Reading: Gracious living Tara by Tom Raworth

British poet Tom Raworth (1938 – 2017) was associated with the Black Mountain School. He won numerous awards with his poetry that, according to John Olsen, features an intense gouache of perceptions

Gracious living    ‘ Tara’
lonely as four cherries on a tree
at night, new moon, wet roads
a moth or a snowflake
whipping past glass

lonely as the red noses of four clowns
thrust up through snow
their shine four whitened panes
drawn from imagined memory

lonely as no other lives
touching to recorded water
all objects stare
their memories aware

lonely as pain
recoiling from itself
imagining the cherries
and roses reaching out

The first verse introduces many perceptions already, but we can combine them to a scene in early winter. We wonder about the number four though. In numerology, 4 is practical and down-to-earth. It stands for hard work, discipline, commitment, no-nonsense. Sure enough, the four cherries repeat in clowns noses. The image reminds me of a buried killer clown – Stephen King would like this poem.
“imagined memory” is vague and a little annoying. The imagery of the four thrust up noses is already stretched, but that is of course the poet’s intention.
The third verse is totally incomprehensible, the hard rhyme stare – aware should indicate a center of meaning. The staring objects remind me of Leibniz’ monadology. The monads ‘have no windows’, yet are ‘aware’ of the entire universe through the armonia prestabiliata.
But we humans are not like the objects, we do have ‘windows’ to the world and that is, we might say, how the pain gets in. That is this poem’s description of the human condition: we are recoiling in pain, imagining the objects, that are metaphysically cut off from, or shut out of the world, reaching out. To each other? To us?

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