Welcome to Issue # 37 of Plume.
July: and sometimes it happens that we find ourselves in a friend’s cabin, say, or a B &B or small inn with time on our hands and an exceedingly small library at our disposal. But: our hearts lift. Fled the tiny agonies of selection, quieted the purr of guilt that attends our choice should it not be up to our professed standards (always rehearsed, made with others in mind: “It’s trash, I know…” or “Beach reading…”). Now a different pleasure finds us: someone else (friend or anonymous collector) has decided our fate. And how much joy we locate in just this: to take up again, say, Robinson Crusoe or The Road to Wigan Pier or The Complete Robert Frost by necessity. This is the thought, anyway, that guides my selection of this issue’s “secret poem”; one I should hasten to add that does not meet, exactly, the criteria outlined above. Yet I wonder how many of you would read this poem were it not in your line of vision, as it were, today.
The Whitsun Weddings
That Whitsun, I was late getting away:
Not till about
One-twenty on the sunlit Saturday
Did my three-quarters-empty train pull out,
All windows down, all cushions hot, all sense
Of being in a hurry gone. We ran
Behind the backs of houses, crossed a street
Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish-dock; thence
The river’s level drifting breadth began,
Where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet.
All afternoon, through the tall heat that slept
For miles inland,
A slow and stopping curve southwards we kept.
Wide farms went by, short-shadowed cattle, and
Canals with floatings of industrial froth;
A hothouse flashed uniquely: hedges dipped
And rose: and now and then a smell of grass
Displaced the reek of buttoned carriage-cloth
Until the next town, new and nondescript,
Approached with acres of dismantled cars.
At first, I didn’t notice what a noise
The weddings made
Each station that we stopped at: sun destroys
The interest of what’s happening in the shade,
And down the long cool platforms whoops and skirls
I took for porters larking with the mails,
And went on reading. Once we started, though,
We passed them, grinning and pomaded, girls
In parodies of fashion, heels and veils,
All posed irresolutely, watching us go,
As if out on the end of an event
To something that survived it. Struck, I leant
More promptly out next time, more curiously,
And saw it all again in different terms:
The fathers with broad belts under their suits
And seamy foreheads; mothers loud and fat;
An uncle shouting smut; and then the perms,
The nylon gloves and jewellery-substitutes,
The lemons, mauves, and olive-ochres that
Marked off the girls unreally from the rest.
Yes, from cafés
And banquet-halls up yards, and bunting-dressed
Coach-party annexes, the wedding-days
Were coming to an end. All down the line
Fresh couples climbed aboard: the rest stood round;
The last confetti and advice were thrown,
And, as we moved, each face seemed to define
Just what it saw departing: children frowned
At something dull; fathers had never known
Success so huge and wholly farcical;
The women shared
The secret like a happy funeral;
While girls, gripping their handbags tighter, stared
At a religious wounding. Free at last,
And loaded with the sum of all they saw,
We hurried towards London, shuffling gouts of steam.
Now fields were building-plots, and poplars cast
Long shadows over major roads, and for
Some fifty minutes, that in time would seem
Just long enough to settle hats and say
I nearly died,
A dozen marriages got under way.
They watched the landscape, sitting side by side
—An Odeon went past, a cooling tower,
And someone running up to bowl—and none
Thought of the others they would never meet
Or how their lives would all contain this hour.
I thought of London spread out in the sun,
Its postal districts packed like squares of wheat:
There we were aimed. And as we raced across
Bright knots of rail
Past standing Pullmans, walls of blackened moss
Came close, and it was nearly done, this frail
Travelling coincidence; and what it held
Stood ready to be loosed with all the power
That being changed can give. We slowed again,
And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled
A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower
Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.
Philip Larkin, “The Whitsun Weddings” from Collected Poems (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2001)
A poem, I confess, that I have loved as long as I have loved poems. As there are poems out if not out of fashion, perhaps off the current radar, and you are thinking of your own half-forgotten loves just now, too?
But, again – to business. Brief, to be sure.
I think we are now — completely in a way — a journal: we have a masthead, a staff. For those interested in such things the roster lurks beneath the ABOUT tag on the PLUME nav bar. To save you the trouble:
Daniel Lawless: Editor-in-Chief
Jason Cook: Managing Editor
Marc Vincenz: International Editor
Jonathan Penton: Publications Editor
Nancy Mitchell: Associate Editor for Special Features
Bryan Duffy: Assistant to the Editor
Jill Lynch: Assistant for marketing and Publicity
David Cudar: Assistant Editor for Book Reviews and Criticism
On tap in the fall: a reading in Los Angeles: Mark Irwin, Arthur Vogelsang, and Marci Vogel at Beyond Baroque. Upcoming: Asheville, Chicago, and Paris. More information and additional readings to follow.
(Again: on the off chance that you, poets, are interested in reading at one of the above sites, or might want to organize a reading in your own neighborhood, please, again, email me at email@example.com – we’ll make every effort to accommodate you, I promise.)
Clearly, certain of my promises mean little, however, as the following attests:
The Plume Anthology of Poetry 2013 is out! Should you be so moved, you can purchase a copy at our STORE on the PLUME Website or through our publishers at MadHat and at Amazon and the usual other sites. And this: several poets have told me of their plans to use the anthology in their poetry/creative writing classes and lo-res sessions: just saying.
Our cover art this month is Kyle Thompson. He began taking photographs at the age of nineteen after finding interest in nearby abandoned houses. His work is mostly composed of self-portraits, often taking place in empty forests and abandoned homes. His new book is Somewhere Else.
Next up, after this issue’s Featured Selection from James Richardson look for extended work Linda Pastan; Glenn Mott; Chris Kennedy; and newly aboard, Jim Daniels in collaboration with Charlee Brodsky; Tess Gallagher and Lawrence Matsuda; and Nin Andrews, with others just appearing on the horizon. (Here, too, again, let me add as always: those with projects that might be suitable for the Featured Selection please do contact us with your proposal at firstname.lastname@example.org ).
Finally, New Work Received this month includes pieces from Amy Gerstler, Brad Richard, Charlie Smith, Jean-Paul Malpoix (translated by Jeanne Gilleland), Devin Johnston, Elaine Sexton, Erez Bitton (translated by Tsipi Keller), Jim Daniels/Carlee Brodsky, Garret Hongo, Friedrich Hölderlin (translated by David Young), Jane Hirshfield, Jason Schneiderman, Larissa Shmailo, Sally Bliumis-Dunn, T. R. Hummer, and Thomas Lux.
As always, I do hope you enjoy the issue!