Monday, 10 October 2011

in the wake of london

i find myself lolling on the couch flicking thru my alexander mcqueen book savage beauty. if you share a house with someone who works with textiles i'd imagine it's almost impossible to see how one couldn't be fascinated with his work. and altho, to the best of my memory, neither of us paid that much attention while he was alive, certainly in the last year or so his presence has become more palpable and, weirdly, our sense of loss at his passing has only increased.

anna wintour, quoted in this month's rouleur no less, said fashion's not about looking back. it's always about looking forward. which, while sounding oldly futurist, is a statement that could easily aplied to mcqueen. except that mcqueen doesn't just take the viewer to the future but to a range of other places entirely.

for me, looking at pictures of mcqueen's work is like looking at a landscape. but while much fashion can be reduced to a procession of skinny models plodding bovinely from one end of a plank to another mcqueen is all about the work. here's an artist (and i don't use the word loosely) who genuinely transcends boundaries. for me it's all about the colour, for t all about the textile. either is breathtaking and that's before considering the almost sculptural vision that powers the collections. put altogether like this (the book was done for a retrospective at the met) it's transcendent and dazzling.

waiting for me on my return from london, coincidentally considering what went on this week, was my copy of tomas transtromer's new collected poems which i got because i knew sorlil was reading them and i felt i'd been avoiding him too long. then along came the nobel.

frustratingly it's all in english which i hadn't realised. there are great lines, such as -

The herring gull: a harpoon with a velvet back.
In close up like a snowed-in hull
with hidden pulses glittering in rhythm

(from song) that when i read them out had both us wondering what they'd sound like in swedish. that'll be a request to the relatives then!

and the opposite of london, a place i've read so much about but spent so little time in, so that while i can draw a map of the place in my head the actual lived experience of it is entirely alien to me, the opposite is true of stockholm and reading about it thru the lense of transtromer. the poeple and places here are those that i know, the names seemingly plucked out and deposited in this book so that i feel as if i'm creeping back into my own memory in order to process the images/feelings, almost like a reverse phenomenology!

sitting scanning it tho, i find myself getting tetchy, particularly with philip hensher's snidey review in the telegraph. here is a haiku, he declares waspishly, that perhaps might have more 'swing' in swedish. except that it's not presented as a haiku but part of a longer work (section 6 - the great enigma). one's forced to question if hensher has actually read it with any attention whatsoever.

speaking to t about it later i was surprised how much it reminded me of being out on the boat (i spend a fair amount of time out on the archipelago, so much so i get the english and swedish pronunciations mixed up!), especially the earlier poems. there was also a thing in the memoir section - the title menninen ser mig, memories look at me, seems rather ideal - where he goes on about his liking for drawing when he was wee. i'm into a lot of drawing these days so this struck a chord, along with his haunting of libraries. i didn't know the word tranan (crane) either , which was a bonus.

so, new collected poems then. i'm told the translations are great but without the swedish it's hard to tell. what you have got is very readable and i have to say i was pleasantly surprised. nobel material? well, now....

what we won't be getting down to london for is the bush theatre's sixty six books which is running for most of this month and is a bunch of folk getting in about their copies of the king james bible. i have to say, this looks fabulous and i am saddened to be missing it. it is worth a scan around the website tho just to see what they're up to. it's great to see the bible getting used in this way, true it's a bit of a trawl at times but always around the corner is some fabulous chunk of language which makes it all worthwhile. plus those big old narrative paintings make a lot more sense when you know the references!

so we're still a bit pining for london. would we up sticks and move? that's a bit up in the air and seems unlikely in the short term but in a couple of years who knows. in the meantime it may be that i have to go back to sweden - unless of course last year's winter makes its predicted return early and i don't have to!


Dominic Rivron said...

The London bug. It's gnawed at me over the years since I left. I must say I'm not sure if I'd like to go back and live there or not. On one hand there's the rich cultural and social life, on the other the hugeness of it all, which I'd probably find oppressive these days.

I think it's indicative (for me) that I really look forward to seeing my several friends from London - but when I do it's usually on occasions when they're taking the opportunity to get away from the place!

swiss said...

we make not be in london any time soon but we are down your way next month, ilkley i think. i think i may be getting a bike sorted out - t's doing some textile thing - but any good visiting pointers gratefully received. and if the trio's playing so much the better.

Rachel Fox said...

This is why rich folks have several homes - town, country and beyond. The best of all worlds... etc.

swiss said...

if we could only get that lottery win...!

swiss said...

dominic said -

Visiting pointers ... Why not visit us? Trio unfortunately not gigging until November - and then it's in Grimsby. Other visiting pointers: Almscliffe Crag Salts Mill, Shipley Ilkley Moor Shipley Glen Seriously, if you're passing this way, drop in.

swiss said...

i don;t know quite what our itinerary is but i'll get in touch nearer the time. cheers.

Marion McCready said...

mine is the old collected, so I'm not sure how much I'm missing in not having the new collected, enjoying it anyway though getting through it quite slowly, I've been reading so much other non-poetry stuff lately

Marion McCready said...

london- love it for a visit but after a few days I'm gasping for some fresh, clean air!