Chagall in noise

July 4, 2018

Poems about Olivier Messiaen are not plentiful; it’s a pleasure to read one. Micheal O’Siadhail begins in this way:

I hear the bells and singing stained glass birds
As, Olivier Messiaen, you shift the scale
Of chirps from semitones to tones or thirds
For tawny owl or tenor nightingale.

There’s a good deal of solid matter in the poem — references, direct and oblique, to quite a few of Messiaen’s pieces, to his synesthesia, to the musicians and instruments with which he was associated — but most of all the poem communicates a love for him and his music, a love that I heartily share.

There is a line that I cannot parse:

Our spirit’s here and there both correspond;

Perhaps it’s just because I haven’t slept properly for a while, but I can’t see how that apostrophe doesn’t spoil the sense of the line. Please correct me.

Our envoi has to be Éclairs sur l’au delà — which is not about desserts.

2 Responses to “Chagall in noise”

  1. Jeremy Says:

    Thank you for introducing me to this splendid poem. I agree that the line you have quoted is troubling. The only way I can make some sense of it, without assuming the apostrophe to be a mistake, is thus: “The here and the there which belong to our spirit both correspond”. But I’m not sure I understand what that might mean, even reading the line in its context within the poem, and the fact that “spirit” is singular still remains odd. My apologies if I am simply stating the obvious!

  2. cburrell Says:

    Interesting attempt to make sense of it. I hadn’t thought of that, although, like you, I don’t find it very convincing. Still, I’m glad you liked the poem, as I did.


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