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BLOOMSBURY

‘O, there you are,’ Mr Bloom said, turning from the fire.

ULYSSES, James Joyce

 

Joyce read his poems to Lady Gregory

in Dublin. She was impressed and gave him five pounds

to help fund his escape to Paris

from the ‘coherent absurdity’ (his words)

of Catholicism. She wrote to Yeats –

her close friend and patronee, who had lodgings

a five minute walk from Euston – to meet him

off the Holyhead train at six a.m.,

give him breakfast, look after him and then

give him dinner before he took the boat train

from Victoria. She was afraid James

‘would knock his ribs against the earth’. Imagine

these two bespectacled Irishmen,

Orange and Green, very amiably

walking along Woburn Place! No doubt

Yeats introduced him to Bloomsbury neighbours

Eliot and Pound, amongst others,

to ‘help him on his way’. What if James

had torn up his ticket, kept the fiver,

of course, and stayed in this extraordinary

two thirds of a square mile – with its leagues

of floors of books and artefacts,

its revolutionary exiles,

its assorted geniuses, blue plaques,

handsome, greensward squares, cohorts

of multicultural students and tourists?

 

From the window of our budget hotel

we can almost see Yeats’ lodgings.

Before us is St Pancras Parish Church –

in Greek Revival style with terracotta

caryatids and cornices embellished

with lions’ heads. On Euston Road the world

passes – endless pedestrians, black cabs,

red buses. How I longed, as a youth,

to be here – to live and work among these

acres of ideas, the palpable shades

of literary men and women, shakers

and movers in that enduring tradition!

 

Our train passed the same blackened walls

he would have seen – perhaps even the same

stunted buddleia! Not until just before

Bexley did there seem to be some woodland –

or, until after Bletchley, ploughed fields

with murders of crows in the furrows.

We watched a shower of rain move towards us

through the obsolete radio masts

near Rugby, and I thought of James Joyce

creative in exile.

 

 

 

 

 

© Copyright David Selzer
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3 Responses
  • Tony Clifford
    June 25, 2021

    I really liked all five. They capture moods and moments so elegantly. You have a wonderfully sure voice.

  • John Huddart
    June 29, 2021

    Agree wholeheartedly with Tony. How anyone finds the time to garner so much reflection, each month is a small miracle. Everyday waters turned into wine. Your audience feasted on a basket of loaves and fishes. All freshly baked or caught. The Gaza poem a great taking of the long view. .The travelling Joyce poem, beautifully matched by the journey taken by the writer.

  • Mary Clark
    July 12, 2021

    What a foursome – Yeats, Pound, Eliot, and Joyce – the Beatles of their day! Supra-Beatles! In the same acreage they might have exploded. In a good way, or not? And pale Virginia Woolf walks to the river…. Love how your poems evoke these thoughts and images, these possibilities within the chains of time and place…

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