Monday, October 25, 2010

Tuesday Poem: To Autumn by Ian Wedde


How to prepare stuffed green peppers:
In plenty of green olive oil, cook
Garlic and onions, with a couple of red chilies.
Add the arborio rice and give it a stir.
Some cans of cheap Italian tomatoes are good.

A glass of red wine, and a huge handful
Of chopped parsley. Stuff the partly cooked
Rice into capped green peppers, and let
The rest stew slowly in the pot with the dolma.
When you life the lid praise the commonplace world

Where everything ends and then starts again –
Where are the songs of spring? I heard them at the end
Of last winter, they were starting to struggle out
Of the wet paddocks, they were choking on unpruned trellises.
And now a year later, like a good bourgeois,

Like the Sabine farm’s wry proprietor, turning
My back on landscape, I approach with sharp secateurs
The yellowed vine that runs round the verandah
Above the deck stained with summer’s libations.
Smoke from the house-fire blows away

Into the rainy mist on Mount Victoria, the place
I take my bursting heart on autumn mornings
So gorgeous I almost believe that beauty’s
All I need to know on earth, that my song
Can be without weariness, fever and fret.

Ian Wedde  from The Commonplace Odes

Ian’s poem can stand in its own right. Or it can be placed in a larger context. Poets, like musicians and artists, weave strands from their predecessors into their current works. This poem pays particular homage to Horace and Keats, but it contains echos and associations to other poets. I love it for its own integrity and for its reverberations.

Ian’s ‘The Commonplace Odes’ was published in 2001. The whole series is based on a Horace collection with the same title. Horace was a Roman poet who lived from 65 to 8 BC. During his lifetime he bragged that his poetry would live as long as there were Vestal Virgins in Rome. Those ladies are long gone, but his poems, including 103 odes, are still read.

They cover a great number of themes, agriculture, dinner invitations, wine, woman, song, holiday celebrations, and patriotic hymns. Many are about his beloved farm in the Sabine hills not far from Rome.

One of English poet Keats famous odes is ‘To Autumn’. Ian borrows the title. Further, he even borrows a line “where are the songs of spring.” In his poem he talks of ‘the vines that round the thatch-eves run’. And in the last few lines there are generous genuflection to Keats’ other great odes, ‘To a Nightingale’ and “To a Grecian Urn.’

Such rapture about food. I’m sure Ovid and Keats would be at ease. Sensuous men both. Such a good Italian dish too. Rome and Hampstead Heath at home in Mount Victoria. Poetry can span the centuries as well as the senses.

In my previous blog I told how Tennyson adapted an old narrative poem. Ian has adapted old moods, modifying, codifying and modernising them. All part of the rich feast that is poetry.

The poem is published with the author's permission.

1 comment:

  1. There's a lot in this poem, including the nods to Keats, but the food descriptions are rich and the seasonal allusions strongly drawn.