Touching Without Holding, the seventh poem in Linda Chown’s William Blake Series

Lear and Cordlia in Prison c. 1779 / courtesy of the Tate / Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported) License this image

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sun rise.
William Blake

How this softer Blake burns.
Who’s to say how
to know this
way beyond way?
This tremendous reaching,
feeling sticking out, conspicuous.
Once, Vita Sackville-West dove
herself far, like Blake,
after a new balance,
to hold onto stasis,
memorialize apotheoses,
and make making more momentous.

Her book “All Passion Spent,”
probes the very soul wrench
of this stillborn painting
whose people stay fully
clothed yet fully undone
in silent grief beyond saying.
Blake gives Lear and Cordelia
the whole stage to lie about in,
bathed in a clash of terribly gentle color
and terribly gruesome agitation.

This father and daughter
touch without holding,
athwart in a pain beyond knowing:
they cannot face the other nor touch.
They grip themselves instead,
fingers heavy and listless
Keen faces screaming, soundless
like inside a stranger’s coffin.

Told once to be “less extravagant,” Blake gives even more
intensely in simplicity, this way beyond the way beyond.
In the gentle pastels, passion roils, boils all the more.
This frozen love fills everything up, all the bareness.
They touch on in the tragedy without holding,
in a barren consummation.
Lost in a lightyear of lonely.

© 2019, Linda Chown

“We never actually see Lear and Cordelia in prison in Shakespeare’s King Lear, but a scene like this appears in Nahum Tate’s adaptation of the play, and Blake might have seen a performance in this, the only version staged in the eighteenth century. However, Martin Butlin thinks a more likely source is John Milton’s History of Britain, where Lear is the last of the descendants of Brutus and the first King of England, thus making this early work by Blake part of a series of pictures he planned to call The History of England, a small book of Engravings (31).”

The other poems in Linda’s ongoing Blake-poem series:

  1. Refections into William Blake’s “Brutus and Caesar’s Ghost,” Linda Chown
  2. Cohering Clashes: Wiliam Blake’s “The Red Dragon and The Woman Clothed in the Sun,” Linda Chown
  3. This New Ending of the Beginning: William Blake’s “The Body of Abel Found by Adam and Eve,” Linda Chown
  4. Looking Up High: “The Wood of the Self-Murderers: The Harpies, and The Suicides,”Linda Chown
  5. Double Trouble: Lamech and His Two Wives, Linda Chown
  6. The Sun in His Wrath, Linda Chown

I am delighted to announce today that Linda Chown’s Narrative Authority and Homeostasis in the Novels of Doris Lessing and Carmen Martín Gaite (Routledge Library Editions: Modern Fiction) is now available through Amazon in hardcover and Kindle. Linda tells me a budget-wise paperback edition will be available in six-to-eight months.

This study, originally published in 1990, assesses a shift in the presentation of self-consciousness in two pairs of novels by Doris Lessing and Carmen Martín Gaite: 1) Lessing’s The Summer Before the Dark (1973) and Martín Gaite’s Retahílas (1974) and 2) Lessing’s The Memoirs of a Survivor (1974) and Martín Gaite’s The Back Room (1978). Three major structural divisions facilitate examining implications of the novels for 1) feminism 2) literary narrative and 3) the lives of people-at-large. / J.D.

Linda’s Amazon Page is HERE.

Linda Chown

LINDA E. CHOWN grew up in Berkeley, Ca. in the days of action. Civil Rights arrests at Sheraton Palace and Auto Row.  BA UC Berkeley Intellectual History; MA Creative Writing SFSU; PHd Comparative Literature University of Washington. Four books of poetry. Many poems published on line at Numero Cinq, Empty Mirror, The BeZine, Dura, Poet Head and others. Many articles on Oliver Sachs, Doris Lessing, Virginia Woolf, and many others. Twenty years in Spain with friends who lived through the worst of Franco. I was in Spain (Granada, Conil and Cádiz) during Franco’s rule, there the day of his death when people took to the streets in celebration. Interviewed nine major Spanish Women Novelists, including Ana María Matute and Carmen Laforet and Carmen Martín Gaite.

Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights and encourages activist poetry.  Email for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

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Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications Poets Advocate for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton