Poetry Breakfast ~ at home
Summer Dreams take me to Berneray these days, where we have our lovely cottage on the sea’s edge. Hopefully, we might be getting there before too long. For now though, I will enjoy these gorgeous poems, and hope that you do, too. The music that has been in my head since first coming up with this theme has been Olivia Newton John and John Travolta’s ‘Summer Nights’ from Grease (the line summer dreams is in the last few seconds of the song!) – you might want to listen – for fun? But maybe not at the same time as reading poetry! For that, I hope you like the choice below.
Thank you, as ever, for sending poems to share. We have just three more breakfasts together before the summer break, so do send any suggestions on the themes of Journeying (needed by midday July 20th, latest) and/or Tonight the Summer’s Over (needed by midday July 27th, latest). I’m looking forward to hearing from you!
One thing leads to another – and this poem by Tony Hoagland – Jet – seems to tie in to the John Travolta clip above. I love these lines, from the last stanza:
We gaze into the night
as if remembering the bright unbroken planet
we once came from,
to which we will never
be permitted to return.
We are amazed how hurt we are.
We would give anything for what we have.
The last line seems to startle …
We can always rely on Steve to come up with something totally off the wall! Hope you enjoy this zany film poem. Thanks Steve, as always!
(and that’s the last of the Grease references, enough already!)
The hindrance of a DJ by Steve Harrison
Dancing shoes prepped
touched up with white gloss paint
to hide the scuffs and bruises
and glow in the UV light.
Mirror practised moves awaiting first beat of DJ’s choice
Dancing partner spots me
hand mimes open-fingered approval
for blousy valerians
regardless of the DJ choice of dance.
Criss Crossing the floor
in tie dyed loons.
A pair of road runners and five minutes in
trousers squeeze, the lungs wheeze.
Paint begins to crack and peel from sad shoes
and leave a fluorescent
Hansel and Gretel trail across the 1930’s floorboards
in the Disco Dark
First and Last Dance rock n rolled into one
Jarred Silent Movie dancers slow to blurred
By the DJ’s hindrance of his opening song.
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 8-minute Free bird.
Ali reminds us of the lines in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V scene 1:
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this (and all is mended),
That you have but slumber’d here,
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
And also says, she hopes we like this tiny poem!
Summer Grasses by Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) translated by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto
summer grasses —
all that remains
of warriors’ dreams
from The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness and Joy (2017) ed John Brehm published Wisdom Publications (Ali bought it from the Poetry Pharmacy!)
Also, Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind mentions ‘summer dreams’ in part 111, (but I think we might keep the whole poem back for Tonight the Summer’s Over in a couple of weeks!) and lastly, Ali points out that Keats’ Hyperion (Book 1 lines 72-5) has the lines
As when, upon a tranced summer-night,Those green-rob’d senators of mighty woods,Tall oaks, branch-charmed by the earnest stars,Dream, and so dream all night without a stir.
The Life of Robert Frost
The place at which I keep my bookmark
in my condensed edition of the life
is the last page of the early years
in which the forty-year old poet,
not long before the journey back
to New England, grows dejected
and wonders if he’s lost the gift,
if gift indeed he ever had.
He can’t foresee the summer’s night
in Vermont, seven years on
in 1922, when he’ll work
through the small hours till dawn,
stop for awhile to marvel at
himself and the first light, return
to the table and begin to write
the first words of a perfect poem.
As I switch from the page of doubt
to the page of triumph, back and forth,
like some child with a holographic toy,
I seem compelled to hold the poet
in England, full of doubt, and tilt him
forward to that summer’s night
just long enough for me to glimpse
the way a future shimmers there.
At the Seaside Poetry Convention
What began as fun –
messing about in sand,
poets regressing to a childhood
of ice-cream, bucket and spade
where clearly they most happily belonged –
soon became a Competition,
a chance to show off, to organise.
Two main categories were established:
“traditional” – castle or moated grange,
cockleshell corners squared off with rhyme;
and “free form” –
most being portraits of themselves
pebble-eyed, lovingly patted firm.
