Sunday, September 20, 2009

dirty old river

must you keep rolling, Flowing into the night... only the words of the Kinks'
Waterloo Sunset certainly didn't refer to the Raritan, and there's something about this river that completely fails to have the grandeur (or history, which may be related) of the Thames, even if it shares a certain greasiness (beautifully captured by Roni Horn, in Some Thames). Although Horn's work is predicated on the notion that flowing water is at one and the same time a continued same, and always changing - points that could just as easily be made about the Raritan as the river flowing through London - I doubt that the same dense, rich cultural range of reference could be appended at the bottom of the frames - offering banks to photographs that otherwise have none. There is, she points out with a sinking heart, our school song, "On the Banks of the Old Raritan;" there's the literary/cultural journal, founded by Richard Poirier, named after the river; there's... The Lenape used to live on its banks; the name comes from an Algonquian word meaning "stream overflows" (it was certainly muddy and smelly enough down there today); it's designated unsafe, still, for swimming and fishing, despite recent efforts to clean it. But that's about the extent of my cultural and literary knowledge: not enough to sprawl along the bottom of an image that shows the River Dorms in a deceptively picturesque light and offer very much resonant commentary.


  1. A very English-looking picture somehow -- Perhaps it's just the contrast to my typist's current view. Lovely, though.

  2. Any minute now, an eight ought to row by. . . though I suppose you only catch rowers in the early morning -- on the Thames and on the Raritan. But this is lovely, Kate! Any photo that can make the River Dorms picturesque is clearly a work of art!!

  3. I think it's the church spire that Anglicizes it...