Lots of good things in this issue of Orbis and congratulations to editor Carole Baldock and her team. Not often one sees Alexander Pope appear in the pages of a modern magazine, but here he is (by courtesy of Stuart Nunn in the Past Master section), the Great Curmudgeon himself laying waste around him at the low standards he sees everywhere he looks:
‘See skulking Truth to her old Cavern fled,
Mountains of Casuistry heaped o’er her head!
Philosophy, that lean’d on Heaven before,
Shrinks to her second cause and is no more…’
Ah, would he were alive today!
Unlike other magazines, Orbis comes down from the heights of Parnassus and invites readers to participate by nominating their favourite pieces. This provides the entertaining and informative section ‘Readers’ Award’. My own four choices were:
Remembering Capel Celyn: Liverpool 1965, by Kathy Miles, about her Welsh village flooded to create a reservoir. I know no Welsh and yet I can hear the lilt of that beautiful language echoing in the back of my mind as I read this sad poem with its wonderfully-placed Welsh words:
‘For we were Welsh too, our names cwtched
away by marriage, loved the hidden lyric
of our streets: Rhiwlas and Pows, Dovey …’
Forms of Embrace by Christopher Allen, attempts the capture the essential construction basis of visual artworks: the circle, the block and the curve. The third stanza brings to mind (one might almost say inevitably) Hokusai’s great wave:
‘A smooth black curve
proclaims a solid solitude
shaped like a Japanese wave
cresting a great silence …’
– She Died Today, by Cristina Harba is an excellent treatment of how long it takes for loss to manifest.
‘ … It is a week later that I lie face down on the bed,
willing it to swallow me whole.’
Picture, by Anne Banks is an attractive, quirky poem, reminiscent of Magritte’s great surrealistic painting ‘ Not to be Repoduced’ (1937) of a man looking into a mirror and seeing himself, but not as he expects to see himself.
‘I intrude on the space, my reflection
Bright and photographic in its clarity…’
I also liked very much Contained by Alison Chisholm and Guidewire insertion, pre-surgery by Jan Whittaker and indeed many more.
My own contribution is A Professional in Charge, a poem referencing the fate of one of Henry VII’s unfortunate queens. The story behind the poem is a wonderful portrait of a woman who stoical in the face of injustice but determined not to have her final moments laid open to cruelties inflicted her enemies. When I read of her fate many years ago I was impressed by her courage and presence of mind in the face of such injustice and my admiration has not lessened in the years since. For true horror stories, the Tudors were well ahead of the genre.
A Professional in Charge
I know the way of things:
the talk of justice, law –
But there is also vengeance, spite
and marital inconvenience.
Other heads were left
to dangle by their sinews,
took three cuts or more
before the deed was done.
As token of his mercy
or, some would say, his guilt,
my Royal Lord allowed
an executioner from France
because I was too much afraid
the heavy-handled axe
might fail at separating head
from neck in one swift slice.
The man who waits to sunder
Henry’s second Queen
discreetly hides his sword blade
as my Ladies help me kneel.
A sorry end, but not prolonged
through cruelty, or botched.
There will be dignity. I have
a professional in charge.
Orbis #177 contents:
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