Memories of Memories of West St and Lepke

Posted: February 10, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Lowell poemI met myself this morning. It was a past me, one from many years ago and it was, in the main, an accident.

I was checking a book on the shelf in the spare bedroom, ostensibly to see if Seven Centuries of Poetry in English was from my past, or harked back to my wife’s. It was hers, as I discovered with the penciled notes on a Gwen Harwood poem; The Sea Anemones. However, thanks to the turned down page corner, I came across the next poet in the anthology – Robert Lowell. Three poems in from this point was Memories of West Street and Lepke, one of the poems I studied for my Extension English course in my final year of high school.

I lay on the bed and read through the poem once – it was enough. That one reading took me many minutes. I thoroughly enjoyed studying Lowell, about half a dozen poems in all from Life Studies. Ironically, the unit was coupled with Harwood’s poetry – also having a resonance with me.

However, this moment was with Lowell. One stanza was enough. Enough to be astonished by how much I knew I didn’t know at the time. Or rather, how I recognised the way in which words and ideas were conjuring up fresh connections for me, easily and readily, in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to do all those years ago. Phrases like “and is a ‘young Republican'” ripple out with aggregated experience and understanding from the intervening years. I live in Australia and have grown to appreciate the nuances that even a word like “Republican” can bring. From watching the news, from reading about history or even from seeing shows such as The West Wing, my understanding has been shaped and enhanced. The irony that I am now teaching (something I would have ardently denied when I was in my final year at high school) is not lost on me either, highlighted in the opening line Only teaching on Tuesdays. I am 41…

But, I wonder about that younger me. If time is capable of playing so many tricks on us, on affecting our perceptions and memories, what have I lost in those intervening years? I was a very bright, if not lazy student, and I’m sure that that older (younger?) me would have things to say, arguments to hold and fresh ideas of his own. While I’m sure experience has made me a wiser and more knowledgable individual, I wonder about those lost moments too.

So, a post I would never have envisioned writing… all came about from a chance moment this morning. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to muse…

  1. At some point I would have ardently denied being interested in poetry, but I’ve had this same type of experience, pulling an anthology off the shelf to satisfy some prickly curiosity and then being drawn in by words, usually in poetry, often by Willaim Stafford. I now have a prickly curiosity about Robert Lowell, because your mention of him brings to mind a faint memory of one of his poems striking a chord with me. It wasn’t this title, so now I’m off to flip through my anthologies. . .

  2. Cathy Dreyer says:

    This makes me want to write on books, especially poetry books, which I have always been taught is the deadliest of the seven deadly sins … I’m so conflicted now.

    • cgparkin says:

      I remember poetry being my “weakest” area in English. It wasn’t till I was faced with teaching my first senior class, with some students only four years younger than I, that I invested some time to try to come to grips with it a little more. Poetry books are such an interesting realm in themselves… I’d say conflict away!!

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