulness, passion and ecstasy as the author seeks to become one with the bird he is tracking over the woods and fields of Essex.
Robert Harrison of KCSU Stamford, has an occasional and highly erudite podcast covering all aspects of the humanities, in this episode he talks with Professor Jean Marie Apostolides about Guy Debord, situationism, and psychogeography. In an earlier episode he goes into more detail about The Peregrine with Andrea Nightingale.
Coton, pronounced with the first 0 long as in Seb Coe, is the nearest village to Cambridge on the west side. Beyond the village wide, lazy cornfields open out, glowing in the morning heat at this sultry end of July.
After a mile or so a small wood closes in:
frettings of tarnished brass
tunnel to the arch of gold Continue reading “A ramble in South Cambs”
The Berkshire Downs, not open country but deep woodland scaling the hillside. Just after rain, wandering through the heavy feast of rain soaked boughs, green shadows dripping all around me, festering silence, rich but a little sinister. Solitary dog walkers loom out of the stillness, a black labrador bounds up, then disappears into the resiny gloom beyond the gravel ride. There are adolescent Wellington firs, splayed at the base like rainforest trees, large ferns and parties of very young firs clustered at the edge of glades, eager for their share of the light. I lose myself in the rich resiny silence, an hour’s walk seems like a lifetime of tramping, the wood goes on spreading upwards, there are freaks of golden light beyond the thickest trees in the distance, but this suggests the top of the hill not the end of the wood. There is no discernible end. Like Buddha saying that there is no discernible end to time or matter, so long as one continues to believe in them.
gate half open
the gold eaves of the wood
beckon inwards Continue reading “A Berkshire Wood in Spring”
It was spring and I wanted to climb a hill, but not too far away. Too much driving, surely, equals alienation. Best to stay within a day’s journey on horse or camel back. Let the crabbed soul come along for the ride. No more than one hour’s drive then. I would give in to contour lust, follow Ruskin, worshipper of the Alps, in my own humble quest for ascent. Continue reading “A quest for contours in East Anglia”
An extract from the editorial for issue 32, due out November 2015, on the cosmic goddess
I believe that the modern goddess image is not primarily a figure to be worshipped, but a symbol that embodies a vision of the entire cosmos that is deeply, desperately needed in this age. In turning our hearts to the goddess, we are turning towards a sacred cosmos, in which each object and event is intimately connected to an interwoven Whole. This interwovenness, or interconnectedness, or ‘interbeing’ as Zen Master Tich Nat Hanh styles it, is a vision of life that in past ages was felt and known ‘in the blood’ without needing to be articulated. Continue reading “PROTASIS: The Cosmic Goddess”