by Andy Nowicki
The following is the conclusion of my interview with Juleigh Howard-Hobson, whose book I Do Not Belong to the Baader-meinhof Group and Other Poems is now available from Counter-Currents.com
Part 1 can be read here.
Nowicki: "Or Forever Hold No Peace" is a stirring poem about WW2 veterans, apparently from both the Axis and the Allied side of the war. The poem seems to reflect on a "bright time when/ Hope stood gladly with you, Europa's men." Talk about the inspiration and context for this poem, as well as your reference to the "black sun" (which is also referenced in other poems of the collection). “What is history but a fable agreed upon?” said Bonaparte.
Howard-Hobson: “Or Forever Hold No Peace” wanted to be written, it came as an image in my head: old grizzled men standing in a line, waiting for a memorial parade to begin. Which memorial, which parade, which men....those things didn’t matter.... all that mattered, as far as the poem was concerned, was that the men were together and they were old and they knew something and they knew that what they knew was not what they were supposed to know—not the official story, not the sanctioned truth, not, perhaps, even the legal truth anymore...but still, they knew it. The poem comes from the frustration of knowing that these grand old men might take something precious to their graves because they don’t know that their truth won’t only fall on deaf ears. That some of us want to know what they knew. On both sides.
I bring in the black sun—which is the outer manifestation of the sacred black flame that lies inside all of us who are descended from Europa’s soil and soul—because it’s the link that exists connecting that old generation to my own, a bond between us that can never be severed. The black sun shines on us as it did on them. It does not shine on the whole world, it’s not a physical sun, it’s a spiritual sun. You know it when it hits your shoulders. No matter what side of that war your family was on. Both sides of that war were made of European blood.
Nowicki: What are some of your poetic influences? Reading your work, I think sometimes of Robert Frost, and at other times of Auden and Yeats. Certain of your war-themed poets remind me of Wilfred Owen. "Illumination," which depicts the vapid modern world intruding upon an individual's attempts upon therapeutic solitude, even as it depicts the vacuous anxiety which overwhelms modern minds—reminds me a good deal of "A Game of Chess," part 2 of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. Was this a conscious homage on your part? "Silly Rabbit," with its intrusive pop culture references, also appears to tread similar thematic ground....
Howard-Hobson: My main influences are pretty straight forward—John Keats, A E Houseman, Robert Frost, Alistair Crowley. I went to high school in Australia where literature was taken more seriously (at least back then) and I studied John Donne, Alexander Pope, Gerard Manly Hopkins, Kenneth Slessor and William Shakespeare to the point of being able to recite huge amounts of their works from memory. That must have had some influence on me, but it’s a subtle influence. I haven’t read them much over the years. I do have collected works of all of them on my shelves.
I was subjected to T.S. Eliot over and over again in various university courses—so, yes, I have read a lot of his work, I’ll confess to even memorizing some, but I don’t like him. Still, if “Illumination” or even “Silly Rabbit” reminds you of him, there’s something in that, except of course, I use rhyme, I use meter and I try not to be so erudite that only I know what I'm talking about. I got a degree in Literature without ever becoming swayed by what my professors professed (and here I am, imagine that).
Thank you for mentioning my Great War poems—and I am so glad you didn’t compare me to Sassoon. My influences there have much more to do with A. E. Houseman and Edmund Blunden, although I’d regard Owen as the master-poet of that awful time. Growing up in Australia I was soaked in Anzac lore. I found WW1 to be so terribly sad and pointless and devastating...the pain of it soaked deep into the fibers of me and every now and then, it re-emerges as a poem. My great grandfather was gassed over there in 1916, and lived to tell the tale—so there’s a genetic memory or two lurking there as well.
Nowicki: You reference certain historical figures in a subtle manner, including Savitri Devi, Unity Mitford Yukio Mishima, and Enoch Powell... Is "The Last Werewolf" a refernce to Eric Rudolph, or am I misreading? What role do these historical figures play in your work?
Howard-Hobson: I can only write about people who inspire me to write. Which I think is a truism that can be said of every poet. Every single thing I ever reference has a facet or an aspect or an entire outlook on life that resonates with a part of myself. The people who resonate with me, of course, are not the same as the people who inspire the majority of my contemporaries. It’s hard to say what exactly about each person is inspirational, but—for example Savitri Devi reminds me of Shelley in her ecstatic devotion but that isn’t the reason I find her so compelling. I think even when she lived here on earth, she was not a part of the world like most of us are a part of it—she has an otherworldly aura to her, a fraught intelligence, an ethereal quality that comes forward even in her most defiant writings. Plus, she loved cats. Unity Mitford has been so terribly tarred and feathered for daring to associate with the enemy...before there was an enemy! I find that so unfair, she was the world’s darling until the world changed—she didn’t change, she was still the same girl they feted and wrote about, but once the world decided that she was somehow traitorious, that was it. Her attempted suicide and eventual death are depressing on multiple levels. What a tragic waste. Yukio Mishima—even in translation his novels and stories are more than masterpieces, they are perfect pieces of literature. His short novel Patriotism is one of my favorite books...and, his self-sacrifice....what can be said by the still living about such a traditional selfless act? Enoch Powell was right—sure it’s pop wisdom, but....even pop wisdom is real wisdom sometimes. Look around at England now—it’s not the same place that it was when I was born there. Larkin said England died in 1964, and as much as I hate to think it is so...it’s so. It’s all gone there, all the loveliness of that green island, all the hope, the soul....will Arthur return to save it? Is there any England left to save? Can it be that England might cease forever to be England? Near-despair, that thought.
|Mishima confronting Leftist students at Tokyo University.|
Nowicki: "Luck of the English" references the spirit world, the world of the ancient gods... (will post) Discuss how your spiritual beliefs inform your aesthetic vision.
Howard-Hobson: I am Asatru—a newish term for the old Northern European pagan way of life that incorporates and blends this world with that unseen world we all know is there. It simply is who I am, what I do, what I eat, what I chose to have around me, how I look at the world, at history, at my family, at my values.... I’ve been on this path for a very long time—and even before I named myself as a heathen thinker, I grew up around as pagan a bunch of Catholics as you can get. Statues of saints, dresser top “altars” made with candles and photos of ancestors, high holy days that no one else in the world celebrates but Roman Catholics.....my world view has only slightly changed from my grandmother’s everyday folkview of spirituality, really. My poetry comes from that place of everyday spiritual awareness. It’s around me; it’s inside of me, it’s part of me. Effortless and undiminishable.
“The Luck of the English” is a reflection of this knowledge that the folk spirits are always there, just outside of what you can see. The truth of something doesn’t depend on what the majority of people think.
Nowicki: Finally, I'd like to close with a reading of "Maledictus Requiescat," a chilling poem of sworn vengeance against a hated enemy... talk about how this poem fits into the whole of your work and with your overall perspective of things. [Hear Juleigh Howard-Hobson read her poem here.]
Howard-Hobson: “Maledictus Requiscat” is a dark incantation of negatively focused will. Thank you for catching the chilling quality and recognizing it for what it is. It’s the blackest piece I’ve ever written. Sometimes hoping that someone will get what they truly deserve is an act of kindness to oneself.