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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Stevie Smith: My Heart Goes Out


Still Life: Floris van Dijck (c. 1571-1651), 1613 (Frans-Hals-Museum, Haarlem; image by Jan Arkesteijn, 24 December 2009)

My heart goes out to my Creator in love

Who gave me Death, as end and remedy.

All living creatures come to quiet Death

For him to eat up their activity

And give them nothing, which is what they want although

When they are living they do not think so.

Still Life with Cheeses: Floris van Dijck, 1615-1620 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)

Stevie Smith: My Heart Goes Out, from Not Waving but Drowning, 1966



tickles while cutting straight to the bone.

a change of subject, or appropriate? at the beginning of Spring my spouse sprinkled mysterious hummingbird attractor seeds in the backyard and this is what bloomed yesterday

burnt orange lilies? dunno, call the Creator in love

Anonymous said...

Everything's so sharp, hard and focused here, even the darkness. This is quite a pairing of picture and poem.

"For him to eat up their activity"

I first heard the reference to "Not Waving but Drowning" in the pretty, but harsh (even nasty) Kirsty MacColl song "Innocence". It's good to add to the context.



Ah, me! -- but while we're here there is still more. . . .


light coming into sky above still black
ridge, whiteness of moon next to branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

past as to say that time is
more, to be in present

in various ways, impression,
chance effect of light

grey white fog against invisible ridge,
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

TC said...

Her method of "tickling while cutting straight to the bone," as you have accurately described it, Vincent, has always impressed me (and scared me a little bit). When something so terrible as what this poem says is to be said, there is probably some sort of anesthesia necessary to accompany the cutting. Ticklishness produces that sort of false euphoria. Perhaps it's like when in the movies horrendous surgeries must be done, far from civilization, and the patient/victim is given whisky just before the amputation. But of course you are then left an amputee with a vicious hangover. It's quite brilliant really.

That exotic orange blossom, by the way, is a Tiger Lily, the Hungarian National Flower.


"Sharp", "hard", "focused", "darkness" must surely be the bedposts within which are bounded the bad dreams that so wonderfully inform Stevie Smith's poetry. Her jaunty, pseudo-slapdash approach (within which high artistry lurks so cleverly hid) is the perfect cover for these quiet assassinations of smugness and complacency in all their religious, social and intellectual forms.


Ah, more... wind and fog, and fog, and wind...

TC said...

I suppose I "saw" the exquisite Floris van Dyck still life of edibles as Human Activity viewed from the POV of Quiet Death. Perhaps it's that apple-peel shaped like a question mark that might give Quiet Death a moment of pause, to look himself in the mirror a moment -- before smiling horribly, licking his fingers and digging in again.

From the looks of her, a mere slip of a gal, Stevie was not herself much of a gourmand.

But some of her greatest epiphanies appear to have come over meals; it was at the breakfast table, for instance, that it was revealed that Drugs Made Pauline Vague.

Curtis Faville said...

The most reassuring thing about this painting is that the cheese looks exactly like the cheese I know.

Its texture, its mass, its irregular, sliced off surface.

Before photography, having a painting of something this familiar, and real, to look at, was a revelation. It must have felt like magic to those contemporaries first viewing. A curiosity, but something more.

A confirmation of one's vision. The dream made real.

The reality of cheese seized from reality, vouchsafed from the senses, and made somehow permanent. The translucent grapes, their sweet liquid contained in the paint....

TC said...


Lovely. And evidently the artist felt likewise. Those cheeses were so good, he had to have them again.

(See new lower image.)


thanks Tom, I'd suspected they were Tiger Lilies but thought those has spots and were a brighter orange. now I know.

Here's to ticklishness in all travails