Recently I (I had originally written “quite by chance”, yet everything is a butterfly effect, leading me to this point in time and space now) found myself looking at the poetry of my father’s supervisor during his studies in English Literature at Cambridge, the prolific British poet Jeremy Prynne. Looking at Prynne’s poetry was a strangely illuminating experience – having, in the last year, edited and been deeply entangled with the massive volume of over 500 poems my father had left in the hopes of being published before he died – I could see Prynne’s influence on my father, interwoven between the words.
My dear father had compiled the hundreds of poems he had written over the decades of his life – in Thailand, England, India, China, Australia – into one document, trailing with endnotes at the end, secrets to the soul, with clear intentions of getting it published one day, with different collections set out, the exoteric layer, the visible display and the format of the poems each perfectly placed and set, and the esoteric meaning of the words drifting beautifully on each page, waiting to be released out into the world and be lead back, both coming together to form this strangely mysterious compilation.
I initially attempted to have it published by the ECNU (East China Normal University) Press – where he held his final position, as head of the Anthropology and Sociology department, but years later, there still shows no signs of the Chinese government issuing a book number for the publication of this book. I began to submit samples of 15 or so of his poetries to small poetry presses in the UK and US, but found myself facing the massive difficulty of publishing poetry posthumously.
In this journey of getting his collections published, I found out that my father had self-published his father’s, my dear grandfather’s, writings himself. Looking at the introduction my father had written for his father as I struggled to put words down on paper for the cover letter I sent into the poetry presses, I had the feeling that life was repeating itself; feeling myself an ironic, inevitable part of the cyclical nature of life, reminded of Nietzsche, but feeling closer to him, as though he were right in the corner of my heart, as I wrote those words, remembering the words he had written for his father’s written works after he had died.
I felt, as I was pouring over his poems, night after night, that this must, surely, be the footprint of his soul – and when faced with such a thing, one will know. One will know beauty in the face of beauty.
As I work towards a PhD one day, the meticulous research of supervisors was what led me, in the past few days, to reflect on my father’s own supervisors. It led me to Jeremy Prynne, who had written extensive commentaries on Wordsworth, who was also one of my father’s most beloved poets and who had a large influence on his writings, and to Andrew Turton, my father’s PhD supervisor at SOAS in Anthropology, who I remember attending my father’s memorial service in the UK a few years ago. I was sorry to find out just yesterday that he had passed away last August, may he rest in peace.
Alas, I felt quite alone, yet with the alone.
These uncoverings are, to me, an ode to the strength and beauty of the relationship between a teacher and a student; the mirroring of two souls, the sharing of ideas, fears, hopes, dreams – the archetype of which we can always look to Rumi and Shams.
Those before us will leave, those after us will continue, and all we can do is enjoy, learn, repent, love, worship, and cry.
A few from Jeremy Prynne…
THE HOLY CITY
There’s no mystic moment involved just
that we are
is how, each
the wind which makes no decision and is
a tide, not taken. I saw it
and love is
when, how &
could call it Ierusalem or feel it
as you walk, even quite jauntily, over the grass.
From, “News of the Warring Clans”
This is the ace
of all desire,
fed by the smoke
and flame of this
And from my father:
the woodcutter’s tale
saw Li Kuan
with a smile
in her hair
she waved me
the fire I
like grasshopper –
the moon still shines
and Li Kuan is happy
by its light
mist on the roof-tops
clouds in my head
the room is darkness containing
of another’s light
burns softly in the corner
with a candle
my handwriting shrinks
and dwindles :
some strange formations in the sky
I wonder what they signify