Wednesday, 15 October 2008

another side of Black Mountain


In 1991, most probably in Collected Works bookshop, I picked up two volumes by Hilda Morley. A Blessing Outside Us was her first book published by a small press (Pourboire) in 1975 with a preface by Robert Creeley. Cloudless at First was her fourth, a substantial volume published by Moyer Bell in 1988 with a cover image by Elaine de Kooning. Morley taught Literature and Hebrew at Black Mountain College during the Olson years. Unsurprisingly she found the College a chauvinistic environment, remarking at one point that ‘faculty wives tended to fall into a background position, like a minor women’s chorus voicing the spirit of a limited consciousness in a Greek play’ (She was writing a dissertation on TS Eliot too, which would have won her few friends at that institution). Creeley describes her as ‘one of those insistent sisters who invite the world with seemingly innocent provocation of its own dumb vulnerabilities’. I took these books down from the shelves again recently and partook of the ‘physical clarity’ and ‘sensual dimension’ of the work at a time when this was much needed. Here is the poem ‘Paris’, from Cloudless at First:

That world where no one
is other than what
he emerges as XX(from the vibration
XXXXXXXXXXof others
& is what he is to himself because of
a juncture of moving causes XXis
as the streets of Paris unfold out of
other streets (Rue Jacob from Rue de Seine and it
XXXXXXXXfrom St. Germain
and remove their other skins (the bulbs of tulips, irises
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXbut differently)
out of one distinct form into
another, where by the spark circling (a word, a tone
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXof voice, a smile,
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXa look specially
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXpointed)
the mind is filed down XX(fined) into a
plunging will of itself driving
through tunnels (waves)
that world where no one
lets the window swing to
or light blur on the shield XXso an edge of the mind
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXsharpens (to impulse
when laughter reaches a pitch XXwhen it brims over
into intelligence

5 comments:

Sam said...

Thanks for this post, Laurie. Hilda Morley is a poet who interests me a lot.

Laurie Duggan said...

It's a pity it's hard to get hold of her work at the moment. I only own those two volumes. Doesn't sound like there's been a collected yet?

Sam said...

No, there's not been (tho' if any publishers reading this want an editor for one...)

The Asphodel Press/Moyer Bell reprint of What are Winds & What are Waters (a series of elegies for her husband, Stefan Wolpe) is well worth picking up, as (if you can find it) is her last book The Turning; a fairly substantial collection, which includes her Tangram pamphlet, Between the Rocks, and some of the poems in A Blessing Outside Us.

Ian Brinton said...

At a recent reading of his own work Tom Lowenstein suggested that Hilda Morley's poetry was some of the most underestimated and long-lasting to come out of BMC

Michael Steven said...

Thanks for this.
A very interesting post.

She looks like Michele Leggott.