Monthly Archives: October 2016

Power Outage

ATAVISTIC

First Man sat, stupefied,
in the sudden silence.
Felt, instantly, the chill,
seeping into the space
vacated by the waft
of warm air from the heater.

He got to his feet, befuddled
by the blackness enveloping him
so abruptly, so completely.

Blackness; underlying everything,
integral to existence,
yet so alien to him now.

It pressed upon him,
muffled him, constricted him
with converging walls,
with unseen objects.

Blind, bewildered,
First Man stumbled
to the window,
but didn’t get there,

for the light had already
returned, and First Man,
now Homo Sapiens again,
was re-admitted
to the golden ease
of civilization.

On the last two occasions when I’ve experienced a power-cut (or “power outage”), I’ve ended up writing a poem about it.  There’s something about the sheer intensity of the experience; how you are suddenly plunged into a completely strange, alien world.  The latest experience occurred at a time when I just happened to be reading a crime fiction novel entitled “The First Man” (by Xavier-Marie Bonnot – I can thoroughly recommend it!)  The “First Man” of the title refers to our primitive ancestors, before the Neolithic Revolution.  When I started writing the above poem, I suddenly realized that an effective way to express the bewilderment and alienation caused by the power-cut might be to use the images of primitive man contrasted with homo sapiens.  This also solved the minor problem of what to use as a title for the poem.  I was simply going to use “Power-Cut” as the title, but then remembered that was the title I had used for the poem I had written on the previous occasion.  I think “Atavistic” is a much more resonant title than “Power-Cut (2)”! 

 

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Monk Music

MONK MUSIC

Mathematics and jazz; could the coupling be worse?
Jazz; not music of verse – chorus – verse.
Thelonious Monk – resonant name;
on “Bag’s Groove”, say, at the top of his game.
Marcus Du Sautoy listens, ecstatic.
Euclid’s Theorem! Infinite mathematics!
Monk’s random plonking is the key,
unlocking the secret. There could be
an infinite series of the primes;
chords in harmony, chords that chime.
This be the verse, these are the rhymes;
these are the numbers, by Monk in his prime.
Discordant tunes, escaping the ears;
creating the music of the spheres.

Serendipity is often influential in the creation of a poem, I find.  I was listening to an interview on the radio with the British mathematician and writer Marcus du Sautoy, in which he spoke of his enthusiasm for all forms of music, including jazz (he plays the trumpet himself, and several other instruments).  He was also publicising his latest book, and he spoke of the excitement engendered by recent developments in mathematics that hinted at a possible infinite series of prime numbers.  Later on, that same day, I heard an interview with the British poet Ian McMillan.  He was enthusing about his love of jazz music – particularly Thelonious Monk – and said that listening to Monk gave him the impression that, at any time, an infinite number of improvisations could emerge.  The random occurrence of these two interviews produced the above poem.

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