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.
Saturday, conducted a Sing Lit Station workshop on revision with three participants. Andrea, an intern, made a valuable addition. Then attended the Migrant Poetry Evening at The Arts House in the tank top designed by Mark Yeo.
On Sunday, I heard Phillip Cheah perform at Victoria Memorial Hall (Dance Studio) with his collaborator and pianist Trudy Chan. They were terrific, as expected. Phillip is a good interpreter of art songs. I found the French tunes the most affecting in their combination of lightness and emotion. Many of Phillip's former teachers and classmates from RI came to support him. In the evening, I had dinner with YP and her family at Chapter 55, an Italian bistro in Tiong Bahru. The girls liked their presents. Hannah got an autographed copy of Naomi Novik's Temeraire series. She is beginning to collect books signed by their authors. I found the perfect present for Liesel at the Asian Civilization Museum, a book of watercolor paintings of the flora and fauna of th…