Friday, June 20, 2008

Elizabeth Arnold: Civilization

Civilization, Elizabeth Arnold (Flood Editions, 2006)


The classics are everywhere these days. (In my parents' house, I took down from Dad's shelves CM Bowra's The Greek Experience, consicous again of what a foreign country Greek & Latin culture is to me.) Elizabeth Arnold flirts with the classics – a bit of Archilochos & Apollonius, various archaeological digs & Mediterranean landscapes – & juxtaposes those fragments of a lost world with the crumbling edifice of individual human memory: of a father in a nursing home, sliding down the long, painfully gradual incline into complete amnesia. Civilization itself is really no more than group memory, jealously guarded, fought for & passed down. Memory, individual & collective, what makes us human. Perhaps it's just me – the sadness of these precise, careful poems is almost too much to bear.

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