Ruth Pitter lived in the twentieth century (1897-1992), but her poetry lives in an earlier time. It refuses to acknowledge Matthew Arnold's "melancholy, long, withdrawing roar" of faith, but struggles in isolation with religious doubt and meaning. As such, it is, on occasion, a powerfully individual poetry, but it is also radically cut off from the most significant movements of her time. The refusal to engage with Modernism and its aftermath stunts the poetry. The slightly archaic diction and windy abstractions persist into the late poems. The use of traditional verse forms (including the heroic couplet) evinces individual skill but makes no larger argument, unlike the work of Eliot, Auden and Larkin. A few late poems grapple with modern science, but the main thematic development in the Collected Poems is from the observation of nature to the description of dreams-visions, a movement backwards in time, from Romanticism to medievalism.
I am surprised by how much this incident is affecting me. I thought I have moved past my former religious life, left it behind in Singapore, but like tin cans tied to a dog it has followed me and is rattling me. I am posting the incident, and my response to it, here on this blog, because I want to remember that the past is not yet past.
When Emeritus Senior Minister of Singapore Goh Chok Tong visited Faith Community Baptist Church on 13 January during a Sunday service, Senior Pastor Lawrence Khong took the opportunity to deliver a hateful anti-gay message. Among other things, he said:
We affirm that the family unit comprises a man as Father, a woman as Mother, and Children. This is the basic building block of society, a value foundational for a secure future, a premise fundamental to nation-building.
and warned ominously that
We see a looming threat to this basic building block by homosexual activists seeking to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code.
Examples from around the world …
Wrote a new poem this morning, a haibun for Kimiko's workshop. It is at the end of this post. Checked my email and found a lovely fish ghazal written for me by AH. I am a Pisces. Other friends, like WL, CM and TH, had emailed me earlier their birthday wishes. Read the TLS before having a quick lunch at the local Chinese takeout. Started reading Christopher Ricks's True Friendship: Geoffrey Hill, Anthony Hecht and Robert Lowell Under the Sign of Eliot and Pound. This beautiful book, beautiful in writing and design, is a birthday gift from HS. She loves Anthony Hecht and knows I love Eliot. Both of us admire Ricks's criticism. Mum called to wish me happy birthday. Took a nap because I was out late last night. Checked my email and read that another group of my poems, the Boland-inspired pieces, have been accepted by MS for the PN Review. That made up a little for the disappointment of not appearing on the Lambda list of finalists. Then attended KM's first solo art show at…