Lip-syncing to Roy Orbison | Angelina D’Roza

Booths (Sept 2015) Karl Hurst

From Booths, Karl Hurst. Click here to view the series

I’m watching The Goldbergs, a sort of Wonder Years for the eighties, and who doesn’t yearn for leg warmers, cassette tapes and Cyndi Lauper? Girls do just want to have fun. But if you never stood as a family watching your new microwave and/or soda stream, as though it were a TV, you won’t like it. If you’re too young or too old, you’ll turn over … put Hollyoaks or Take the High Road on … I will forever associate watching eggs inflate inside a magic/radioactive box with Billy Joel, though neither I nor Billy could’ve seen that coming; the memories and connections we carry with us are unforeseen. I saw a friend last week. We were student nurses together, and we spent most of that time listening to music (and studying). But when we spoke recently, he said he always thinks of me when he listens to Space … Except that we watched Shooting Fish together (which uses “Me and You Versus The World” on its soundtrack), I can’t imagine why. But I probably have associations about you that you won’t recognize yourself in. The marks we leave on people are always only versions of ourselves.

“A mark that remains after that which made it has passed by – a footprint for example.” Rebecca Solnit quotes this explanation of the Tibetan word shul in A Field Guide To Getting Lost. “In other contexts, shul is used to describe the scarred hollow in the ground where a house stood, the channel worn through rock where a river runs in flood, the indentation in the grass where an animal slept last night.” That last description connected. Ages ago, someone lent me a book of Jane Kenyon’s. I held onto it for years, and this is one of the images that has stayed with me: “Heavy Summer Rain”:

The grasses in the field have toppled,
and in places it seems that a large, now
absent, animal must have passed the night.
The hay will right itself if the day

turns dry. I miss you steadily, painfully.

I wonder why the impression of an absent animal should move me, so that I’ve been carrying the look of it, more than the words, with me the last few years – but that absence made present through the toppled grass, the shul, makes the other absence tangible. I feel the I missing you. I feel the weight of it in my chest. That it is painful.

There are poems you wish you’d written. I wished to write this poem, but it would be like covering “Town Called Malice” (there are a couple of covers that start like they might be interesting … but then, they’re not). You cannot improve this song. Put the microphone down and step away from the record button. But the poem left its impression, so that however long after returning the Kenyon, when I read Solnit, a couple of months ago, shul sounded more loudly, and I did write a poem – “Marginalia”. It’s in seven parts. This is the first:

Marginalia1

It’s a litany of shul. From the stretchmarks, cologne and etymology to the lack of fruit. I carry that MacNeice poem with me, so when the bay window entered the poem, so did the line about snow and tangerines. I guess most people carry “Snow” around, but what about Catholicism? That too? Ok, Prokofiev? Lose Hill? Some impressions are deeper than others. We accumulate them from the people, places, books, etc we encounter, and it’s these marks that influence how we read the world. Viktor Shklovsky said of influence: ”Is it like filling an empty vessel, or is it the rotation of a dynamo rotor in an electric field that, as a result, creates a new kind of electricity?” I’m a one off not because I’m brand spanking new, but because I am the only person with my exact combination of experiences, perceptions, and so what filters through me is made new as a consequence. I am The Avalanches sampling Madonna’s bass line. I’m Dean Stockwell lip-syncing Roy Orbison in Blue Velvet – “In Dreams”, a lovely, melancholic, innocuous song made creepy as hell by a film I definitely didn’t see in the eighties because I was 13 and it’s way too scary.

Shul translates to “track”: “A path is a shul because it is an impression in the ground left by the regular tread of feet”. In Wanderlust, Solnit says “to write is to carve a new path through the terrain of the imagination, or to point out new features on a familiar route”. Perhaps sampling and found poetry are like walking an existing path to identify new features or establish new significance. I noticed that “Holiday” bass line because it’s a familiar feature in my head (I also danced to “Vogue” on the City Hall stage, though maybe that’s less relevant …). But The Avalanches do make something new of it. They sample from The Main Attraction to Rose Royce, yet the overall sound is distinctly their own.

Parts III and VII of “Marginalia” use excerpts from Zelda Sayre’s letters to F. Scott Fitzgerald. These letters are brilliant and bright and insistent. They’re looking towards the promise of something that’s still there, if at a distance. “Marginalia” is all about what’s gone and the impression it made, and I wanted to use the energy she gets onto the page for this purpose, to ramp it up until meaning begins to break down, to be so urgent the words burn up with it.

Marginalia7

The impression left after whatever made it has passed by – a bit like that Barthes thing of using a text as a container or reflection to make sense of your own experience, I read this at the right time. So much depends. If I’d read the Solnit earlier or later, if whoever hadn’t lent me the Kenyon, I don’t remember how I came by Zelda Sayre’s letters, but if I hadn’t. The rag and bone of the imagination, the shul, connects in unforeseen ways. Is a poem really a path? That suggests you could trace my steps. I might leave an impression on you, but I can’t be sure what that impression will be. You have your own damage to bring on the journey.

Listen to Angelina D’Roza reading ‘Marginalia’:

‘Marginalia’ appears in Envies the Birds, Angelina D’Roza’s debut collection (Longbarrow Press, 2016). She is among the poets taking part in the Longbarrow Press residency at the Pop-Up Ruskin Museum at 381 South Road, Walkley, Sheffield, S6 3TD, from 2 – 30 September 2015, culminating in a collective reading at the Museum at 7pm on Wednesday 30 September, featuring D’Roza and poets Matthew Clegg, Pete Green, Chris Jones and Fay Musselwhite. See the Longbarrow Press Events page for more information.

‘Heavy Summer Rain’ by Jane Kenyon appears in Otherwise: New and Selected Poems (Graywolf Press 1997). You can read the poem here

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