Soon will be asleep

I've been reading D.H. Lawrence's poetry collection Birds, Beasts and Flowers. It's less like a book of poems than it is like the unedited contents of a poet's notebook: loose, rambling, unfocused, probably too long. I get the sense that Lawrence is talking to himself here, streaming his consciousness onto the page, letting great and trivial thoughts spin him whichever direction they will, while the poet shows very little interest in structure or consistency of idea. It's all quite casual; one is tempted to call it sloppy, in fact.

If this isn't necessarily Lawrence at his best, it might be Lawrence at his most honest nakedness (and for whom is that their best, eh?). Male sexuality is the forward-moving energy of the universe, we learn, while women are fruitful and multiply but are not so interested in the forward-moving of the males through history. Every thing, bird beast or flower, is primarily a sexual organ abetted by a body of some kind, and to be a sexual organ is, for Lawrence, to say, "Here I am, I'm here." And there is little else going on in the universe. Beauty? A side-effect of the beingness of sex. And sex itself is a misplacement/displacement of the primal male energy of violence, of making war. What is the primal female energy? Lawrence is sure he doesn't know, but he's certain that he can't trust it.

Fascinating stuff, from that perspective. It makes me want to write a novel about a character who writes this poetry, this not brilliant poetry. Had Lawrence been Nabokov, that's just what this book would be.

Here's a bit from "The He-Goat," where Lawrence has a buck attempting union with a ewe, who keeps her true self distant and invisible:

With a needle of long red flint he stabs in the dark
At the living rock he is up against;
While she with her goaty mouth stands smiling the while as
    he strikes, since sure
He will never quite strike home, on the target-quick, for her
    quick
Is just beyond range of the arrow he shoots
From his leap at the zenith in her, so it falls just short of the
    mark, far enough.
It is over before it is finished.
She, smiling with goaty munch-mouth, Mona Lisa, arranges
    it so.

My favorite poems in the book might be the ones about turtles. Thanks awfully to Tom Amateur Reader for pointing this book out to me a month or two back. Well worth reading.

2 comments:

  1. My pleasure. My favorite is easily "Man and Bat," which has no sex in it at all, or none I want to know about.

    I guess I have begun to think that Lawrence is at his best when he is most himself, whatever that might mean, and in this book, he seems to be very much himself, the "himself" I now imagine him to have been, at least.

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    1. I suppose I still prefer Lawrence when he's more aware of craft, and wearing pants. That bat poem is pretty good, 75% of it. Which is a high amount, I think.

      I'd forgotten the bat poem until you brought it up, to tell the truth. I think the writing gets stranger as the book goes along. In general, I'm in favor of that kind of progression.

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