Thursday, October 8, 2015

Dungeness, Kent

Sunrise, sunset

It's National Poetry Day in the UK, a celebration of poetry in all its forms involving readings, national radio, and even (praise be) television. What to post on the English Buildings blog to mark these celebrations? Wordsworth's Dove Cottage in Grasmere? Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford? I've decided on a reprise (with a different photograph) of a building I posted way back in 2008 when this blog was just getting into its stride: Prospect Cottage, the home of film-maker Derek Jarman, set on the shingle at Dungeness. I've chosen it, as the sun comes out here in the Cotswolds to illuminate the British autumn, because this wooden house is adorned with lines, themselves picked out in cut wooden letters, from John Donne's poem, 'The Sunne Rising': 'Busie old foole, unruly Sunne, Why dost thou thus, Through windows and through curtaines call on us? Must to thy motions lovers' seasons runne?’

The letters that make up the poem, the same colour as the black walls of the cottage, need strong sunlight on them to be clearly visible and readable, so that the sun itself enhances the effect of this poem about the sun. It feels right, not just because of today's sunshine, but also because it seems appropriate for Jarman, a man who lived for the effects of light on celluloid, for whom light, as it were, was meat, drink, and inspiration. Sadly, Jarman went blind towards the end of his life. Cruel as this was for a film-maker (as for who not?) he took his blindness bravely. Perhaps he knew the consoling words of the great blind Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges. Borges, a book-lover who landed the enviable job of head of his country's National Library, reflected in a poem about the 'splendid irony' that 'Granted me books and blindness at one touch'. Borges also told us that we should not fear blindness, because 'It is like watching a slow sunset.'


Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

Today, in verse [sic], I'd like to praise
Your light on all my dullest days!
A blog to bring a glimpse of light
Whether the day goes wrong or right! -
So, please keep trotting out this blog -
Tomorrow may be rain, or fog.


Joe Treasure said...

And thanks (less beautifully expressed) from me too!

bazza said...

I think Derek Jarman was a real one-off. He seemed to live his life exactly as he wanted to and was very brave. There is also a lovely garden built on the shingles around his cottage. That must be the most appropriate setting of a poem that I know of!
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thank you all!

Bazza: Yes, the garden is lovely. Marvellous to see the stones flowering, as it were - but then, the stony ground at Dungeness does support a surprising amount of plant life. And indeed a long-standing community of human residents: in some ways it's unfair to single out Jarman and his house, great as they are.