Love ~ what will survive of us

 

Poetry Breakfast ~ at home

Paul Henry is our special guest this month. Paul has chosen the theme of Love, and the title: “What will survive of us …” from the famous last line of Philip Larkin’s An Arundel Tomb

Most of the poetry books referenced can be bought from Deb’s Poetry Pharmacy; you can contact Deb directly with any queries regarding books not listed, which she may have in stock or be able to find for you.

I hope you enjoy these poems.

(And by the way, Carol Rumens has written this lovely piece in The Guardian about Paul’s poem The Black Guitar, which isn’t strictly part of today’s breakfast, but I couldn’t resist including it.)

Paul Henry’s poems …

The Broadcast

‘Lovely hands. She had such lovely hands,’
my father says, pressing one to his cheek.
‘Musician’s hands,’ I’d add, if I could speak.
The blood-seep pales them, peacemaker’s hands,
hands that nursed, that danced in air when she sang.

Her voice could make a flower from a fist
and once, whole bouquets of hands at rest
tuned in, across the waves, to hear her sing –
coal hands, steel hands, stone hands… see them bloom
in the bookish laps of post-war living rooms

hands that knit the tune, hands on a glass,
hands that map remorse, or stifle a kiss…
and my mother’s ‘lovely’ hands, after the rain
has finished its applause, dancing again.

by Paul Henry

 

This poem appears in Paul’s fourth collection, The Slipped Leash, Seren, 2002, and was originally commissioned by BBC2 Wales for National Poetry Day.

Paul has sent us this gorgeous BBC radio archive recording of his mother, Ann Walters, singing ‘Seren Newydd’, a Welsh carol, from the Christmas Eve, 1950 broadcast of ‘Welsh Rarebit’. You can listen to it here.

As If To Sing

“… never more beautiful than here under the guns’ noise.”

Ivor Gurney – ‘First Time In’

Their glassy dreams lined the front
and sometimes caught the sun,
the Welsh boys, mouths open
as if to sing.

Last night, for safe-keeping,
they packed their hearts
into a song.

So when only one in four parts
of their harmony
returned, for roll call,
the song still held them all.

by Paul Henry

first published in the TLS, 2020

The poem forms part of a longer work, commissioned by BBC Radio Wales for Armistice Day 2018.

Late Kick-off

My boys are coming back to me
across the Glebelands pitches
out of the echoey underpass
leaving their childhoods behind
on the other side of the motorway

letting our ghosts play on
into the dark, the four of us
hoofing the moon high,
our heads tilted, and staggering
like drunks to catch it,
the brightest ball in the sky
lighting our way home.

They are coming back to me
taller than I imagined
and too old to warm inside my fleece.
It has been too long.
They must be cold by now.
I’ll warm up the engine.

I remember when the plastic goals
they used to pack, at full-time
into sacks (and bear shoulder high
like fathers, or dead kings,
back to the club-house)
were exchanged for serious steel.
After that they needed me less
and less

                but look!
They are coming back to me.
Though it was I who went away.

from Boy Running, Seren, 2015

Paul Henry’s poetry choices …

The Hospital by Patrick Kavanagh

A year ago I fell in love with the functional ward
Of a chest hospital: square cubicles in a row,
Plain concrete, wash basins – an art lover’s woe,
Not counting how the fellow in the next bed snored.
But nothing whatever is by love debarred,
The common and banal her heat can know.
The corridor led to a stairway and below
Was the inexhaustible adventure of a gravelled yard.

This is what love does to things: the Rialto Bridge,
The main gate that was bent by a heavy lorry,
The seat at the back of a shed that was a suntrap.
Naming these things is the love-act and its pledge;
For we must record love’s mystery without claptrap,
Snatch out of time the passionate transitory.

from Collected Poems, Penguin Modern Classics, 2005

I have tried to contact the copyright holders in Ireland regarding inclusion of this poem, but have had no success. Please contact me if you can help.

Goodbye by Alun Lewis

So we must say Goodbye, my darling,
And go, as lovers go, for ever;
Tonight remains, to pack and fix on labels
And make an end of lying down together.

I put a final shilling in the gas,
And watch you slip your dress below your knees
And lie so still I hear your rustling comb
Modulate the autumn in the trees.

And all the countless things I shall remember
Lay mummy-cloths of silence round my head;
I fill the carafe with a drink of water;
You say ‘We paid a guinea for this bed,’

And then, ‘We’ll leave some gas, a little warmth
For the next resident, and these dry flowers,’
And turn your face away, afraid to speak
The big word, that Eternity is ours.