Some showed a fondness for the surreal –
bearded mermaid smoking a pipe –
or symbolism – croc swallowing its own tail.
In any case, all agreed
the trick to keeping artwork sharp
was buckets of sea water, saliva fresh.
In the evening as the sun went down
like Chad’s blood-dripping nose in the west
committees were formed of regional friends
who went round applauding each others’ work,
awarding ribbons of bladder wrack.
In the morning when the poets awoke
from dreams of tearing out each others’ throats
it was all gone – rollered flat
by the garrulous sea, its lines of syntax;
the beach, unspeakable points of light
on fire in the sun, a fresh page.
Two lovely poems from Hilary Tilley, Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock
I never wholly feel that summer is high,
However green the grass, or loud the birds,
However movelessly eye-winking herds
Stand in field ponds, or under large trees lie,
Till I do climb all cultured pastures by,
That hedged by hedgerows studiously fretted trim,
Smile like a lady’s face with lace laced prim,
And on some moor or hill that seeks the sky
Lonely and nakedly, -utterly lie down,
And feel the sunshine throbbing on body and limb,
My drowsy brain in pleasant drunkenness swim,
Each rising thought sink back, and dreamily drown,
Smiles creep o’er my face, and smother my lips, and cloy,
Each muscle sink to itself, and separately enjoy.
Pray but one prayer for me ‘twixt thy closed lips,
Think but one thought of me up in the stars.
The summer night waneth, the morning light slips,
Faint and grey ‘twixt the leaves of the aspen, betwixt the cloud-bars
That are patiently waiting there for the dawn:
Patient and colourless, though Heaven’s gold
Waits to float through them along with the sun.
Far out in the meadows, above the young corn,
The heavy elms wait, and restless and cold
The uneasy wind rises; the roses are dun;
Through the long twilight they pray for the dawn,
Round the lone house in the midst of the corn,
Speak but one word to me over the corn,
Over the tender, bow’d locks of the corn.
Jackie Kay had largely passed me by till one of my daughters bought me the anthology ‘Darling’ in 2007. I read it knowing none of the facts about her life that I know now, which might have influenced my interpretation. I met this poem, so obviously addressed to someone else, as if it were to me. I had not galloped horses as a girl, my experience being only that of an hour or two of gentle, uncertain, holiday trekking. I was happier riding the wooden horses of the fairground carousel or the white horses of the waves. But the deep vitality of these words somehow reached back to the shy girl I was and connected her to my present, not with regret but with optimism for today’s dreams.’
Dream of me riding the horse you galloped as a girl –
the one that rode on to the ferry
just as the floor was rising up, in the days when
horses rode the wild sea.
Dream of us swimming in the crazy sea,
our wet hair dark as seals
just as they rise up from the salt water
sleek, slippery, clever.
Dream of you, dream of me, and the old country,
strolling in the heather.
Dream of the years falling off, and the rainy weather,
Then dream of us as girls,
Bold girls who become black horses who bolt
The stable one dark night.
Thank you so much to Jackie Kay and Neil Astley for kind permission to include this poem.
Thank you to Pauline for choosing these two poems. I love them both, but Gillian’s is new to me and breath-taking: thank you so much Gillian, not only for permission to include it, but also for typing it out for me!
Their books come with me, women writers,
their verses borne through the rooms
out between the plum trees and the field,
as an animal will gather things,
a brush, a bone, a shoe,
for comfort against darkness.
August Sunday morning,
and I’m casting for words,
wandering the garden sipping their poems,
leaving cups of them here and there in the grass
where the washing steams in the silence
after the hay-days and the birdsong months.
I am sixteen again, and it’s summer,
and the sisters are singing, their habits gathered,
sleeves rolled for kitchen work,
rosy hands hoisting cauldrons of greens.
The laundry hisses with steam irons
glossing the collars of our summer blouses.
Then quietly they go along white gravel,
telling their beads in the walled garden
where Albertine’s heady rosaries spill
religious and erotic over the hot stones.
