Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Bonfire issue

Having discussed „Five Eleven Ninety Nine“, the bonfire kept popping up in some texts. The poem itself is very contradictory. Talking about the location, Armitage writes „We guess the place, divine it, dig a hole“. People are looking for rubbish they do not need anymore to have it burnt at this holy place. The moment before the fire starts burning is full of expectations: „That moment, then, before the burningg starts - / like waiting for the tingle in the track / before the train, or on the empty road / before the motorcade, the time it takes / an elephant to wander from lightning / to thunder.“ The expectations show an ambivalent perception of the bonfire. On the one hand, Armitage writes about it, which implies that he is not unaffected by it. But the start of the fire is compared to unromantic situations. This ambivalence is strengthened in the second to last stanza: „The flesh gone muddy, foul, the core and pips / that no one cares to eat still fresh, still ripe, / and him who found it heads off down the slope / towards the park and plants or buries it.“
In „The Tyre“, Armitage comes back to a line in „Five Eleven Ninety Nine“. Mentioned there is: „Such comings, givings, goings. Morning finds / the pole upstanding through a tractor tyre - / half a ton, those, so how did that get there?“ In „The Tyre“, Armitage and his friends find a tractor tyre which they plan to burn on Bonfire Night. But in the poem, the tyre gets lost and is not found again. Whether it is really the same tyre thus has to be guessed. The Bonfire itself thus was an event to the kids, but a fun event, not sacred.
In „On the Road 4“ he comes back to the Bonfire from a tour in the USA. What keeps him staying up is: „the thought of tonight's bonfire keeps me going – light at the end of the tunnel“. And he goes on: „There's something beautifully home-made and amateurish about the traditional British bonfire“ and further „An English volcano. A low-lying but deep-seated, unquenched and seemingly inexhaustible flame“. In the end, one is not sure whether he is talking about the charcoal, which is still alight the next day. Or whether he is writing about the Bonfire night in general, the tradition never ending.
In the end, the ambivalence in „Five Eleven Ninety Nine“ cannot really be resolved.

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