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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Summer with Monika by Roger McGough

"i spent the summer with monika and monika spent the summer with me". It's a poem about passionate, can'tgetenough of it love, parananoid love, and settled and comfortable love. When I first read this poem I was a virgin and I knew about this love (from Austen, Salinger, Scott Fitzgerald) and that I'd know it when I saw it (and felt it, smelt it, tasted it). When I was in labour with my second child I argued with my husband that I wanted to call our baby Monika - so she could know the passion of Summer with Monika; luckily he was a boy.

It starts with that wonderful summer of love:
"for i locked a yellowdoor
and i threw away the key". It's a summer where they spend their time making love and being together. McGough turns their home into their world - "picnicked on the banks of the settee" - because, when you're in love you only need eachother. Day and night merge as the world is one long series of love making.

Then there's the paranoid, the madness, the jealousy. Is it pre-menstral tension? Lots of moon references. Actual madness or depression? Or just passion going in the wrong direction?

Then there's the final, normal love:
"we no longer eat our dinners holding hands
or neck in the backstalls of the television
the room nolonger a place for hideandseeking in
but a container that we use for eatandsleeping

McGough makes it all seem so easy. So merseybeat. But it's dead clever and he's very seductive. And I love the "commonorgarden" "saturdaymorning" "ticktock blanketness" "issuchsicklysweetness" of it all. It's out of print - but find a copy and read it.


Blogger helen m said...

I love this poem and was shocked to find it out of print. I couldn't find a copy at my library so I bought one from abebooks - it was much cheaper than the copies elsewhere. There are some collector copies out there going for £100 plus - there are obviously some really keen McGough fans!

Has anyone seen the Bergman film, or listened to the recording? I haven't, I'd be interested to know if either of them are sympathetic to the poem.

12:59 AM

Blogger Nire said...

In Summer with Monika, Roger McGough takes the reader through a journey;his/a relationship with Monika. There is collusion between the lovers and the elements.
"most days the sun called"
Inanimate objects act as an audience to the overwhelming, house-contained love that exists between the writer and Monika. There is a feeling of fragile procrastination to their happiness - everything tiptoes for fear of waking other people/ideas/intrusions/criticim/realities.
"let us holdhands and think not of tomorrow".I think McGough perfectly captures the absorbed selfishness that is early love.
Around the 10th poem a darker aspect is introduced - "I will never give you away to the nastyman". Their good companion Moonlight becomes the BIG BAD DARK. When I first read this I saw it as embedded insecurities rising in Monika;perhaps the result of past relationships, or maybe depression.I felt she became vulnerable and more childlike -"you pitterpad back to bed". The writing becomes darker as their love morphs into paranoia and insecurity "you will surely have me committed i must rise and mend my ways". He brilliantly takes the lustre away from them and shows the tiredness of relationships - "Where have the sunshine breakfasts gone?". They stop makebelieving and start living, which is never as fun, but is perhaps more comfortable and necessary.
In Monika he creates a very strong character - much stronger than he comes across. She is passionate and sad. She goes, while he waits and watches and remembers. I first read this years ago and loved the language and the light and the rhythm. This is McGough at his best. I find his recent work to sometimes be predictable and cliched. And while Summer with Monika is accessible, it is clever. It has a lyrical energy and honesty that resonates. I would recommend it - especially the copy I have because it is beautifully illustrated by Peter Blake.

6:10 AM

Blogger Vic_Stirling said...

I found Summer with Monika utterly compelling and take away something different from it every time I re-read it. In Summer with Monika McGough explores the undercurrents of love in a way that trips off the tongue and stops you in your path.

Every feeling is sooner or later turned upside down so later in the volume, when the love is beginning to sour or turn comfortable you see the counterside of that initial 'epic' and passionate love.

What really stands out for me is the feeling of claustrophobia which runs through the poems. This is good in the early stages of their love when 'i locked a yellowdoor and i threw away the key' but changes later in the poems to 'you pulled the blankets o'er my head and left me on my sadandlonely own'.

The collection makes me want to meet Monika and know her without having read this. Some souls know depression more than others and Monika seems to know it well. Her pre-occupation with death and loss is out of her lover's control and yet he wants to take ownership of her by taking her private memories and 'burn them in the shade of your love for me'.

It is such a sad, beautiful poem and the style in which it is written can make you linger over a particular piece of prose for some time.

It raises so many questions too. Does love have to become comfortable? Can such passion be prolonged throughout a lifetime together? Can you ever get it back once lost? I don't know; I'm only at the start of that particular journey. I know, though, that I should take heed of the warning:-

'at first we kept birds
in a transistor box
to sing for us
but sadly they died
we being too embraced in eachother
to feed them'


10:59 AM

Blogger papiermache said...

Great to read your blog and to be drawn back to Roger Mcgough.I`ve sometimes been uncomfortable with his easy voice and reassuring subjects but Monika was really a pleasure, full of happiness and youth followed by loss. The use of children`s rhymes and several neat 1960s refs(the shilling in the slot is the sun setting, the transistor radio is fll of singing birds) these reminded me that the poet is my contemporary. Are there echoes of Dylan Thomas too?
I enjoyed all the other comments. Amazed it`s so unavailable. Let`s print our own.I`ll watch your blog now.Thanks.

10:35 AM

Blogger papiermache said...

Have you started Confederacy of Dunces yet?
just a preliminary comment to say I`m only half way through chapt 2 but so far so brilliant! Already awash with very entertaining characters and dialogue and settings. A bit like early Krazy Kat cartoons, everlasting optimism in the midst of flying bricks and insults.
Our lovely village library got me a copy but I shall now go and buy one to pass round. Also this one looks and smells a bit disgusting as if it has been read in the Night of Joy bar and then thrown out to dry.

11:45 AM

Blogger blooked said...

"A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole

"A Confederacy of Dunces" follows Ignatius Reilly, described by Walter Percy in his foreword as "slob extraordinary, a mad Oliver Hardy, a fat Don Quixote, a perverse Thomas Aquinas rolled into one". Ignatius is a colourful character surrounded by colourful characters, he is a man on a mission and yet he is lacking a mission. The one thing that does happen, his mum crashing her car, leads him to haphazardly stumble into working life (much against his will)where he has far-reaching impacts on the lives of those who get caught in his cross-fire. One such person is Mr Levy his ex-boss who turns out good in spite of (or because of) Ignatius leading his factory workers into revolt and writing to the companies biggest customer and ending the letter with, "if you molest us again, sir, you may feel the sting of the lash across your pitiful shoulders.

The characters surrounding Ignatius are equally as intriguing. Jones, Myrna, Miss Trixie. They are such developed characters that I could talk about them for ages, maybe I will in a separate post. The author had obviously spent a lot of time on those surrounding Ignatius' life, I feel like I know them personally.

Ignatius' dis-association to and isolation from modern life is a shared feeling amongst many people in our world today. He is my spokesman for that part of me which feels this way about certain things, politics, celebrity, corporate blah. And yet he continues to put himself into these situations, like his trips to the cinema when he shouts "What degenerate produced this abortion?"

I have also read John Kennedy Toole's other book which he wrote for a literary competition when he was sixteen. Sixteen. His story is a sad one. Depressed by what he saw as failure for not getting his manuscript published he killed himself at the age of 32. "A Confederacy of Dunces" was published years later (thanks to his mother) and it went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 12 years after the author's death.

In the words of Jones "aint this the shit, ooo-wee!"

8:37 PM

Blogger steve said...

Sommaren med Monika is also a film by Ingmar Bergman.

7:20 AM


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