On Harold Pinter’s 90th Birthday
Henry Woolf is now ninety, of course and carries on
Your tradition; representing that grand world your friends
Peopled, in your young man’s pomp in Hackney.
And yet today all must pause at some of the perils
We’ve faced with, along with the doors your work opened,
And for which your poems and plays provide key.
You alone seemed to know that as a silence strikes
There is crisis. And that said (and unsaid) pause is not
Hesitation, but instead, the mind and heart’s truest line.
You defined the word and the world as we currently
Understand it. You were the force majure for the modern
And the most authoritative voice of your time.
How we miss its rich tones, the deep, dark resonance
Of the actor; baronial, as you started and empiric too,
In its way, as you commanded the air and commandeered
Our attention, a conscientious objector, equally able
To General and to wound with words each affray.
But in terms of the work, that work shaped the ideal
Means to see language. As both cure and cover
For what we do not understand or conceal. You lit the torch,
But then cast that torch into darkness, letting the light
Singe through shadow; but then as each shadow sings,
Truth’s revealed. You were the powerbroker we need
In a time where those who seek power only do so
For the ruin and near evisceration of all that others
Like you once held dear; simply the freedom to create
And surpass each bind, each transgression, and to forge
Fresh paths and approaches that in often unknown ways
Sound the call for both a new way to be and entirely
New colour, within which our deceptions will aura like
Start to rise. You would be Ninety today. Harold, look
At the world we have written. Start it again, I beseech you,
From wherever you are, breach each lie. You are not
Our Shakespeare, you’re more, for the greatest names ape
No other. As another actor, writer, director, screenwriter,
Poet and activist you’re an age that we need to reclaim;
In ten years time you’ll be greater. There will be a full century
Of you, and of Henry, too; this I pray. Somewhere you’re still
Marking your runs in your sacred game of star cricket,
Sun touched on a distant field, you’ll be running as full
As you were in your stride, for a further England we’ve lost
Which we may regain if hope stalks us, and deceives each day’s
Devil with some of the former force of your pride. But now,
I think of two friends who sit across the divide that life
Gives us. As Henry talks on with wise humour, so your silence
Speaks of the love that we all should have for our craft
And for the world you once mastered. Harold, can you hear?
My pen pauses as I send this birthday card high above.
I hope it reaches you at some point and on some future
Frequency of endeavour in which this celebration
And this honouring have some worth. It is a simple
Gesture of love from someone to whom you will
Continue to speak at all moments and to all of those
Who love and have loved you today and all hours
Some Ninety years on from your birth.
David Erdos October 10th 2020