Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 26 June 2016


Sign of the Times

They cast their shadows in bronze
at the end of their days:
tall and thin like Giacometti's men.

We stood erect but the sun was against us.

21 July 1989

In 1961, Beckett turned to the Italian sculptor Alberto Giacometti, his Left Bank drinking companion, for help in the run-up to a forthcoming Paris revival of “Godot.” Designing the tree confounded them both. “We spent the whole night in the studio with that plaster tree,” Giacometti said, “trying to make it sparser, smaller, the branches thinner. It never looked any good, and neither he nor I liked it. And we kept saying to each other, Perhaps like this ….” - Siobhan Bohnacker, 'Is that O.K., Mr Beckett?', The New Yorker, 4 December 2013.
The poet and artist met in 1937 and became renowned drinking partners in Montparnasse. Beckett said of the artist: “things were insolvable [for him], but that kept him going.” According to those who knew the pair their meetings consisted of mostly “pleasant silences”. - The Telegraph, 11 January 2016

I've never been the biggest fan of Giacometti's work. Too ... knobbly. Give me a Henry Moore any day of the week. But as a visual metaphor it's perfect here. I, in my prime, the sun beating down on me, casting no shadow or not much of one imagine the greats standing before a setting sun. It's a simple image but I like it.


Kass said...

Lovely poem. It is nicely accompanied by Giacometti's work and "pleasant silences."

Jim Murdoch said...

There is, of course, an apocalyptic subtext here, Kass. I grew up constantly conscious of the signs of the times—wars, famine, pestilence, signs in the heavens—and there’s even one school of thought that argues (and not unreasonably) that we’re living in the end of days; we’re experiencing Armageddon every day of our lives.

Gwil W said...

I like this one very much.

Jim Murdoch said...

I'm glad you like it, Gwilym. I'm not saying it's perfect but it's one of those poems that I can't think what I might change to make it better. I've always admired 'In a Station of the Metro' for the same reason. Not one word out of place.

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