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Thursday, 1 July 2010

The Summer One Read Ulysses


File:Lake mapourika NZ.jpeg

To scale those peaks
of aspiration and
endeavour, a young
fool from Nowhere,
jug eared, bare
crewcut head aslant
as if not quite
getting it, life,
Day, nineteen
fifty eight,
on a wooden pier
by a lake, or in
another photo long
lost like everything else,
standing askance
beneath tall trees,
no one home,
singular, alone
at her cottage in
the woods,
the summer
read Ulysses.

Morning mist on Lake Mapourika, New Zealand: photo by Richard Palmer, 2004


jamessal said...

A more silver walk.

And a few for our mutual friend in Norway.

Nice blog.

-- Jim

TC said...

Beautiful, Jim. Especially the silvery. Don't know about our mutual friend, but I'd about done with attempting to walk on land in any case. This path looks far more... well, wet, at the very least.

jamessal said...

It only takes one night of poor sleep to turn me solipsistic: I meant Crown.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

There is no prose to capture this feeling ... and capture it you have. It throws the reader back on her/his own memory, composed as it is of what at first appears to be random elements but, in the end, as we wind down and reflect, are the only elements that could have composed it at all.

My god, poetry is beautiful.

Curtis Roberts said...

I also first read Ulysses in summer during my aberrant pre-med period when I needed to make up some course work (English literature, math and chemistry) required for aspiring doctors. Columbia University’s summer school offered a Ulysses course and it was just so great that it made up for the wash-out of the rest of the summer (the chemistry studies that never took and the breaking up with my girlfriend, which did). This poem is a lovely memory and the lake photos are breathtaking. The Caviar and Codfish blog is also now (gratefully) bookmarked.

TC said...


Thanks again. And I did know who you meant.

We have some things in common. I would consider walking on water easier done than getting a decent night's sleep.

In this state Ulysses would probably outwit both of us easily enough. I suppose there are some things to be said in favour of Enlightenment.


Thanks very much. This one was a bit like I would imagine flycasting would be. I knew just where I wanted that pretty fly to bite the water. The challenge was getting the flick of the wrist right. You never know till you know, as you know.


Girlfriends seldom survive Ulysses. In fact I think wives only survive Wittgenstein due to greater wisdom. For that matter I am currently having a hard time even surviving everyday life. Walking, sleeping, typing -- tumour on right thumb midjoint size of a baby frog, keeping blog conversation to bare hunt and peck minimum. (Probably merciful at that.)



Yes, I too remember that summer (reading it), not at lake but at sea, SS President Roosevelt going out and back (and then again out and back) across the Pacific, an 18 year old kid turning 19 that summer, working in Marine Cooks and Stewards Union, living in room with four other older guys (in the bunk above me the craps table, which they brought down the night before we hit each port, the room filling up w/ men who'd drawn money from the purser's office, spending the night winning and losing it, before heading into ports the next day (Honolulu, Yokohama, Hong Kong, Manila and back again), reading Ulysses 'on my own' -- not knowing what to 'make of it' but there it was, all those words. . . .


first light coming into sky above ridge,
silver of planet next to moon by branch
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

following notes made on spot,
color with washed tints

itself concealed, by looking,
which absence and point

cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,
waning white moon above point across it

Lally said...

Tom, another brilliant post and necessary poem. Like it did for others obviously, it stirred my own memories of reading U. in weather towers at the ends of Air Force runways a few years after you. Finnegans Wake as well. I was certain I understood it so much better than the college profs and kids I hadn't become a part of yet. Who knows? Maybe I did in a way, coming to it all so fresh and unencumbered.

TC said...

Beautiful testimonies by poets to the "life" of a work and how it survives -- a transmission we can't explain but do "get", feeling (for) it -- the work stained as it is with the temporary hue and cry of times (Joyce's, "ours" in our memories of reading him), yet something of mind still always alive and ticking away inside there too,

following notes made on spot,
color with washed tints

itself concealed,

shifting, silvery, a light.

Curtis Roberts said...

Clearly, like the other readers here, I can’t get this out of my head and keep coming back to it. It recalls very powerful memories that I usually put aside (because they’re so powerful, I think, and I don’t know what to do with them).

“A more silver walk”

“There is no prose to capture this feeling”

“My god, poetry is beautiful”

“Necessary poem”

“ itself concealed, by looking”

I’ll remember all of these and also:

“Girlfriends seldom survive Ulysses.”

“I knew just where I wanted that pretty fly to bite the water.”

Radish King said...

Tom, this is achy and splendid. I survived Ulysses and Wittgenstein but only because I was too stupid to know any better. On the other hand I have never been a very good wife or girl friend. I have talent though. I endeavour forever. That's my talent.

~otto~ said...

I never read Ulysses. How did that happen? But this makes me wish I had, one summer at a cottage in the woods.



Something about the (first) reading, then the recalling (first in memory, then words) that has struck a chord here (these comments) and here --


first light coming into sky above ridge,
planet to the left of moon above branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

become a matter of knowledge,
progressive noting down

not only material but extent,
experienced, apart from

cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,
whiteness of tern flapping toward point

Curtis Roberts said...

Steve, It's very good to learn how thing appear and feel where you are this morning. Would love to see that "tern flapping toward point".

TC said...

Such lovely lovely comments from such lovely lovely people.

A long two-fingered (frog thumb pointed in air) response comment, laboriously hunted and peck'd some several abject hours ago, was unfortunately swallowed up by Blogger's "Page in Error" trolls. I am told here in the dark of the cave that this was "a message from God".

At any rate, in brief (but not in briefs), I share Otto's desire to flee to the big two hearted river, where we will read Ulysses and debate how we may improve ourselves so that the women may survive us.

I totally bow to Rebecca's superior talents. Boy friend and husband anyway are probably just two different ways of saying jerk. Theoretical considerations descending from this thesis are compacted into the two Lady Wortley Montagu gems I have just now posted above this.

With Lady Mary's tart riposte to Lord Lyttleton I imagined the caption beneath the lower image of the newlyweds shortly after the marriage as: "Bother! He's been at the Ulysses again!"

And finally in company with brother Curtis I totally bow to the glorious provision of Herr Stephen our resident matutinal genius loci and poeticus phenomeno philosophicus. I think that I shall never see a tern real or virtual or for that matter daylight, real or virtual, again, unless it is through the diurnal free passage aboard his stately niners. Anticipation of his surf reports, our pipeline from the Pipeline, has helped to (almost...) get through many nights. Such as for example this one. Taking anything for granted, no, never again, much less a great gift. Now that the solstice has turned the melancholy mind turns with it counting the remaining days of Stephen's 1000 day cycle. Like a child at the beginning of summer vacation, I once thought that stretch of time boundless. Now maybe not so much.

This is how we learn to appreciate things I suppose, though "we" comes out sounding funny. How about "one learns". Or "when will one ever learn".


Thanks Curtis and Tom, for all such (written) thoughts. . . .

Anonymous said...

Ulysses is one of my pendings. I would certainly love to read it in a place like that. Amazing photograph and delightful poem =)

TC said...

Muchas gracias, Lucy. Someday in an eternal summer let us read Ulysses together.