Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Alison Glenny’s ‘Notes on The Nocturne Tradition’





Notes on The Nocturne Tradition

By the end of the decade the song is said to have lost most of its charm. This did not diminish the vogue for delicate compositions, likened to albums of fragrant leaves or to finger bowls in which reveries drifted among the reflections.

A preference for ornament over direction led to a confusion of jewellery boxes. The greatest treasures mingled with trinkets of lesser value, or were lost against the velvet lining.

The expressed aim of the cantilena was to drown the world in night.

The enigmatic nature of beauty is said to have inspired his phrasing of the portamento. At its most lucid moments a slight staccato, almost a stammer, conveyed the vague sensation of a serenade.

The belief that the action of the wrist was a form of respiration gave rise to experiments with breathlessness. Audiences likened the experience to diving into a deep lake, or being smothered in song.

Each charmed moment coaxed a new loop of melody from the shadows. Also her hair, which he compared to a curtain made of silk and embroidered with tiny stars.

Although the modulations were described as ‘tormenting’, this did not diminish the rapture that greeted the appearance of the sub-clause.

She compared the delicate figurations in the left hand to an attempt to conceive of a vaporous machine. Also a pattering of raindrops, or the sound of a bird tapping its beak against a shell.

By wandering into less dominant keys, he hoped to reveal a gender that slipped through minor modulations like water, and had no name.

Likened to a failure of the symbolic code due to an exhaustion of available resources. For example, the disappearance of the object, or the composer burying himself in a large white handkerchief.

Alison Glenny

Alison Glenny’s Antarctic-themed collection of prose poems and fragments, The Farewell Tourist, was published by Otago University Press in 2018. She lives on the Kāpiti Coast.

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