Thursday, 27 September 2007
Apple Paring in Autumn and Galway Kinnell
Off to King’s Lynn Poetry Festival this week-end to read with fellow poet friends. I am currently putting final touches to novel and writing a radio play synopsis and early draft script so of course poetry and the writing thereof seems like forbidden fruit and thus all the more tantalising. The right words in the right order apply to all writing but paring down in a poem feels different to pruning a novel. A novel can take on the form of a massive overgrown hedge requiring major garden tools and hacking whilst swearing. Of course the delete, cut and paste tools on the computer are the major garden tools required, allowing for a certain amount of topiary to take place so that an unkempt hedge can begin to take on the look of a cockerel, chess piece or indeed a novel. A poem however is lovingly pared word by word, sound by sound.
I used to take pride in being able to shave an apple very slowly in one continuous spiral strip. I originally learnt to do this as I was told as a child that throwing such a long piece of peel over your shoulder was meant to reveal the initials of the man you would marry. It took me a while to learn that I was not destined for the arms of an Oscar, Otto, Octavius, Oliver, Otis, or Owen; the physics of apple peelings always lending itself to O. However I do keep up the practice and note that Orlando Bloom may be free at some point…now there is a man with a sufficient quantity of O’s in his name to auger well for any footloose and fancy free parer.
Apple trees and apples have always been a source of myth and superstition; throwing crab apple pips on the fire to find out which one will explode in order to find who is a true love, the golden apple in Greek myth, the forbidden fruit depicted in art as leading to Eve’s downfall. It is late apple season, crisp bright autumnal weather and in the local fen orchards you can smell the fallen apples and see wasps woozy from feeding on them staggering around like Saturday night drunks in search of home. They will look for a fight if you get in their way, though they tend to move slowly and co-ordination is a problem. If one comes at you your best bet is just to stay still and nine times out of ten they’ll simply miss you as they lurch past. They won’t bother you if you don’t bother them I was always told.
There are lots of harvest festivals going on in schools, children bringing in tins of olives, jars of pesto and sun dried tomatoes in the better class school as gifts for the elderly poor of the parish. I’ve heard ‘We plough the fields and scatter’ at least four times this past week being practised by children who won’t have a clue about ploughing or scattering but do know that Tesco’s and Waitrose and Asda have everything you want available at all times being flown from all over the world. The seasons become blurred and the idea of celebrating a harvest even in rural communities becomes something else. Is it that nostalgic end of summer, that slow loss of light; the dark mornings, the dark early night? Is harvest home everything being pared down to just the need for shelter, a fire and food, albeit an artificial electric log fire in a house where the rent is crippling, a glass of wine from Chile, cheese from France, a chunk of bread made from American wheat flour and an apple flown in from New Zealand? All is safely gathered in and you can smell autumn with a slight back hint of coming winter in the air. A good time to pare down a little, to shave off some excess, sit down with some words and just get down to basics. I love autumn.
I leave you with the wonderful American poet Galway Kinnell and his poem about autumn fruits and words.Go on admit it, you thought I’d go for the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness bloke didn’t you?