Marcella Durand

Geometries of landscape

In this world of four months

Park at Fresh Kills

I’ve been reading Joseph Ceravolo’s The Green Lake is Awake, in anticipation of his Collected Poems due out in December, and have been comparing his elliptical and always surprising approach to natural things to, for some reason, Paul Blackburn’s hyper-urban odes. I’m a late arrival to Ceravolo, and was an early arrival to Blackburn, so perhaps they create convenient sort of mental bookends.

Ceravolo is more lyric than Blackburn, but less obvious, yet still immediate in his language, which makes it clear that how the poem is composed aesthetically always comes first, ahead of any “likeness” to nature. A line I jotted down, for its sheer shocking originality that unfolds into multiplicity of potentials: “I speak as a wife to the capsizing.” Then his sense of sound, even in a title such as “spring in this world of poor mutts,” which was recommended to me, and which I misheard as “spring in this world of four months,” which made just enough un-sense to keep me thinking about it (lines that are perfectly resolved in both sound and sense are easily forgotten).

Present nostalgia

The treehouse in El Jardin del Paraiso

So we’re moving out of our apartment of 14 years on E. 4th St., and I’m already nostalgic for it. Yesterday, alone in my apartment during the day for the first time in — months? years? — a single ray of sun fell through the window in the kitchen. I had completely forgotten that the apartment does after all get some light for 20 minutes around midday.

I love all waste and solitary spaces

from The Office of Recuperative Strategies
from The Office of Recuperative Strategies

I’m enamored with the idea of the flaneur as a creative way to move through urban spaces, even though I don’t quite espouse (or embody) the three qualifications for being one, which are wealth, education and idleness. (Not that I’d reject any of those three if they came my way, but I don’t agree that they’re prerequisites for flaneurism.) However, being a woman in public spaces—especially wandering through public spaces—is complicated. That’s why that scene in La Notte when Jeanne Moreau roams through the streets of Rome and breaks up a fight between a group of men is such a shock. That sort of urban engagement is not really encouraged in women. As a long-time dedicated female flaneur who began as such during my teens walking home late at night after babysitting jobs, I’d argue that many of the fears many have of passing through city spaces are socially constructed (urban myths), reinforcing a system of inequality.

Is not everything then possible?

Pastoral Landscape, Asher Brown Durand, 1861
Pastoral Landscape, Asher Brown Durand, 1861

I’ve been reading and pondering Raymond Williams’ book, The City and the Country, written in 1975, but fresh as a daisy today. What first struck me was his search for the original Arcadia, the source of the pastoral—the original harmony of human with nature that inspired all the pastoral poems to come thereafter. Of course, you say, the Garden of Eden! But Williams goes beyond that into the Roman and Greek roots of the form:

For if we look back into literature for significant writing about country life, we are taken many centuries beyond Virgil to the Works and Days of Hesiod, to the ninth century before Christ.

So, there he finds an “epic of husbandry”—the practice of agriculture—and the “long influence of this myth of the Golden Age.” But, here—and this is what struck me—“but for Hesoid, at the beginning of country literature, it is already far in the past.”