Monday, April 19, 2010

Mysterious Saturn

April is National Poetry Month in the U.S. We were already more than a few weeks into it before I realized this and my last blog entry in March had been about the poetry of Walt McDonald. Looks like I unknowingly jumped the gun a bit on a topical post.

In recognition of National Poetry Month, before it slips away, I'm writing something about the mystery of Saturn. This Saturn is a poet, not a planet. And this is her book below, a book that seems to have slipped away somewhere under the radar. It is undetectable in an age when virtually nothing goes undetectable.

The Other Side of the Moon was published by W. & G. Baird in London, (1963)1971. What you see with this book is about all you're going to get, with respect to Saturn's identity. Whomever wrote the review on the jacket's front flap seems to think we will come to know who Saturn is by the end of the book, if we don't know already. She seems to have been well-traveled, well-read, and an active participant in life with myriad interests.

Here are some clues from that review about the identity of the author, Saturn:
Born in Wales of English parentage, Saturn has enjoyed the unique atmospheres of Cornwall and Italy. A good golfer, skier and rider, her writing began after she broke her back in a riding accident.

Her poems are an apologia for her wide travels and experiences: the reader feels her love for Swinburne, Keats and Shelley.

A true European, Saturn enjoys life and in "On looking at a portrait" and "Shadow" her courage in adversity comes through to the reader. In "Negative" and other poems the reader feels her realistic insight, and by the end of the book knows Saturn well.
With all these clues about who the pseudonymous Saturn is, I might as well not have any clues about her real identity. I have no idea who Saturn is. Even the mighty Google offers nothing about this seemingly prominent woman and the tragedy that befell her.

The dedication page states at the top of the page:
To the Immortals I have known. Their virtues--their frailties--but always their greatness.
At the bottom of the page, there is this:
For Marian with love
Perhaps these offer more clues. Immortality pops up in several poems. So does the idea of lost youth and a waning life and of not dwelling on the past, but trying to live life in the present and into the unknown future.

There's the poem, Hera, with its allusions to a female lover coming to the author's bed through the mist, and then disappearing like a shadow, leaving her "forlorn." Could this be Marian in the dedication?

The other side of the moon is what we don't see. Also referred to as the dark side of the moon, this may serve as a metaphor for the darkness--fear, depression, certain passions--that one struggles with while trying to live with what life doles out.

The fact that the author broke her back while horseback riding makes me wonder if she is not paralyzed and struggling with the inner conflict of living or dwelling in the past and what could have been, versus living in the present and looking optimistically toward the future.

One of the poems, Negative, mentioned in the jacket review bears out this philosophy of engaging in the present, with optimism for the future, rather than dwelling in the past and what might have been:
I must not think of the years that were
when my Lover was young
Several lines follow about what she must not think of before balancing her thoughts with the perspective of having been able to enjoy a lover at all, or spring colours, or a blackbird's song, etc.

The poems aren't great, but collectively they create a discernible theme of loss through unforeseen circumstances or the natural processes of aging and dying. There is some attempt at balance through feigned optimism, but it falls short.

I feel the sadness and loneliness from the "dark side of the moon," so in that respect the poems achieve a certain effect. There is a pervasive mystery that envelops the collection, from the source of the darkness to the identity of the poet.

As one of my favorite songwriter/poets, Townes Van Zandt, once wrote, "There ain't no dark till something shines" (from the song, Rex's Blues). I suppose I'm just trying to put a little spotlight on these poems and bring the darkness to light and maybe solve a mystery.

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