For W.H.Auden, art is our chief means of breaking bread with the dead, by which I have always taken him to mean that poets sit down in their cave of making to commune with, and contribute to the discourse of, their predecessors. An act that combines the secular and the sacramental. This is, perhaps, complementary to the philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich’s observation that ‘wine is like the incarnation – it is both divine and human.’ So poetry and wine become palpably connected. We speak of good wine as ‘full-bodied’, and the cellar and the word-hoard as being well-stocked. Language itself – as Virginia Woolf describes it – is ‘wine upon the lips’ and ‘draft’ is a term which applies both to the writing of a poem as the inspiration finds its shape and to a process of serving wine.
In poems themselves, the wine certainly flows. Blood red for Sir Patrick Spens in Dumfermline town, darkening the sea for Homer, effervescently winking at the brim for Keats, accompanying a loaf of bread, a book of verse and ‘thou’ for Omar Khayyam, and decanting women, mirth and laughter for Lord Byron. The vinous images abound – transformative, sensuous, playful and richly metaphorical.
Companionable too. At the heart of Pablo Neruda’s rhapsodic ‘Ode to Wine’ is a table on which there shines ‘the light of a bottle/ of intelligent wine.’ That adjective is beautifully judged. All the possibilities – human, divine, indulgent, spiritual – are gathered into it. As for the poet Basil Bunting, his advice if taken will ensure that the bottle doesn’t remain unopened: ‘Always carry a corkscrew and the wine shall provide itself’, and if the demanding ghost of Rumi appears at your party, make sure that his glass is kept full: ‘Either give me more wine or leave me alone.’
Poet in the City
HOW TO BOOK FOR POETRY AND WINE
Tickets cost £35 and can be book via https://poetryandwine.eventbrite.co.uk/
Poetry and Wine takes place from 6.30pm on Tuesday 22 October 2013
Clyde and Co
St Botolph Building
EC3A 7AG London
For further information on this event please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 014 2812