Allen Curnow’s works concerning “the New Zealand Landscape and the sense of isolation experienced by one who lives in an island colony are perhaps his most moving and most deeply pertinent works regarding the New Zealand condition. His poetry specially concerns landscape/isolation.”
The poem “Continuum” is a poem on the continuity of poetic inspiration. The poetic source of stimulation of great poets since ages has been the landscape. The moon has been a persistent metaphor for poetic inspiration in celebrated poems like Samuel Coleridge’s “Dejection: An Ode.” The poet’s quality of being a satirist is prominent here. He first asserts that the moon rolls over the roof, and falls back. This is to imply that his poetic capabilities are sinking. Subsequently, he goes on to substantiate that the moon does neither of these things, he is talking about himself. When poets do generally stumble in poetic output or due to lack of inspiration, they tend to blame the external circumstances. However, Here Allen Curnow asserts that the poet himself is to be blamed; for, Poetic inspiration comes from within and not from outside.
Being sleepless is not an excuse for writing a poem. Sleeplessness does not necessarily allow one to ruminate over a subject, or subjective thoughts. The condition of insomnia can also be dodged conveniently by walking barefoot on the front. The speaker is then visualized as an onlooker of nature. As he stands at the porch he beholds an objective view of himself, as he discerns “across the privets/and the palms a ”washed out creation.” This portion is a dark space. The poet moves to his satiric tone yet again. This dark space contains two particular clouds, one was supposed to be a source of inspiration for the poet, and the other for his adversary-the other fellow poet.
Bright clouds dusted(query) by the moon, one’s mine
The other’s an adversary, which may depend
on the wind or something.
The clouds seem to dust the moon for the poet in his quest/query for poetic stimulation. Nevertheless as one cloud functions in his favour, the other (cloud) poses as an adversary that may shadow the cloud, accompanied by the wind. Poetic brainwave or competence must not mar the other’s inspiration, for each poet has his individualistic insight that springs from within and does depend on external features.
The poet gets the feeling that he has overcome his writer’s block. As creativity begins in impulses, there are gaps. The next gap is a long one, and obviously the next poetic impulse is not on time. Corresponding to the inner lack of productivity, the feet outside lack warmth as the chill of the planking underfoot rises.
As the poet cringes for poetic output based on external inspiration, the night sky seems to empty all it contents down, as in an action of excreting or vomiting. The speaker then turns on his bare heel and closes the door signaling the end of his creative endeavour. This is He, the objective Author, feeding on this litter of the scenic sky and employing his poetic tools in the process. Therefore, he is aptly the cringing demiurge.
“The demiurge is a concept from the Platonic, Middle Platonic, and Neoplatonic schools of philosophy for an artisan-like figure responsible for the fashioning and maintenance of the physical universe. Although a fashioner, the demiurge is not quite the creator figure in the familiar monistic sense; both the demiurge itself and the material from which the demiurge fashions the universe are the product of some other being.”
The poet Allen Curnow asserts that he neither is he original, nor his poetic source of insight. This is because the motivating stimuli did not spring from Him. It is objective, when it should be rather subjective.
©Rukhaya MK 2010
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