Your kisses close my eyes and yet you stare
As though god struck a child with nameless fears;
Perhaps the water glitters and discloses
Time’s chalice and its limpid useless tears.

Everything we renounce except our selves;
Selfishness is the last of all to go;
Our sighs are exhalations of the earth,
Our footprints leave a track across the snow.

We made the universe to be our home,
Our nostrils took the wind to be our breath,
Our hearts are massive towers of delight,
We stride across the seven seas of death.

Yet when all’s done you’ll keep the emerald
I placed upon your finger in the street;
And I will keep the patches that you sewed
On my old battledress tonight, my sweet.

 

from Collected Poems, Seren, 2007. Included with kind permission of Seren.

Counting the Beats by Robert Graves

You, love, and I,
(He whispers) you and I,
And if no more than only you and I
What care you or I?

Counting the beats,
Counting the slow heart beats,
The bleeding to death of time in slow heart beats,
Wakeful they lie.

Cloudless day,
Night, and a cloudless day,
Yet the huge storm will burst upon their heads one day
From a bitter sky.

Where shall we be,
(She whispers) where shall we be,
When death strikes home, O where then shall we be
Who were you and I?

Not there but here,
(He whispers) only here,
As we are, here, together, now and here,
Always you and I.

Counting the beats,
Counting the slow heart beats,
The bleeding to death of time in slow heart beats,
Wakeful they lie.

 

from The Complete Poems, Penguin, 2003. Reprinted by kind permission of Carcanet Press Ltd, Manchester.

Paul has also chosen two readings by the great Richard Burton: first, The Good Morrow by John Donne and then Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae by Ernest Dowson (1867 – 1900). The title translates as ‘I am not as I was in the reign of the good Cynara’ (Horace, Odes Book 4, 1)

                                                                                                 

Our readers’ poetry choices ~

This monthly anthology ~ our Poetry Breakfast ~ is very much a joint effort: it wouldn’t happen without you sending in your chosen poems on the given theme. Email me if you’d like to contribute. 

I like this. It’s the way I feel about Dingle ~ The Lost Land by Eavan Boland. 

Love isn’t only about our partners, our sons and daughters ~ but also about the land …

Annamarie Griffin

Photo credit: Annamarie Griffin

Love may return unexpectedly, in a different guise. Recognition in the eyes but no passion. An old flame, quietened by dementia from fluent argument to word search, now murmurs as I leave, ‘It’s a good time for us.’ The only words he spoke today, for me to take away, entirely surprised. 

These poems speak to me of the distances and ordinary, lasting connections of love.

First, Entirely by Louis MacNeice, from Selected Poems, Faber and Faber, 1964.

Then, from the wonderful Staying Alive, Bloodaxe Books, 2002 ~ Distances by Phillippe Jaccottet, translated by Derek Mahon.

And lastly, Love Poem by Douglas Dunn from The Bloodaxe Book of 20th Century Poetry, edited by Edna Longley, Bloodaxe Books, 2000

Maureen Cooper

Reader's Retreat

Love sonnet LXXXIX by Pablo Neruda (English translation) and also in French and Spanish.

This beautiful sonnet came into my life in 2006. A woman recited it to me in Spanish. I think it’s a perfect way of saying, “What will remain is love”. I immediately decided to learn Spanish, just to be able to enjoy some of the wonderful poetry in that language, from not only Spain but South America.

“La luz y el trigo de tus manos amados” – The light and the wheat of your beloved eyes. Neruda often used wheat, el trigo, in his poems. You have only to think of the connotations – bread, growth, life, summer, plenitude.

I learnt the sonnet by heart and it never leaves me.

Listen here to Andrew reciting Love Sonnet LXXXIX by Pablo Neruda

I’d also like to include an old favourite, Beeny Cliff by Thomas HardyI love the description of the sea and the weather: “the opal and the sapphire of that wandering western sea”, “there flew an irised rain”.

And just two more? 

New Gravity by Robin Robertson This is the first poem in his first collection, A Painted Field, Pan Macmillan, 1997. I was hooked, and learnt half a dozen of his poems by heart. Such economy of means in this one to portray complex feelings and relationships.

Names by Wendy Cope Such a moving poem, and true to life. Many of us must have seen that chart at the foot of the bed with the strangely unfamiliar name of our loved one.

Andrew James

This gorgeous poem was chosen by Loriana. You can read more about it here.

Loriana Pauli

She whispered into the ear of the dreaming bear.

If I said that my love for you was
like the spaces between the notes of a wren’s song,
would you understand?
Would you perceive my love to be, therefore,
hardly present, almost nothing?

