Anthony Rudolf, European Hours: Collected Poems
Anthony Rudolf’s European Hours
is an intriguing, not always accessible, but finally very rewarding book. The reader increasingly aligns with his wry perspectives through work from four periods (1964-2013), plus ‘Two Long Poems’ and a sample of ‘Proses’. It begins with a prologue ‘invocation’ ‘To ancestral Europe: your Iberia, my Austria-Hungary. (To London…).’
Presumably this prayer is to Rudolf’s own history, familial and aesthetic, and to that of his companion, the artist Paula Rego, as well as to her as teacher and inspiration.
The early poems speak of absence and elsewhere, of living ‘on the edge, on edge’. Many are concise, their diction clear, but their reference unrevealed; some are ‘fragments’. They seem coded, wilfully strange. ‘Stone’ and ‘pebble’ are recurrent metaphors. In ‘Necessary Fiction’, for instance, thought and emotion are unmoored from ‘the mind’s bedrock’. These may have the old biblical association with truth or they may be images of withdrawal, a melancholy in keeping with the influence of Stevens (‘One must have a mind of winter’) or by Octavio Paz:
I borrow from you
stone, move onto
sun, and recall
your poem which “comes
full circle / forever
‘6.30 P.M. on the Dot’
The exercise of translation is, of course, also a mediation of another’s experience and I had a sense in Anthony Rudolf’s earlier poems of a consciously weakened ‘I’. ‘Kensington Palace Gardens’, for example, ‘announces / perfection of a mood I thought / dead for ever’ but we come no closer to that ...
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