Flesh Pilot: A Smattering of Poems by Schofield Alan

Alan Moore, Out from the Underground
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In his later work more than in his earlier collections other wars are called up too, closer to us in time though some may be more distant in space: guerrilla warfare in Southeast Asia , internecine fighting in Yugoslavia, perhaps also the Persian Gulf War indirectly in the choice to translate poems from a colloquial Iraqi dialect.

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Using a neat chiasmus things are never quite as neat as they seem when one dives into the works , Curtis's poems, one could say, bring out the common core of human emotion even in extreme situations. Conversely, they show up the uniqueness of each pattern of experience even in the most everyday circumstances.

Many of Curtis's protagonists, whether referred to in the third person or speaking in their own voices, are people he does not know personally, people whom he has read or heard about and yet whose experiences he re-creates from the inside. Some are about people he is personally involved with. Remarkably, whether or not personal elements are involved, there is no hiatus in the quality and intensity of the emotion called up by the lines.

Readers, though presumably not the writer, may feel moved in similar ways, say, by the story of the nurse with a dying baby girl "Incident on a Hospital Train from Calcutta, " and by the fresh recollection of a friend's unexpected death "Playing for Vince".

In grim keeping with the pervasive concern with loss and separation, the figure of Curtis's dead father appears in his poems, mainly in the collection called Preparations: Poems —, in which the recurring reference to the scattering of his father's ashes from the Pembrokeshire cliff top is first introduced. Grief is unobtrusively expressed through recollections of the life his father had lived, his mastery of the art of bell ringing or the weather vane he so skillfully contrived. Curtis's grandmother is also present in a number of poems written after her death, notably in "My Grandmother's Cactus" Letting Go , where his grief for her absence makes him welcome the injuries inflicted by the plant's spikes.

In "Under the Yew" Taken for Pearls , a poem that records the relaxed conversation he has with her in the churchyard where she is buried, he acknowledges the importance of belonging:. Thanks to and out of this sense of belonging he can confidently venture into the lives of others without ever seeming to intrude. Considering that most of Curtis's poems, hardly any of them over fifty lines, are rounded stories, complete with circumstances and the last-minute inclusion of yet another strand, a particular gift for compression undoubtedly counts among his achievements.

But this is one he shares with many contemporary poets writing in English.

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His appeal to common experience and his use of a direct, sometimes colloquial language that he does not refine or rarefy into a sophisticated idiom are features that may be reminiscent of Philip Larkin , but without Larkin's bitter sarcasm or slip into deliberate coarseness. His attitude to conventional forms is different too.

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But the career should build resilience and strength in our healers, not destabilize them. Are these the ones who got him involved in this criminal scheme you were talking about? Maybe he did it himself. The multi-tiered bathhouse, which Yubaba lords over from her luxurious top-floor oasis, serves as a visually rich and thematically potent metaphorical setting, a place whose social and class structures are akin to those of the world Chihiro has just left behind. More than once, a doctor has disclosed that a kind gesture by a patient has made life worth living again.

While Larkin shapes the surface of his texts on strict prosodic and rhyming patterns, simultaneously erasing them in his use of syntax, Curtis rarely forces his lines into outward regularity; he allows sounds and rhythms to inform them from inside. The notable exception to the apparent freewheeling nature of his verse is his use of villanelles, a form in which the repetition of lines, associated with variations on a cluster of images, makes for an indirect approach to the emotion at the core of the poem.

Curtis's poems are most satisfactory when they are understated. Attitudes and emotions, sometimes even facts, are suggested through one or two apt images or comparisons rather than being developed. Readers are expected to supplement and complement what is given. Does the Thai girl's body adrift on the hotel bed call up the spread corpse of the European male who bought her for a couple of weeks and who was last seen hanging onto his pole in a frenzy of terror on a raft surrounded by desperately determined guerrillas "Summer in Bangkok" in Taken for Pearls?

Flesh Pilot: A Smattering of Poetry by Schofield Alan

In "Home Front" The Last Candles the irony of the mother's readiness to gas herself and her children in order to escape the Nazis is not stated. In "Soup," an early prizewinning poem telling of a Jewish boy in a concentration camp , readers are left to decide whether the storyteller is genuinely reluctant to tell his story. How much should be made of the apple in the Sarajevo poem "From the hills, the town" in Taken for Pearls , which the watching officer first divides into two with a twist of his hands, then fits back together before biting impartially from both halves?

While there is never any doubt about where his sympathies lie, Curtis eludes stark simplifications. Not all victims of persecution, for example, are heroes. His poems recurringly appeal to a compassion that is never cloyingly self-righteous. Many explore a sense of bereavement, dispossession, or loss, as in the poem called "Public Sale" on the plight of the husband who has lost his wife.

The italicized lines. Even Curtis's apparently detached interest in traditional funeral rites as they can still be observed in villages in South Wales "Preparations" includes a personal involvement in the strategies developed to counter grief. The final comparison of the women in the house counting "over and over" the places for the guests at the funeral meal makes it clear that there is something sacramental in the material gestures of preparing sandwiches and laying the table, some way of conjuring death.

Within twenty-four lines a poem such as "The Night-Trees" offers a neat instance of the power of indirection to convey emotions. Parents who presumably belong to an Asian community are about to kill their second baby girl at birth, something that calls for only indignation. The situation is not condoned, but it is understood from inside.

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The resigned unhappiness of both the father and mother can be felt in their separate vigils, the mother further softening her grief in the fairy-tale fantasy of girls whispering "one to the other" while one is dead and buried and the other still to be born and disposed of. Notwithstanding the apparent straightforwardness in most of his story poems, allusive indirectness is thus a key notion in approaching Curtis's work. He is obviously critical of a social system flaunting material success and efficiency in business as supreme values, made clear in texts such as "Summer in Greece" and "The Immortality of Birds.

Whereas slogans consolidate what should be removed or altered, simply telling a story may lead to awareness and so, perhaps, to change. Similarly, Curtis repeatedly suggests symbols, but he stays clear of a reassuring neatness that would preclude the messiness and confusion of the real world, Yeats's mire and blood.

Alan Moore, Out from the Underground

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Learn more about citation styles Citation styles Encyclopedia. Some have help along the way, some must find their own path. Like young Pigeon, whose older sister wanders, and who looks for solace in her makeup and her hand holding his. Na, who finds refuge in music as her son and husband come to blows in front of her. And, finally, a refugee of a different sort, but whose experience speaks for all refugees everywhere.

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