Mar 01, 2021
The ghostly traces of song in the first sound recording inspire a haunting reflection on historical loss Continue reading...
Feb 22, 2021
Some surprisingly buoyant and cheering verses from a neglected American writer
A Grey Day
Grey drizzling mists the moorlands drape, Continue reading...
Rain whitens the dead sea,
From headland dim to sullen cape
Grey sails creep wearily.
I know not how that merchantman
Has found the heart; but ’t is her plan
Seaward her endless course to shape.
Feb 15, 2021
A snowy night camped out under the stars provides the stage for a close encounter with a mysterious creature
No wind in the pines — Continue reading...
I didn’t believe the forecast
yet pulled my bivvy bag
part-way under the awning
where I could still see the stars.
Feb 08, 2021
The bush poet’s stirring tribute to Australia’s semi-feral horses is tinged with regret
Brumby is the Aboriginal* word for a wild horse. At a recent trial a New South Wales supreme court judge, hearing of Brumby horses, asked: “Who is Brumby, and where is his Run?” Continue reading...
Feb 01, 2021
The melancholy cry sounds an uneasy reminder of all those excluded from material comfort
Downhill I came, hungry, and yet not starved; Continue reading...
Cold, yet had heat within me that was proof
Against the North wind; tired, yet so that rest
Had seemed the sweetest thing under a roof.
Jan 25, 2021
Experimenting with the possibilities of the sonnet form, this playful work deploys the rules of grammar as a wooing technique
O grammar-rules, O now your virtues show; Continue reading...
So children still read you with awful eyes,
As my young dove may, in your precepts wise,
Her grant to me by her own virtue know;
For late, with heart most high, with eyes most low,
I craved the thing which ever she denies;
She, lightning Love displaying Venus’ skies,
Lest once should not be heard, twice said, No, No!
Sing then, my muse, now Io Pæan sing;
Heav’ns envy not at my high triumphing,
But grammar’s force with sweet success confirm;
For Grammar says (O this dear Stella weigh,)
For Grammar says (to Grammar who says nay)
That in one speech two negatives affirm!
Jan 18, 2021
A return visit to a former home shows that the life once lived there is definitively lost
Old Flat, Abandoned
I force open the door: Continue reading...
its shadow shoots
down the wall
where webs tremble
in door-breath and light.
A thread bows. Breaches.
Ahead, the flight
of (bare wood) steps
(with carpet tacks)
runs up to gloom.
Jan 11, 2021
Like so many of her great poems, this almost-riddle combines a childlike simplicity with great complexity
Under the Light, yet under
Under the Light, yet under, Continue reading...
Under the Grass and the Dirt,
Under the Beetle’s Cellar
Under the Clover’s Root,
Further than Arm could stretch
Were it Giant long,
Further than Sunshine could
Were the Day Year long,
Over the Light, yet over,
Over the Arc of the Bird —
Over the Comet’s chimney —
Over the Cubit’s Head,
Further than Guess can gallop
Further than Riddle ride —
Oh for a Disc to the Distance
Between Ourselves and the Dead!
Jan 04, 2021
A meditation on the later years of the Finnish composer reflects more generally on creative renewal
It’s January. A swan’s wing overhead Continue reading...
reminds you of his Fifth
but also of his death, that skein
breaking away to circle him
as if to announce what year it was.
Dec 28, 2020
A generous, intense tribute to a loving but profoundly mysterious companion
Sonnet: To Tartar, a Terrier Beauty
Snowdrop of dogs, with ear of brownest dye, Continue reading...
Like the last orphan leaf of naked tree
Which shudders in bleak autumn; though by thee,
Of hearing careless and untutored eye,
Not understood articulate speech of men
Nor marked the artificial mind of books,
The mortal’s voice eternized by the pen,
Yet hast thou thought and language all unknown
To Babel’s scholars; oft intensest looks,
Long scrutiny o’er some dark-veined stone
Dost thou bestow, learning dead mysteries
Of the world’s birth-day, oft in eager tone
With quick-tailed fellows bandiest prompt replies,
Solicitudes canine, four-footed amities.
Dec 21, 2020
Chaos, and pathos, intrude on an awkward Christmas dinner
Towards the End of the Feast
The best way to bear Continue reading...
that flaming pud
signalling the latter stages of our feast
Dec 14, 2020
The writer’s observations of fellow railway passengers in the 1920s coalesce into an authentically joyous work
On the Train
I Continue reading...
The lady in front of me in the car,
With little red coils close over her ears,
Is talking with her friend;
And the circle of ostrich foam around her hat,
Curving over like a wave,
Trembles with her little windy words.
What is she saying, I wonder,
That her feathers should tremble
And the soft fur of her coat should slip down over her shoulders?
Has her string of pearls been stolen,
Or maybe her husband?
He is drunk, that man –
Drunk as a lord, a lord of the bibulous past.
He shouts wittily from his end of the car to the man in the corner;
He bows to me with chivalrous apologies.
He philosophizes, plays with the wisdom of the ages,
Flings off his rags,
Displays his naked soul –
Athletic, beautiful, grotesque.
In the good time coming,
When men drink no more,
Shall we ever see a nude soul dancing
Stript and free
In the temple of his god?
She comes smiling into the car
With iridescent bubbles of children.
