Poem of the week

I want to read more poetry, and I want to read it more regularly. This isn’t for any academic reason (although reading will help my writing), but simply because it feeds the part of me that can easily go hungry. I’m so focused on the physical care that I forget the more important things.  So,regular reading  is the answer. Comment if you like!

June 30th

This is such a stunning piece. I love the controlled anger, the way the reality dawned on me as a reader. It has menace, victory and that underlying sense of knowing. I love it.

The World’s Entire Wasp Population – Selima Hill

 

This feeling I can’t get rid of,
this feeling that someone’s been reading
my secret diary
that I kept in our bedroom
because I thought nobody else but us
would want to go in there,
except it’s not my diary,
it’s my husband,
I’d like you to smear this feeling
all over and into her naked body like jam
and invite the world’s entire wasp population
the sick, the halt, the fuzzy,
to enjoy her.

 

June 22nd

I read this poem after Father’s Day. These occasions are bitter sweet now. I’m grateful to still have them, but so very aware of the unstoppable.

Rosemary in Provence Elaine Feinstein

We stopped the Citroen at the turn of the lane,

because you wanted a sprig of blue rosemary

to take home, and your coat opened awkwardly

as you bent over. Any stranger would have seen

your frail shoulders, the illness

in your skin – our holiday on the Luberon

ending with salmonella –

but what hurt me, as you chose slowly,

was the delicacy of your gesture:

the curious child, loving blossom

and mosses, still eager

in your disguise as an old man.

 

 

June 17th

This poem speaks for itself. I love the way it unfolds, the way the reality of events slowly seeps out. It feels like a sonnet, but not of love.

The World’s Entire Wasp Population Selima Hill

 

This feeling I can’t get rid of,

this feeling that someone’s been reading

my secret diary

that I kept in our bedroom

because I thought nobody else but us

would want to go in there,

except it’s not my diary,

it’s my husband,

I’d like you to smear this feeling

all over and into her naked body like jam

and invite the world’s entire wasp population

the sick, the halt, the fuzzy,

to enjoy her.

The World’s Entire Wasp Population

 

June 15th

 

The Language IssueI place my hope on the water
in this little boat
of the language, the way a body might put
an infant
in a basket of intertwined
iris leaves,
its underside proofed
with bitumen and pitch,then set the whole thing down amidst
the sedge
and the bulrushes by the edge
of a river
only to have it borne hither and thither,
not knowing where it might end up;
in the lap, perhaps,
of some Pharaoh’s daughter.
Ceist na TeanganCuirim mo dhochas ar snamh
i mbaidin teangan
faoi mar a leagta naionan
i geliabhan
a bheadh fite fuaite
de dhuilleoga feileastraim
is bitiuman agus pic
bheith cuimilte lena thoin.ansan e a leagadh sios
i measc na ngioicach
is coigeal na mban si
le taobh na habhann,
feachaint n’fheadarais
a dtabharfaidh an sruth e,
feachaint, dala Mhaoise,
an bhfoirfidh inion Phorain?

Trans. to English by Paul Muldoon Courtesy of Vivian & Jack, IrishPage.com May, 2002

 

 

 

February 10th

Mosquito
When did you start your tricks
Monsieur?
What do you stand on such high legs for?
Why this length of shredded shank
You exaltation?
Is it so that you shall lift your centre of gravity upwards
And weigh no more than air as you alight upon me,
Stand upon me weightless, you phantom?
I heard a woman call you the Winged Victory
In sluggish Venice.
You turn your head towards your tail, and smile.
How can you put so much devilry
Into that translucent phantom shred
Of a frail corpus?
Queer, with your thin wings and your streaming legs
How you sail like a heron, or a dull clot of air,
A nothingness.
Yet what an aura surrounds you;
Your evil little aura, prowling, and casting a numbness on my mind.
That is your trick, your bit of filthy magic:
Invisibility, and the anæsthetic power
To deaden my attention in your direction.
But I know your game now, streaky sorcerer.
Queer, how you stalk and prowl the air
In circles and evasions, enveloping me,
Ghoul on wings
Winged Victory.
Settle, and stand on long thin shanks
Eyeing me sideways, and cunningly conscious that I am aware,
You speck.
I hate the way you lurch off sideways into air
Having read my thoughts against you.
Come then, let us play at unawares,
And see who wins in this sly game of bluff.
Man or mosquito.
You don’t know that I exist, and I don’t know that you exist.
Now then!
It is your trump
It is your hateful little trump
You pointed fiend,
Which shakes my sudden blood to hatred of you:
It is your small, high, hateful bugle in my ear.
Why do you do it?
Surely it is bad policy.
They say you can’t help it.
If that is so, then I believe a little in Providence protecting the innocent.
But it sounds so amazingly like a slogan
A yell of triumph as you snatch my scalp.
Blood, red blood
Super-magical
Forbidden liquor.
I behold you stand
For a second enspasmed in oblivion,
Obscenely ecstasied
Sucking live blood
My blood.
Such silence, such suspended transport,
Such gorging,
Such obscenity of trespass.
You stagger
As well as you may.
Only your accursed hairy frailty
Your own imponderable weightlessness
Saves you, wafts you away on the very draught my anger makes in its snatching.
Away with a pæan of derision
You winged blood-drop.
Can I not overtake you?
Are you one too many for me
Winged Victory?
Am I not mosquito enough to out-mosquito you?
Queer, what a big stain my sucked blood makes
Beside the infinitesimal faint smear of you!
Queer, what a dim dark smudge you have disappeared into!
Hughes, T. (2008) Poetry in the making: A handbook for writing and teaching. London: Faber & Faber Poetry.

