Name: Patrick Williamson
Hometown: Bath, UK
Current city: Paris, France
Occupation: Poet, translator, lecturer in translation
What does poetry mean to you?
Poetry is a courageous inner language, essential to human survival through defiance and overcoming limits, barriers, and borders, while at the same time giving voice to what is not yet fully understood or available to articulation. It plays an important role in mobilizing people to fight against the increasingly harmful currents of thought around the world, and to fight injustice. It acts as an alert; it wakes and strengthens cohesion between people and peoples. The language must reflect the present but not neglect the past, and must create the foundations for building the future. It revitalizes, maintains, and extends language, everywhere, and in a world where globalized tendencies are omnipresent and rare dialects and languages are threatened or almost extinct. It acts as a guide to the big questions that concern humanity about our existence and our reason for being, in a world where there are fewer and fewer landmarks. It can empower people facing grief, illness, and mental health problems and help those seeking meaning in a world of fragmented human relationships, where loneliness and isolation remain a major problem. It is a vector between generations, passing on memory. Poetry is a key element of our collective consciousness.
What is your favorite poem?
“The Waste Land” by T.S Eliot is a classic but timeless poem that provides continuous food for thought.
The Waste Land
BY T. S. ELIOT
FOR EZRA POUND
IL MIGLIOR FABBRO
I. The Burial of the Dead
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the arch-duke’s,
My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
Frisch weht der Wind
Der Heimat zu
Mein Irisch Kind,
Wo weilest du?
“You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
“They called me the hyacinth girl.”
—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Oed’ und leer das Meer.
Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,
Had a bad cold, nevertheless
Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,
With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,
Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,
(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)
Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,
The lady of situations.
Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.
I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.
Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,
Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:
One must be so careful these days.
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.
There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying: “Stetson!
“You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!
“That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
“Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
“Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
“Oh keep the Dog far hence, that’s friend to men,
“Or with his nails he’ll dig it up again!
“You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!”
Why do you like this poem?
I first read this work when I was very young ,and it is a poem full of vitality, notwithstanding some of its references that showed the young man I was that there is a cosmopolitan and sophisticated world outside my door and ready for the taking. It invites one to take up challenges. It encouraged me then, along with Ezra Pound's Cantos, to attempt a long ambitious poem full of references and quotes in foreign languages and one full of meditations on life, love, music and the injustices of this world. I was unable to sustain the same momentum, nor did I have the required learning (I was in my early twenties and always have had a lazy approach to erudition), nor, as in the case of Eliot, a mentor editor like Pound to shape and create this wonderfully powerful poem. It did however set me on the path to writing in more depth, as I got older and more relaxed and perceptive. Eliot's later work, Four Quartets, was also a great influence that rang true to my experience as a young Anglican in England, visiting small country churches with my father, and imbibing the stillness and spirituality of such places. This combined with the wet or sunny green and pleasant land that is England. This experience is often lacking in the current social media world, and this is why such poetry is so important as a place of inner reflection and sanctuary. I hope my own work reflects this at times.