She blooms in the close plush seats
Like a narcissus in a bowl of stones.
She croons to a baby in her lap —
The trees come swinging by to listen,
And the electric lights in the ceiling are stars.
Dec 07, 2020
A funny but poignant story conceals – and reveals – much about its narrator
hangs where the plaster cracked Continue reading...
and the ribs of the house show.
He’s the only stranger I can afford,
a middle-aged man in a plaid shirt
smiling for an artist. Nothing to me,
but still I hang him in the hallway
and call him Dad. Of course, visitors
have doubts. I know they know
his hair’s too light, the eyes too blue.
I win them over by recalling
our fishing holidays, how dad
slit the belly of a rainbow trout, and out
slipped a diamond ring for me.
A perfect fit. Dad was handy.
He met my mother when she broke
down outside the Camden Palace,
and changed her tyre without a jack.
He made us a sherbet playhouse,
we licked its walls to nothingness.
He taught my brother harpsichord.
Now he’s international. You may
have heard him on the radio.
That’s a self-portrait. He never lived
to paint us all. ‘What a terrible loss,’
visitors sigh. I lead them into
a living room, and whisper, ‘Yes.’
Nov 30, 2020
Fragile but precious memories haunt this resonant sonnet
An eleven-year-old boy from Aleppo Continue reading...
whose eyes hold only things no longer there
– a citadel, a moat, safe rooms of shadow,
‘afterwardness’ in his thousand yard stare –
Nov 23, 2020
A reflective love poem captures an expanding range of intimate associations
for the curve of dismounts
o Continue reading...
Nov 16, 2020
A very modern, secular kind of elegy reflects on death with a surprising lightness
Now that you are not-you
and have satisfied the finger-check of pulse Continue reading...
at throat and wrist
ear to the chest
mirror to the lips
Nov 09, 2020
A family game provides the occasion to consider some aesthetic principles
On a Pebbly Beach
When our family was young Continue reading...
and the children took off over the stones like little dogs
as we followed in our different conversation
and the game was, to come back with the Best
Nov 02, 2020
This intense account of a lonely winter journey owes much to Milton and German Romanticism
From The Wanderer
The land I came thro’ last was dumb with night, Continue reading...
a limbo of defeated glory, a ghost:
for wreck of constellations flicker’d perishing
scarce sustained in the mortuary air,
and on the ground and out of livid pools
wreck of old swords and crowns glimmer’d at whiles;
I seem’d at home in some old dream of kingship:
now it is clear grey day and the road is plain,
I am the wanderer of many years
who cannot tell if ever he was king
or if ever kingdoms were: I know I am
the wanderer of the ways of all the worlds,
to whom the sunshine and the rain are one
and one to stay or hasten, because he knows
no ending of the way, no home, no goal,
and phantom night and the grey day alike
withhold the heart where all my dreams and days
might faint in soft fire and delicious death:
and saying this to myself as a simple thing
I feel a peace fall in the heart of the winds
and a clear dusk settle, somewhere, far in me.
Oct 26, 2020
The largely self-taught author died from TB in 1917 aged 23, but works such as this fully deserve their place in the history of modernist poetry
The apparent gale, vaned in winding storms Continue reading...
Has filled the air with hail and mystic frost
The peaceful alley through bowing elms revealed
Pregnant buds, where spring has failed the lewd heart
Darkness over the ocean’s deep was offering moonlight
Movable, silver, vanishing waves that enrolled
The wild summer blossom that in sanguine
Peace bared the ray of gold; until bronze
Shades of autumn quietly lowered a
Humble veil upon the ground in preservation –
Thick clouds that separate over the
Spotless blue of glazing greys. A simple
Tint vanishes, as the storm of fusion
Displays the shocking flood that vapors have gathered
Oct 19, 2020
This enigmatic symbolic narrative has unsettling resonance for our times
It Was As If a Ladder
It was as if Continue reading...
Oct 12, 2020
The past becomes almost magically present again in this potent Ukrainian elegy
The Bread of Childhood
Grandmother’s pyrohy oozing cherries, the soil Continue reading...
Fragrant with spring,
These are the heart’s embroidered memories
Touched by the cry
Of a crane.
Oct 05, 2020
A heartening song of love and hope to warm spirits as the outside world gets chillier
Oh wert thou in the cauld blast
Oh wert thou in the cauld blast, Continue reading...
On yonder lea, on yonder lea;
My plaidie to the angry airt,
I’d shelter thee, I’d shelter thee:
Or did Misfortune’s bitter storms
Around thee blaw, around thee blaw,
Thy bield should be my bosom,
To share it a’, to share it a’.
Sep 28, 2020
Giving voice to a now extinct New Zealand bird, this is a plaintive but urgent warning about ecological fragility
I was the first of birds to sing Continue reading...
I sang to signal rain
the one I loved was singing
and singing once again
Sep 21, 2020
A tough-minded reflection on the cost of being a witness to traumatic history
Before It Is All Gone
It will be different – Continue reading...
nobody will cry,
nobody will be cold,
nobody will stand at the door,
it will be better, for sure.
Sep 14, 2020
A haunting lyric about the fate of ‘all those girls’ echoes through a number of myths
all those girls Continue reading...
their paper knees
folding under them