Thursday, 9 June 2011

Blossoms, Doorways

The past lives in us without chronology - Irena Vrkljan

How do you write about the past, in other words, your life?

So often my deliberate attempts at writing about my life in the past, fall into the ruts of narrative sequence. Lose vigour. Become flat and tired. Why did I think writing about the past had to be done, step by step, in this breath-constricting way? Summer has hit me on the back of the head, with its new globe-clusters of white and pink on roadside hedges. I don't know their names – they are like Samuel Palmer's blossoms – dreams of blossoms, visions of blossoms, rounded as bunched drops of petalled honey, poured onto bushes, semi-set, globular, near-dripping.

The same landscape, over and over again, I think, in fury.

Remember another summer on the back of my head....

Of course it isn't really narrative that clenches my life so tight when I try to arrange it in such neat sequential blocks. Not narrative that's to blame when my mind's muscles grip the ripe and juicy pomegranates of memory, and find that trickles are all I manage to extract. No, not narrative but rather, the recipe-making mind with its ordering propensities, its rules and regulations, its assembling of ingredients and then its mixing method.....

When I read Irena Vrkljan's words I want to shout for joy, I breathe deeply, the clenched mind relaxes, because with those words in particular and her writing in general, she expresses what I've felt for some time – that there are other ways rather than the strictly sequential narrative ways, of talking about the past. There is poetry, there are stories, threaded with imagination and yes, the past that lives in us is a network of associations -

There are streets for example, we walk down – remembered or present – so I walk down a street – is it dusty, littered, is it broken? Where is this street? Is it like the ones I walk through now? They are littered with dried blossom, bleached to the colour of yellow aged lace, rattling in gangs and eddies, over the paving stones. They form little whirls, little mini-dervish spirals of joy. On the grass, they rustle like silk, like thin starched cloth, or tiny autumn leaves, in the wrong season. Using streets as a point of entry into memories, into biography. In dreams, it's so often a doorway I approach with speed or without even noticing as if it's any ordinary doorway in waking life – large, wooden, glass, ornate, imposing, with brass handles, or low, blending in with the walls, dull cream, chipped, time-stained.........

Irena Vrkljan was brought up in Belgrade and Zagreb. Her memoirs are published as The Silk, the Shears and Marina; or about Biography.

Her extraordinary writing is a mixture of meditation and memoir, description and literary intimacy, emotional and geographical exile, a linking of places with feeling. The weaving narrative shifts through the portals, connecting events, emotions and literary description. In the second book, she traces the life and work of the lyrical and innovative Russian poet, writer and exile, Marina Tsvetaeva. She pinpoints locations where place and writing come together, both Marina's and her own. As in a tidal flow she recounts Marina's life and work in certain parts of Europe, Prague, Paris, Berlin, the south of France, and her own sometimes very different experiences in the same places. There is deep connective tissue, both emotional and literary, linking these two writers and Vrkljan's prose is both moving and startlingly original.


traveler said...

Morelle, ces fleus me rappellent bien les promenades en Écosse, il y a deux ans (surtout a Ayr).
Je ne sais pas si vous connaissez mon blog sur les pièces "souvenir" des voyages, qui est dévenu un petit "musée du voyage" très visité (presque 50,000 visites en à peine huit mois d'existence): THE TRAVELER'S DRAWER ( Je vous invite à le visiter !
Je vais ajouter votre RIVERTRAIN dans le blogroll de ce blog.
Salutations amicales.

dritanje said...

De tres belles images de tous les endroits, oui vraiment une 'musee du voyage' et aussi un document historique les trams vieilles par exemple nous montrent comment ces moyens de voyage changent - tres interessent!

Forest Dream Weaver said...

Yes,I think our past does live in us and around us and is activated as we re-visit places and memories.
I love the image of mini-dervish spirals of joy..... I can just see them swirling off down the street!

Lovely photos too!

three sea horses said...

Ah, nice to be reading your blog again! i have made a blog entry with the intention of starting again. I had a look at Ruby's blog too, lovely. agree with her about the past - how funny i was just writing a wee bit about it in the blog. but mostly i think i complain about the weather!
love Txxx

three sea horses said...

Thank you for the note - and i love your Freudian slip!
I will try to keep it up, tho no luck yet. Txx