And there’s restlessness in the summer air,
like this desire for poems,
our daily offices.
They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.
Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods…
But there is no road through the woods.
This poem is in the public domain.
Couldn’t resist sending you a couple of my favourite poems from the top of my head, which might fit into Summer Dreams . . . This first is by Seamus Heaney and the second by Jane Kenyon (it’s actually in Treelines!)
Mossbawn: Two Poems in Dedication by Seamus Heaney For Mary Heaney, from North, 1975
Coming Home at Twilight in Late Summer by Jane Kenyon from Collected Poems. © Graywolf Press, 2005.
Trees are all around us, taken for granted, marking the seasons, and forming the backdrop to our daily lives. Who hasn’t got a favourite tree? Who hasn’t planted a tree? Climbed a tree? Sat in the shade of a tree? Who hasn’t walked happily through a wood?
‘The wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more’
Ralph Waldo Emerson
In the wild soft summer darkness
How many and many a night we two together
Sat in the park and watched the Hudson
Wearing her lights like golden spangles
Glinting on black satin.
The rail along the curving pathway
Was low in a happy place to let us cross,
And down the hill a tree that dripped with bloom
While your kisses and the flowers,
Tangled my hair….
The frail white stars moved slowly across the sky.
And now, far off
In the fragrant darkness
The tree is tremulous again with bloom
For June comes back.
To-night what girl
When she goes home,
Dreamily before her mirror shakes from her hair
This year’s blossoms, clinging in its coils?
This poem is in the public domain.
Bert has chosen this lovely poem by Sara Teasdale for Summer Dreams. Thanks Bert, for choosing your first poem for Poetry Breakfast ~ at Home. It’s good to welcome you here!
Two weeks away, and when I return it’s dark.
I leave my case in the hall, hang up my coat.
take off my shoes, go through the sleeping house.
I remember this lock, the way the key needs to sit
just so for the levers to give and turn.
I step out into the intended scent of sweet peas
and onto dry twigs, meaning the pigeons
have built their careless nests nearby.
It must’ve rained here for things not to have died,
for them to be knee and shoulder high.
The grass is like this: a deep coolness held in itself
so to lie on it is obvious, to press my face down
into the feel of what must be green.
I sense the long tap of the rose on my back,
bending under its low weight of petals,
reminding me to turn over, to look at the stars.
Kathy has selected this poem by Liz Lefroy – I love the thought of the rose reminding her to turn over and look at the stars! Thank you Liz, for allowing us to share this poem.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Philip also requested Laurie Lee’s lovely poem Home From Abroad – but I’m sorry I don’t have permission to include it here. And lastly, Philip asked for Adlestrop, but I know we’re going to be including it in the Journeying theme next week – so for now, just hop across and read it here!
And now, unusally, Liz Lefroy offers a non-poetry choice for us to enjoy, and I (ever a book-seller) commend a poetry magazine.
My recommendation is for any one who enjoys short fiction and/or poetry, especially by new writers: Under the Radar is a quarterly magazine produced by Nine Arches Press, based in Birmingham. You can buy single issues, or subscribe (just £25 a year) and the magazine is full of genuinely exciting writing and excellent reviews. If you are interested in the very best of contemporary poetry – this is the place to go!
Issue 25 has a short fiction piece called Flowers by Katie Hanlon, which was written, submitted and chosen before the Covid-19 pandemic this Spring but resonates profoundly with our present moment. There are also three new poems by Alison Brackenbury and a review by Jonathan Davidson of Thirza Clout’s collection, Aunts Come Bearing Welsh Cakes – and quite aside from these personal connections, it really is well worth reading.
And one last thing: I’m delighted that The Poetry Pharmacy is going to be our go-to poetry bookshop – more details after the summer break. Deb and her team will be re-opening from July 23rd.
So that’s it for another week. Thank you, as ever, to all the poets and publishers who have enabled us to share their poems, and to all our poetry readers who have made recommendations. This wouldn’t happen without you!
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