CHRISTOPHER HAMPTON: BORDER CROSSINGS
10 St Martin's Close
ISBN 0 904872 41 6
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|CHRISTOPHER HAMPTON: BORDER CROSSINGS|
I cannot be the only person who once thought there was a British writer called Christopher Hampton. Fortunately I soon discovered that there are two. The other one writes plays and film scripts. This one writes poetry and politics, sometimes separately, sometimes combined.
Hampton cares passionately about the world and its people, and objects to the way that the world has been taken over by terrorism and the war on terror — really two sides of the same coin. How can this world be returned to those who need and deserve it? Where are the resources and even the language with which to challenge this situation and turn it around?
In this sequence of 54 poems, divided into three parts, Hampton begins to look for answers to these questions. But it isn't easy, as the opening poem, THE RIGHT WORDS, reminds us:
You're going to have to conjure the words from the back of the mind, the dark of the throat, as birds do by instinct, startling the dawn with a music as effortless as the movement of air or the coming of light. But how to manage that, to pitch the notes the way such instinct works? It isn’t so easy . . .And yet Hampton makes the right words seem easy, with poetry as full of passion as of reason, that flows effortlessly across the page like a stream flowing through the meadows in spring.
There is no doubt where Hampton’s politics is to be found, even though it requires some courage even to say the name, as Hampton says in SOCIALISM:
Why can't we speak of it now with the confidence of summer flowers? Why do we have to apologies to those who've swamped us into silence, trampled all our banners down, made millions out of what their brokers conjure from the air in a drench of ground-polluting wealth?Hampton's sympathies are with the dispossessed and the oppressed of the world, from the victims of Pinochet's fascism to the peasants who are bombed in the name of freedom. In searching for hope in the future Hampton enlists the help of a variegated chorus, from Sidney and Shakespeare to Neruda and Kazantzakis, via Heine, Rosa Luxemburg and Lukacs. His range of reference is broad: history, literature, music and nature are interwoven with politics (these are the BORDER CROSSINGS) to produce poetry that is heavy with resonance but appealing to the eye and the ear. The political stance is straightforward and honest, never crude or propagandist. Behind all is a love of nature and a lyrical ability that meet at their best in VOICES. Here is the whole poem:
Speak the voices of the garden quiet against post-modernist clamour. from the swiftness of a Mozart ending to the nightingale's night-notes pitched against the darkness of C minor in a long vibrating D that breaks the rain's monotony. You hear it? Listen! What it speaks of, riding the choral ground-bass of the frogs, we have no words for, there in the depths of the garden oaks above the water, singing hidden in the dark — a Philomel unreconciled to crime: the violated body, the revenge, the punishment; of all of which throughout the Spring — day/night — she sings.In the face of such problems as the Bush-fire and the North Pole’s melting ice-cap, says Hampton in THINGS TAKING THEIR COURSE,
this isn't the agenda some of us had planned.You can chose to swim against the current, but
who’s got strength enough to keep that up and not get swept downstream?There are no easy answers, but Hampton's commitment to the search, and the poetry he produces on the way, will provide some support for the questing swimmer.
|reviewer: Andrew Belsey.|