Following on our last post, where we enticed you with a transcript of one of the six reviews performed in our rainbow Review Revue, we can now offer you the podcast of the full line-up:
Michael Giacon on Young Robert Duncan: portrait of the poet as homosexual in society by Ekbert Faas
Jade du Preez on How to be both by Ali Smith
Richard Galloway on Mary Renault, author of The Charioteer and many other works of LGBTQ fiction
Morgan Borthwick on Cinnamon toast and the end of the world by Janet E. Cameron
Christopher Dempsey on Hear us out: conversations with gay novelists by Richard Canning
Carole Beu on Lucky us by Amy Bloom
I loved it when Michael launched the evening by confessing "I have had this book since 1989 and I have just started reading it". I trust we all have our own versions of this confession.
What we probably all don't have is the experience of having read Robert Duncan's revolutionary love poem which Michael refers to, "The Torso". I hadn't, but I hunted it down, and now that I've read it and found it as amazing as Michael gave us to believe, I want to give you the chance. I am not sure what year it was written, but it was at least 50 years ago, and it would be daring stuff even now.
The lines Duncan put in italics are quotes from "Edward II", Christopher Marlowe's tragic drama about the king who "cares for poetry, philosophy, and the commoner Gaveston more than war, statecraft, and his politically advantageous wife" as one of the writers on the University of Illinois page about this poem puts it. Attention to the last line, though: Duncan has altered one word from Marlowe's text, and with that changed everything. "The King upon whose bosom let me die." wrote Marlowe. "The King upon whose bosom let me lie." wrote Duncan, throwing off the death sentence of the homosexual.
Most beautiful! The red-flowering eucalyptus the madrone, the yew Is he... So thou wouldst smile, and take me in thine arms the sight of London to my exiled eyes Is as Elysium to a new-come soul If he be Truth I would dwell in the illusion of him His hands unlocking from chambers of my male body such an idea in man's image rising tides that sweep me towards him . . .homosexual? and at the treasure of his mouth pour forth my soul his love commingling I thought a Being more than vast, His body leading into Paradise, his eyes quickening a fir in me, a trembling hieroglyph: At the root of the neck the clavicle, for the neck is the stem of the great artery upward into his head that is beautiful At the rise of the pectoral muscles the nipples, for the breasts are like sleeping fountains of feeling in man, waiting above the heat of his heart, shielding the rise and fall of his breath, to be awakened At the axis of his mid riff the navel, for in the pit of his stomach the chord from which first he was fed has its temple At the root of the groin the pubic hair, for the torso is the stem in which the man flowers forth and leads to the stamen of flesh in which his seed rises a wave of need and desire over taking me cried out my name (This was long ago. It was another life) and said, What do you want of me? I do not know, I said. I have fallen in love. He has brought me into heights and depths my heart would fear without him. His look pierces my side . fire eyes . I have been waiting for you, he said: I know what you desire you do not yet know but through me . And I am with you everywhere. In your falling I have fallen from a high place. I have raised myself from darkness in your rising wherever you are my hand in your hand seeking the locks, the keys I am there. Gathering me, you gather your Self . For my Other is not a woman but a man the King upon whose bosom let me lie.
You can listen to Review Revue via Soundcloud below or search for "Auckland Libraries" in iTunes or on your favourite podcast app to download the episode.