Buddhist Centre Features

Triratna Writers Convention 2015 - Day 2: Phillip Larkin

On Thu, 9 July, 2015 - 15:19
Satyalila's picture

Well, the week is speeding up! Yesterday (Tuesday) was our ‘William Stafford’ Day.  He’s the American poet who so inspired our dear friend, the late Manjusvara.  Last night Ananda’s gave us a great talk - the fruit of many years of acquaintance with Stafford, and much study (more recently).  We video’d (and audio-recorded) the talk so you can catch it.  There’s also a really great half-hour programme which the BBC did on William Stafford in 2013 to mark his centenary.  It’s available here.

Today, Wednesday, has been ‘Larkin Day’. This morning’s poem at meditation was ‘All The True Vows’ by David Whyte, which picked up on themes from Ananda’s talk last night. As usual we then started the day with a timed writing session - starting phrase “What I really want to say(!)”. For Vishvantara this produced an elusive quote which none of us could quite place, but Manjusura was able to track it down on his phone - it turned out to be by another American poet, Edna St Vincent Millay.

Then there were two options: a session with Vishvantara, making a ‘close reading’ of some carefully chosen Larkin poems, to get a sense of him.  Or a writing workshop with Varasahaya.  It was based on exercises from Manjusvara’s book ‘Writing your Way’ and one of the exercises was the ‘Acrostic’ one which was in the DIY Writing Workshop’ which we posted yesterday.

In the afternoon 3 car-loads of people went off to Ledbury for a talk on Philip Larkin by his biographer, James Booth. Much enjoyed, tho’ his less-than-favourable to attitude to Heaney and Hughes was not shared by many of us!

This evening I gave my talk on ‘Metaphor as a Way of Life’  - we’ve video’d (and audio-recorded) it so hopefully the Adhisthana broadband will manage to hoist it up into the ether and out to you - along with Ananda’s talk which, at 6 GB was taking all day to upload, Hattie said! I enjoyed doing the talk, though forgot a poem I’d promised to read during it - but fortunately Padmabodhini reminded me. It was Sangharakshita’s poem ‘Four Gifts’ - one of my favourites:

Four Gifts
I come to you with four gifts. The first gift is a lotus-flower. Do you understand?
My second gift is a golden net. Can you recognize it?
My third gift is a shepherds’ round-dance.
Do your feet know how to dance?
My fourth gift is a garden planted in a wilderness. Could you work there?
I come to you with four gifts.
Dare you accept them?

Oh, and if you’ve ever been baffled by this poem and would a suggestion as to what it might be getting at, you might enjoy reading Vidyadevi’s introduction to ‘Buddhism for Today and Tomorrow’ (aka Bhante’s ‘Brighton Lectures’) which quotes this poem in full :-)

I saw Sangharkshita a few weeks ago and he was delighted to have heard on the radio that day that Philip Larkin was to have a memorial in ‘Poets Corner’ in Westminster Abbey. Bhante said he liked Larkin’s work, having been introduced to it by a Belgian academic with whom he was in correspondence. It was a line from ‘Aubade’ (one of the poems we read) about ‘Death is no different whined at than withstood’ which had captured Bhante’s interest. I expressed surprise at his liking so modern a poet and he spoke about the definition of modern, which in his mind included Yeats, of whom, he said, he was also very fond. He mentioned ‘The Wild Swans at Coole’, ‘Sailing to Byzantium’, ‘The Second Coming’ and, I think, ‘Easter, 1916’. By one of those delightful happenstances (or intervention by a deva?) we had already planned a day on Larkin and a day on Yeats for this Writers’ Convention to coincide with events at the Ledbury Poetry Festival!

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