Monday Feature by Michaela Kahn: D.H. Lawrence in Summertime

D.H. Lawrence in Summertime

Long and long ago, I read my first D.H. Lawrence novel, which happened to be “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.” I was in early high school and I honestly didn’t get it, though I knew it had once upon a time been banned, and that it was in some way “racy.” It was years later, in an English class in college, that I fell in love with D.H. Lawrence, reading his novel, “The Rainbow.”

The language, the descriptions, the narrative, the scope of the story and way that landscape and the cycles of nature were interwoven into the whole – they seduced me completely. Here’s a short passage from the beginning of the novel:

“They felt the rush of the sap in spring, they knew the wave which cannot halt, but every year throws forward the seed to begetting, and, falling back, leaves the young-born on the earth. They knew the intercourse between heaven and earth, sunshine drawn into the breast and bowels, the rain sucked up in the daytime, nakedness that comes under the wind in autumn, showing the birds’ nests no longer worth hiding. Their life and interrelations were such; feeling the pulse and body of the soil, that opened to their furrow for the grain, and became smooth and supple after their ploughing, and clung to their feet with a weight that pulled like desire, lying hard and unresponsive when the crops were to be shorn away. The young corn waved and was silken, and the lustre slid along the limbs of the men who saw it. They took the udder of the cows, the cows yielded milk and pulse against the hands of the men, the pulse of the blood of the teats of the cows beat into the pulse of the hands of the men.” – D.H. Lawrence, from “The Rainbow”

I wrote a thesis on it, using the principles of ecology and systems theory, rather than literary theory, as a way to interpret Lawrence’s work and words.

In some small way, D.H. Lawrence is partially responsible for my living in New Mexico. Knowing he’d lived in Taos for several years, I wanted to visit the place where he had been. My first trip down from Colorado to his ranch just north of Taos, was a kind of pilgrimage. I wandered around the little cabin, lay on a bench under the giant pine tree that Lawrence describes and which was later painted by Georgia O’Keefe, and stood in the cool white-washed shrine where his ashes are mixed in with the concrete memorial.

At some point in summertime I always think about D.H. Lawrence … his books for some reason resonate with summer energy for me: whether its “Sea and Sardinia” (one of the greatest pieces of travel-writing I’ve ever encountered) or his poems from “Birds, Beasts, and Flowers.”

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