After mentioning Tomas Lurgsy’s pet wolverine a week or so ago (here and here) this blog has been inundated by those desiring a wolverine of their own. ‘Buy skunk juice’ used to be a highly popular search term around here; ‘buy pet wolverine’ is clearly the new kid in town. Barely a day goes by without a potential pet wolverine buyer ending up at this site, only to leave (no doubt) with disappointment written all over their strange little faces. The idea that people should wish to purchase skunk juice used to concern me deeply; the concept of someone wanting to buy a wolverine – an animal primarily celebrated for its violent streak – is equally disturbing. Lurgsy’s experience should not be setting a precedent: he was a half-crazed Bulgarian poet – not someone whose behaviour we should be wilfully imitating. Indeed, Pyetr Turgidovsky aside, I can think of few less worthy role models.
In short, allow me to be blunt with you, dear deluded readers. If you want to buy a wolverine, this is not the place. Perhaps other places are (or claim they are) ‘the place’. Should that be the case, however, I implore you to stop for a minute, take a deep breath, and exercise that damp, pulsing, slimy grey stuff that sits within your skull. Consider your options carefully. Do you really want an animal nicknamed ‘glutton’ or ‘skunk bear’ to share a house with you, or would you prefer something a little more docile (a cat, perhaps)? A wolverine, remember, is not only an endangered species, but an animal likely to put in its owner in no small danger. Examine this image, if you will. Replace the rock with your living room sofa. Now, answer me carefully: do you still want to buy a wolverine?
Oh, I see. Well, have it your way then…
[Whilst we’re on the subject of wolverines, this came up a few weeks ago. Visit ye, visit ye..]
To no one’s surprise, least of all my own, I have been flooded with responses to my last postage. Readers (yes, it is plural) seem keen to pick up on two particular points.
All in all, there is general dissatisfaction with the evidence I present in favour of Lurgsy’s wolverine. ‘Fourteen poems doth not evidence make,’ writes one disgruntled individual. It’s a fair point. Fourteen poems doth not evidence make. But then I never suggested that these fourteen poems made up the entire evidence. There are letters also, full of references to the wolverine. There is Birovnik’s daily journal. There is even a photograph. Granted, it’s terribly blurred – and the wolverine might as well be a plump stoat, or a fur jacket rolled into a ball; but these are minor quibbles. The body of evidence is not as weak as you might think it is.
Point number two: wolverines in Bulgaria? From whence did this wolverine come? What was an orphaned wolverine doing so far south? All perfectly good questions, to which I have no obvious answer. It’s an anomaly, I won’t deny that. But then, life is full of anomalies, just as our cities are full of tigers and chimpanzees. Animals get places: it’s a fact. Strange people pack them up and drag them across the world. When someone gets bored with something, they don’t take it back to its birthplace. They leave it wherever it happens to have ended up.
Consider this. A circus comes to Sofia. There are hundreds of animals on board, including a couple of ferocious wolverines. They’re smaller than lions, but they pack a punch: too much of a punch. One of them is especially ratty – and will attack anything, literally anything. It had a go at one of the elephants the other day. By the time the circus reaches the next city, the trainers have decided to let this wolverine go. Not in the city: that would be foolish. No – they’ll push it out of the trailer once they get into the countryside. Let it wreak havoc in the wilderness.
Little do they know, this frustrated wolverine is pregnant. Soon after being dropped in off the woods of western Bulgaria, it gives birth. Bulgaria has wolverines. One day their feisty mother decides to take on an axe-wielding farmer. Bulgaria has orphaned wolverines.
Enter Tomas Lurgsy…
This reminds me. Tomas Lurgsy wrote a poem called ‘each a vagrant mongrel’. Any fool knows this. But how many people can list the number of pets owned by the members of the Bulgarian Farm Poets Movement?
Pets is a tricky word, I know. Is a cow a pet? What if you don’t milk it? When does a stray cat become a pet? Suffice to say that, when in the country, the Bulgarian Farm Poets surrounded themselves with tame, half-tame and vaguely-tame animals: thirty at least – maybe more.
Amongst these, it is claimed, was an orphaned wolverine. As such claims go, this seems a relatively secure one: much more secure, I would say, than the claim that Ludomir Birovnik hand-reared seven golden eagle chicks. For although we have no photographs of said wolverine, we do have plenty of written evidence, including no less than fourteen poems. Sadly, these poems don’t appear in most collections of Lurgsy’s work. Why? Because they’re poor? Not exactly. Most of them are well below par, it must be said: but there are some strong works.
