15 December 2016

Poetry Thursday - Lavinia Greenlaw, The Messenger God

"Broad-hatted, heel-winged god of all going-between"
Mercury by Giovanni da Bologna

How do you know?
He is ahead and to the quick.

What impression?
Grave, fissile.

Easily divided?
In that he responds.

His message?
His presence. No other message.

To what purpose?
Glass in a city of water and sky.

What need of him?
I must enter the city.

To what purpose?
Water and sky.

- Lavinia Greenlaw

Found in Ali Smith's "Artful", part novel, part essays on art and literature. The net of the book has caught some interesting poems (or perhaps fragments), of which I hope to find out more. 

In the book, the poem is in a section on reflection, involving and evoking both Narcissus and Hermes/Mercury.
Quicksilver is another word for Mercury, is another word for a planet that looks like a grey boulder in space, another word for an element which is both fluid and solid, can change its shape yet still hold its form, is another word for Hermes, Greek god of art, artfulness, thievery, changeability, swiftness of thought and of communication, language, the alphabet, speechmaking, emails, texts, tweets; god of bartering, trade, liaison, roads and crossroads, travellers, the stock exchange, wages, dreams; guide between the surface world and the underworld, guide between the living and the dead, stealer of unbreakable nets for catching pretty virgins, god of free association, god of freedom of movement, fluidity, mutability of form, broad-hatted heel-winged god of all going-between, the deliverer.
Of the poem, Smith says:
In this series of ritualized, gnomic questions and responses, Greenlaw discusses the nature of how we know anything. Because of this messenger going ahead of us, whose quickness is a reminder that alive and very fast both sometimes mean the same thing, we are able not just to know but to see where we are and where we're living. With this mercurial god, division comes to mean response. His presence allows transparency, protection, a seeing through something and an act of seeing something through. 

No comments: