Friday, May 11, 2012

David's resurrection

A combination of an innate sensitivity and over the counter amphetamines (designed to relieve nose congestion) tipped the poet, David Gascoyne, into the nether regions of mania and breakdown: once in Paris and once in London he was to be arrested trying to bring his message of impending apocalypse and hoped for global redemption to the respective country's head of state (Charles de Gaulle and Queen Elizabeth II respectively). For this he found himself sectioned in mental hospitals.

The last stay was in a hospital on the Isle of Wight, where he was then living, alone, in the house his parents' death had left him with.

Enter Judy, an unhappily married woman, wife of a vet, with an interest in literature, coming to read poetry to the inmates. One poem she chose, describing it as difficult, was by David. After she had finished reading it, a rather shambolic, though well-dressed, tall, stooped man, touched her arm and told her, 'I am David Gascoyne'. 'Of course, you are dear,' she replied but he was!

She loved to tell that story. She had liked his poem, drawn from an anthology, but knew nothing more of him. Now she found herself talking to him and discovering that he was indeed the poet. She quite rapidly discovered that she cared for him and came to love him.

In due course they were married - a marriage of abiding affection and complexity and difference. David after all was homosexual though always responsive to, and in need of, the attention and love of strong women. Judy was exceptionally ordinary - lively, practical, interested - but unlikely to follow, find her way through the depths David had navigated. But it worked - it gave him the care and security he needed and it gave her entrance to a world of literature and life to which she responded with enthusiasm.

I recall, Kathleen Raine, telling me that, of course, Judy could never understand David (and we learn in the biography that she wrote to Judy telling her that the marriage would never work, well, relationships were never her strong suit). At one level this was true but she did understand what he needed and she was happy to offer it, and he cared for her deeply in return. We may never 'understand' the people we love but we may love the venture of trying and of just being with them in the venture.

I liked her very much and I am delighted to possess a copy of his Selected Poems signed by her.

Robert Fraser's biography, I am happy to say, shares this liking and a recognition of her true importance to David and of her's to him. Never has the miracle of being loved by a strong woman yielded a more compelling narrative of renewed life (for both of them).

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