Archive for April, 2012

Harvey Court, Cambridge


Harvey Court, Cambridge, by Leslie Martin, Colin St John Wilson and Patrick Hodgkinson; updated by Levitt Bernstein.




Sprezzatura 2


A follow up-post, for I have seen this word only twice in my life – once in my co-conspirator’s post below, but once before in Christopher Reid’s poem ‘A Scattering’.

(It’s not really a way of dressing per se, but more a demeanour – ‘nonchalance’ is right, or a sort of affected carelessness. Few words look so ugly but sound so beautiful.)

Reid was once a practitioner of ‘Martian Poetry’ – that is, the description of the world vividly but with deadpan flatness as a martian might see it. Named after Craig Raine’s ‘A Martian sends a Postcard Home’:

Mist is when the sky is tired of flight
and rests its soft machine on ground:

then the world is dim and bookish
like engravings under tissue paper.

Rain is when the earth is television.
It has the property of making colours darker.

But ‘A Scattering’ is a much more recent piece of work, and it comes from a collection of the same name which deals with the grief he experienced having lost his wife. The collection is beautiful, but the most vivid image of all is the one below. The footage he refers to is here, beginning around 00:35:

I expect you’ve seen the footage: elephants,
finding the bones of one of their own kind
dropped by the wayside, picked clean by scavengers
and the sun, then untidily left there,
decide to do something about it.

But what, exactly? They can’t, of course,
reassemble the old elephant magnificence;
they can’t even make a tidier heap. But they can
hook up bones with their trunks and chuck them
this way and that way. So they do.

And their scattering has an air
of deliberate ritual, ancient and necessary.
Their great size, too, makes them the very
embodiment of grief, while the play of their trunks
lends sprezzatura.

Elephants puzzling out
the anagram of their own anatomy,
elephants at their abstracted lamentations –
may their spirit guide me as I place
my own sad thoughts in new, hopeful arrangements.



In a society which celebrates the inessential, architecture can put up a resistance, counteract the waste of forms and meanings, and speak its own language.

Peter Zumthor A Way of Looking at Things