February 2nd

For A Five-Year Old

A snail is climbing up the window-sill
into your room, after a night of rain.
You call me in to see, and I explain
that it would be unkind to leave it there:
it might crawl to the floor; we must take care
that no one squashes it. You understand,
and carry it outside, with careful hand,
to eat a daffodil.

I see, then, that a kind of faith prevails:
your gentleness is moulded still  by words
from me, who have trapped mice and shot wild birds,
from me, who drowned your kittens, who betrayed
your closest relatives, and who purveyed
the harshest kind of truth to many another.
But that is how things are: I am your mother,
and we are kind to snails.

  Fleur Adcock.

From  Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times (2002, Bloodaxe Books), edited by Neil Astley.)

27th January

I came across this poem whilst reading Poetry in the Making by Ted Hughes. I’d never read any of Emily Dickinson’s work before. What struck me was the sense of  place. I feel as though I am in that storm, the descriptions light all my senses. Tremendous.

There came a wind like a bugle –
It quivered through the grass
And a green chill upon the heat
So ominous did pass
We barred the windows and the doors
As from an emerald ghost –
The doom’s electric moccasin
The very instant passed –
On a strange mob of panting trees
And fences fled away
And rivers where the houses ran
Those looked that lived – that day –
The bell within the steeple wild
The flying tidings told –
How much can come
And much can go,
And yet abide the world!

17th January

I love this poem. I had so many questions whilst reading it. Who is the lay sister? Why is the swineherd polishing the fender? I like the way it travels downwards to the end of summer. It sounds like a poem about a man who has had enough.

Swineherd

When all this is over, said the swineherd,

I mean to retire, where

Nobody will have heard about my special skills

And conversation is mainly about the weather.

I intend to learn how to make coffee, as least as well

As the Portuguese lay-sister in the kitchen

And polish the brass fenders every day.

I want to lie awake at night

Listening to cream crawling to the top of the jug

And the water lying soft in the cistern.

I want to see an orchard where the trees grow in straight lines

And the yellow fox finds shelter between the navy-blue trunks,

Where it gets dark early in summer

And the apple-blossom is allowed to wither on the bough.

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

14th January

a wind has blown the rain away and blown

the sky away and all the leaves away,
and the trees stand.  I think i too have known
autumn too long

                  (and what have you to say,
wind wind wind—did you love somebody
and have you the petal of somewhere in your heart
pinched from dumb summer?
                            O crazy daddy
of death dance cruelly for us and start

the last leaf whirling in the final brain
of air!)Let us as we have seen see
doom’s integration………a wind has blown the rain

away and the leaves and the sky and the
trees stand:
             the trees stand.  The trees,
suddenly wait against the moon’s face.

Book: 100 Selected Poems by E. E. Cummings

12th January.

This piece is so important to me. In my deepest moments of grief, I find it gives that little hand of hope.

Prayer – Carol Ann Duffy

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child’s name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio’s prayer –
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.

Carol Ann Duffy (1955-)
From Mean Time (Anvil, 1993)

11th January

This seems appropriate,especially for this time of year.

The Door

Go and open the door.
Maybe outside there’s
a tree, or a wood,
a garden,

or a magic city.

Go and open the door.
Maybe a dog’s rummaging.
Maybe you’ll see a face,
or an eye,
or the picture
of a picture.

Go and open the door.
If there’s a fog
it will clear.

Go and open the door.
Even if there’s only
the darkness ticking,
even if there’s only
the hollow wind,
even if
nothing
is there,
go and open the door.

At least
there’ll be
a draught.

translated from the Czech by Ian Milner

(This poem is reproduced with permission from Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times (2002, Bloodaxe Books), edited by Neil Astley.)

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