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Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Hazard Response


So She Moved into the Light: Eric Fischl, 1997

As in that grey exurban wasteland in Gatsby
When the white sky darkens over the city
Of ashes, far from the once happy valley,
This daze spreads across the blank faces
Of the inhabitants, suddenly deprived
Of the kingdom’s original promised gift.
Did I say kingdom when I meant place
Of worship? Original when I meant
Damaged in handling? Promised when
I meant stolen? Gift when I meant
Trick? Inhabitants when I meant slaves?
Slaves when I meant clowns
Who have wandered into test sites? Test
Sites when I meant contagious hospitals?
Contagious hospitals when I meant clouds
Of laughing gas? Laughing gas
When I meant tears? No, it’s true,
No one should be writing poetry
In times like these, Dear Reader,
I don’t have to tell you of all people why.
It’s as apparent as an attempted
Punch in the eye that actually
Catches only empty air — which is
The inside of your head, where
The green ritual sanction
Of the poem has been cancelled.


Anonymous said...

If you click on the painting at the top, you will find a small surprise in the form of the clown who may or may not be the one who did or did not wander into the test site.

(This may be part of the test.)

For those who are curious, the homepage link to "Hazard Response" on the po'i-tre site will deliver a good audio rendition of the poem by da Black Mamba, voiced, like the poem itself, but from another direction, far from the once happy valley.

Anonymous said...

serendipitous web connection #73:

There's a giddiness about Fischl's painting, a gyroscopic a/effect as though the people are slightly off-balance and about to topple backwards. The picture, and your poem, had me searching for Diana Cooper's quote:

It helped me in the air to keep my small mind contained in earthly human limits, not lost in vertiginous space and elements unknown.

but in searching I stumbled across
Beyond The Line - a name to match your avatar, and images of 'tricky gifts': 'In their complexity they become unstable and sometimes quite fragile.'

Tom Raworth said...

I'd often wondered what happened to Tom Finney's legs.
Tom to Tom

Anonymous said...


Good about the strange gyro-effect in the off-balance spectators. The gaping ones look up toward what is to come--the Hazard. (That is what people in America have spent the last decade doing. And now here it is, but the Light is proving hard.) Here the Duff Cooper bit of genius proves prescient:
"It helped me in the air to keep my small mind contained in earthly human limits, not lost in vertiginous space and elements unknown."

And as to that serendipitous web connection #73, with the "other" Diana Cooper: her Beyond the Line statement seems, again, oddly apt, as if plucked for this occasion by what J. Keats termed "the magic hand of Chance":

"I am also interested in how you can start with a logical system and through sheer repetition and excess create something that unravels and stops making sense. In my work, systems overlap, compete and contradict one another. I want to expose the proximity of order to chaos and show how these two realms bump up against one another... The viewer needs to walk between things, stand on their tiptoes or bend down in order to see the work fully."

The poem as presented and posted (by the magic hand of Z.), here, seems to operate in that wobbly, slightly out-of-balance overlapping-systems territory.

Anonymous said...


It seems that even as we speak of them, they are still attached to Sir Tom, as they have been now for exactly 87 years. And here on his birthday, Sir Tom Day, we travel to Deepdale to find out what Sir Tom Finney means to the people of Preston (it is a cold and blustery day, yet it seems there are at least twice as many loyal Deepdalers willing to shiveringly testify for Sir Tom than there have been You Tube surfers willing to click on to watch the testifying--which means that, happily, at least half of the Sir Tom testifiers were so selfless in their loyalty as to care not a whit for seeing themselves on You Tube):

And too there was this bit in today's Mail (online), with the obvious query:

'Ridiculous,' quoth sir Tom in reply to the obvious query.

Zephirine said...

I like that quote, Parallax. I tend to think of Lady Diana Cooper as a famous beauty with not many brains, but perhaps wrongly.

Vertiginous space and elements unknown goes very well with Tom's poem.

tc/btp said...

Zeph's right, we've perhaps all been wrong about that. As the days go by moreover one finds the regions opened up by this post, like those aereal zones conjured in the curious brain of D. Cooper, more and more vertiginous. Tom Finney's birthday, the legs of the girl who moved into the Light, Deepdale... the implications keep spinning. (Could it be an inner ear disorder?)

BTW, for those copy-and-pasters who'd like to grow even more off-balance, the splicing of Tom Finney's legs into Nelson Rockefeller's by-the-numbers painting can be seen at the link below. Critics will note the sadder, more muted tones of NR's work, its cooler blues and grays appearing restrained and pensive in mood when seen against the vivid, confident by-the-numbers oeuvre of Hoover. (Sorry to have fumbled the highlighting codes once again, I'm useless even without the vertigo.)

parallax said...

ah yes, to all the above.

Did you notice that the serendipitous *other* Diana Cooper also said in her artist statement: 'I want the work to be both vital and vulnerable, like an ice cream cake in the sun.'

Cringe? maybe ... but how can you not be transported back to MacArthur Park? I was tempted to post Donna Summer's karaoke version for the sing-a-long factor, or even the Three Degrees version for the synchronicity of massive hair and swaying arms but ... in the end there was no contest, and what you've got is Richard Harris

Btp, there's something else about the other DC's felt-tip-pictures, they remind me of your Dead Keats Scrolls - so many busy lines.

tc/btp said...


Brilliant stuff, though we should have known from your name (para+allasso=change) you have the transformational keys to these bricolagiste (?) locks of acausality dressed up in meaning's clothing. The apparent displacement of the object due to the change in the position of the observer inevitably keeps occurring: click and up pop these new angles of viewing.

1. a construction made of whatever materials are at hand; something created from a variety of available things.
2. (in literature) a piece created from diverse resources.
3. (in art) a piece of makeshift handiwork.
4. the use of multiple, diverse research methods.

What's most disappointing about the Donna Summer karaoke version (can 324,000 viewers have picked the least interesting rendition?--yes) is that the printed words spell out much too literally that verbal meltdown which is so essential to the lyrics. MacArthur Park could well be Happy Valley, and we do have that ice cream vendor, and what with the weather, one would expect the runny ice cream."MacArthur Park is melting in the dark..." But what Jimmy Webb actually had in mind was a cake melted in a rain shower.
"All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain..."
Which in turn becomes a trigger of tragedy:
"I don't think that I can take it
'Cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again
Oh, no!"
In Happy Valley tragedies are where you find them, of course.

And likewise: the girl who moved into the Light (this was after the rain shower, of course):
"I recall the yellow cotton dress
Foaming like a wave
On the ground around your knees."
Given it's a mini-dress, that would have to be a pretty small wave. But it's a public park, after all.

This general state of vertigo would seem to have enveloped You Tube viewers of the Harris version over recent days, e.g.:

"Let me get this straight, this is a song about one man's struggle to get over the fact he no longer has the receipe [sic] for a cake that has just been destroyed by a heavy rain downfall?"

As one critic-of-the-moment helpfully adds:

"The song is named after MacArthur Park, a park in Los Angeles, California... Throughout his recording Harris can be heard using the incorrect possessive form, 'MacArthur's Park'. Webb has said he tried correcting Harris during re-takes, but gave up when he simply could not sing the correct words."

Finally, Para, yes, the Diana (not Duff) Cooper works, like "Fun", did indeed evoke the weird all-over-ish feeling of the Deep Keats Scrolls for me also. The felt-tipped pens were the instruments in both cases. And one entirely identified with her account of what she seems to be up to:

Sometimes I feel as though I am making flowcharts for an imaginary world.