The book of poetry by Tamar Yoseloff was one of the more difficult pieces for me on the syllabus. Analyzing poetry has never been a strong point of mine! For this post, I selected “Sacred to the Memory” and “Duk of gton” because these were the poems and images that caught my eye the most. I didn’t conduct any real outside research because the pamphlet provided along with the book was information enough!
“Sacred to the Memory” reminded me of Falling Angels, for it’s almost the contemporary update on the state of some of the graves in Chevalier’s novel. Yoseloff says in the pamphlet that this photograph got her thinking about “the notion of what is sacred, and how…pollution and time have wiped some of those inscriptions clean.” After researching and discovering about the elaborate Victorian mourning customs, the current state of these gravestones seems a bit tragic. The poem says how “even stone will turn to dust/ where all around us is erased,” even though the people mourning a loved one that bought the gravestone probably went through a lot of trouble in order to properly mourn and remember the one that is buried. Cemeteries are such an integral part of mourning, whether during the Victorian era or up until fairly recently, that seeing these dilapidated graves reminds us of the inevitability that we will be forgotten. No matter how hard you try to remember someone, whether carve it into stone or write it down, it will not lost. Most of what I know about England prior to this trip is about the history; dead queens and kings and old literature. It seems that England is rich with interesting history and historical figures. But Yoseloff sheds light on some of those insignificant lives that have been forgotten along the way. Yoseloff’s word choice subtly tells us about the state of London she is writing about in these poems. The repetition of “poison air” could signify the pollution she mentions in the pamphlet that is wearing down on these graves. Not only is this pollution degrading the physical tombstones, but it is erasing the names of the people, which is one of the last ties to the living world.
It’s only appropriate that I listen to some Duke Ellington while I write this post, isn’t it? Yoseloff tells the reader that for this poem, she attempted “to stick to the sound patterns of the remaining letters.” I think the poem does so wonderfully, and through this style brings back the feeling of the time period. Words like “ho fun duck” and “goon squad drunks” force the reader into a kind of rhythm that resurrects the forgotten pub. Since no one has tried to do so to the physical pub, for it’s been sitting there for years untouched, through the words Yoseloff finally brings it back to life for a fleeting moment. What’s interesting is that when she wrote the poem, certain letters were still standing on the outside of the pub. But MacDonald says in the pamphlet that “the pub remains defiantly unreconstructed, later becoming Duk of Ton and now On,” which diminishes Yoseloff’s style and again reminds the reader of how we are all subjected to time’s inevitable control.
Both pieces I chose focus on are places that for the most part are untouched and slowly disintegrating. I think it’s eerie and is even more important than the other places in the poetry collection that are being renovated or torn down and turned into something else. It says that not only have they forgotten about you, but the space you occupy isn’t worthy and can just sit and rot. My favorite line from “Duk” reads “don’t even know what’s/ missing, though there’s a hole/ in my heart, an ache in my brain.” This sums up how I believe that Yoseloff and MacDonald feel about these forgotten spaces. These two places barely exist anymore but are important parts of London’s past; even though no one is paying attention to them, their disappearance is felt in everyone. Yoseloff and MacDonald write in the pamphlet how some of the places in the poetry collection couldn’t be explained. Either there is no record of the business a sign if advertising or the names on the graves have been erased. Nevertheless, something is missing. And that something played a part in how London became what it is today.