Strong is very much the word, I think. Disturbing is another word that suits. Consider ‘wolverine, sweet wolverine’ (or, if you’re eating lunch, consider it not). That’s some rather ‘heady’ imagery, make no mistake about. ‘Your sweat and fur float in my veins/your teeth sink sweetly into skin’. And all that stuff about a ‘hairy consummation’ – what has to wonder just what was going on there. Lurgsy liked his wolverine, that’s for sure. One might even say he loved it. Until it grew up, that is, and tried to bite his arm off. After that, I think we can safely say that their relationship went downhill. Or that the wolverine went downhill, in a tub, at high speed, into a lake (a weird way to put a once-loved pet down, granted, but then I’m no Bulgarian poet).
A handful of observant readers (my wife included) noticed an allusion in the last post to a late poem by that Hungarian master Tomas Lurgsy. The allusion, of course, lay in the line ‘each a vagrant mongrel’; also the title of a Lurgsy poem.
There are those who say that pointing out an allusion rather spoils it. They are probably right: I bring this one to light only because I made it, as it were, unknowingly. This confirms my wife’s belief that I am at my cleverest when trying not to be clever.
It’s not for rest, these trees don’t sleep,
There is no agonising peace (Tomas Lurgsy, Forest)
A week or so ago I posted this: an excerpt of a Bulgarian poem, followed by a set of questions. Here are the answers.
The words, as you have probably guessed for yourselves, were written by Tomas Lurgsy during his increasingly notorious ‘London period’ in the late 1970s. Increasingly notorious, you say? Well yes, I do. And if you don’t believe me, I invite you to peruse the contents of Ivor Bellinson’s new book, A Bulgarian in the British Museum: Tomas Lurgsy and London – by far the most comprehensive study of Lurgsy’s London years (albeit the only one, to date).
Not that I need Bellinson to supply me with the facts I already know. Such as the fact that, contrary to popular opinion, only sixty percent of the poems Lurgsy wrote in London were written in English (a lot of critics still believe that all of them were). Or the fact that all of his poems from this period are jam-packed with subtle allusions to English writers, from G K Chesterton to Virginia Woolf.
Indeed, it is Woolf whom he invokes in this very excerpt. The image of a woman retrieving a ‘sheaf of paper’ from a dungy midden is quite clearly inspired by events occuring within the pages of Woolf’s 1928 biography, Orlando. Biography, you say? Oh yes. Though some are still wont to call it a novel, there is to me little doubt that Woolf’s work is a well-researched piece of non-fiction; a factually accurate retelling of the long and strange career of the eponymous hero/heroine.
That Lurgsy should have referred to Woolf’s work comes as little surprise, as he was living at this time in the area known as Bloomsbury. Having said that, this is (so far as I know) one of only two Woolf allusions, the other appearing in his 1978 work, Laura, Large on the Grass. This is typical: Lurgsy rarely echoed the work of other writers more than a couple of times – with the exception of John Webster, to whom he alluded fourteen times within a series of poems written across in a week towards the end of 1979 (‘Webster Week’ as Bellinson calls it, somewhat predictably).
To say that my Tomas Lurgsy poll was inundated by tribes of eager critics salivating over the chance to have their say on the greatest Bulgarian-poetry-related mystery since the peculiar disappearance of Ludomir Birovnik’s fountain pen would be what politicians don’t like to call a lie (but which, all things considered, is).
A rough handful of personages, nonetheless, have managed to complete the strenuous task of thinking for ten seconds and checking a box, for which I heap blessings upon them. As for the rest of you scruffy scoundrels, may all the potatoes in your pantry turn green and all the small children in your neighbourhood chant your name in mildly malicious tones whensoever you leave the house.
I suppose I could leave the poll open for a little while longer and I suppose I shall (though god knows four months is long enough to ask for an answer to a question). Meanwhile I don’t see the harm in exploring the results thus far, which seem to lean overwhelmingly (well, forty percent anyway) in favour of the word ‘body’. To put that in the context of the poem:
the body crushed, blood thoughts regather:
roll to rivers in bad weather;
rushing forth to greet again
the field of my dear father’s grave
Now one has the opportunity to see the lines reproduced as such, I wonder whether anyone has second thoughts. My wife, for instance, awoke from a fourteen hour sleep last week with the theory that the missing word might be ‘kitten’. I daresay she’s wrong – and that she ought not to lie in bed quite so long – but it’s always nice to view things from another perspective.
And what of my ideas? Well, I’ve always been a fan of ‘berries’, partially inspired by the knowledge that Lurgsy was once, like the best of us, rather too fond of the old bilberry wine. Still, I’m as open as anyone to suggestions…