Or would you feel how my love is wrapped
around by the richest, the wildest song?
And, if I said my love for you is like
the time when the nightingale is absent
from our twilight world,
would you hear it as a silence? Nothing?
No love?
Or as anticipation
of that rich current of music,
which fills heart,
soul,
body,
mind?

And, if I said my love for
you is like the hare’s breath,
would you feel it to be transient?
So slight a thing?

Or would you see it as life-giving?

Wild?

A thing that fills the blood, and
sets the hare running?

from The Unwinding and Other Dreamings, Unbound, 2020

Included here with artwork from the book with kind permission of Jackie Morris.

Love and Life: A Song

All my past life is mine no more,
The flying hours are gone,
Like transitory dreams giv’n o’er,
Whose images are kept in store
By memory alone.

The time that is to come is not;
How can it then be mine?
The present moment’s all my lot;
And that, as fast as it is got,
Phyllis, is only thine.

Then talk not of inconstancy,
False hearts, and broken vows;
If I, by miracle, can be
This live-long minute true to thee,
’Tis all that Heav’n allows.

by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

and Love is Enough by William Morris.

Janet Reece

Writer, Twitter: @JReecewriter Instagram: jreecewriter

I think this poem exemplifies the progression of love in such a succinct and wise way:

Old Age by Edmund Waller (1606 – 1687)

The seas are quiet when the winds give o’er;
So calm are we when passions are no more.
For then we know how vain it was to boast
Of fleeting things, so certain to be lost.
Clouds of affection from our younger eyes
Conceal that emptiness which age descries.

The soul’s dark cottage, batter’d and decay’d,
Lets in new light through chinks that Time hath made:
Stronger by weakness, wiser men become
As they draw near to their eternal home.
Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view
That stand upon the threshold of the new.

You can read more about this lovely poem, and hear Malcolm Guite reading it here.

Joyce Watson

Poetry Breakfast, Aardvark Books

The Life That I Have by Leo Marks from The Life That I Have by Leo Marks, illustrated by his wife, the artist, Elena Gaussen Marks, Profile, 1999

For added interest, you may like to know that this poem was used for coding purposes in WWII as Leo Marks was a cryptographer. The wiki page has basic information.

and If I Could Tell You by W. H. Auden from Selected Poems by W.H. Auden, Faber, 1968.

Meg Parkinson

Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock

Here’s my contribution to ‘what will survive of us …’

This is one of Hardy’s wonderful, regretful, and moving poems which he wrote following the death of his first wife, Emma. The link following the poem is from the Hardy Society for those who would like to know more.

After a Journey by Thomas Hardy

Hereto I come to view a voiceless ghost;
Whither, O whither will its whim now draw me?
Up the cliff, down, till I’m lonely, lost,
And the unseen waters’ ejaculations awe me.
Where you will next be there’s no knowing,
Facing round about me everywhere,
With your nut-coloured hair,
And gray eyes, and rose-flush coming and going.

Yes: I have re-entered your olden haunts at last;
Through the years, through the dead scenes I have tracked you;
What have you now found to say of our past –
Scanned across the dark space wherein I have lacked you?
Summer gave us sweets, but autumn wrought division?
Things were not lastly as firstly well
With us twain, you tell?
But all’s closed now, despite Time’s derision.

I see what you are doing: you are leading me on
To the spots we knew when we haunted here together,
The waterfall, above which the mist-bow shone
At the then fair hour in the then fair weather,
And the cave just under, with a voice still so hollow
That it seems to call out to me from forty years ago,
When you were all aglow,
And not the thin ghost that I now frailly follow!

Ignorant of what there is flitting here to see,
The waked birds preen and the seals flop lazily,
Soon you will have, Dear, to vanish from me,
For the stars close their shutters and the dawn whitens hazily.
Trust me, I mind not, though Life lours,
The bringing me here; nay, bring me here again!
I am just the same as when
Our days were a joy, and our paths through flowers.

The Thomas Hardy Society

PS – I’ve taken it from The Complete Poems (Macmillan paperback) although it appears in many other places. Infuriating, on looking around the internet, to find that someone wrote the first line as ‘I come to interview a voiceless ghost’ with many other errors and it’s then reproduced in that form all over the place!

Philip Browning

Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock

Sudden Light by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

I have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.

You have been mine before,—
How long ago I may not know:
But just when at that swallow’s soar
Your neck turn’d so,
Some veil did fall,—I knew it all of yore.

Has this been thus before?
And shall not thus time’s eddying flight
Still with our lives our love restore
In death’s despite,
And day and night yield one delight once more?

Ruth also suggests September by Ted Hughes and both of these poems are included in the Penguin Book of Love Poetry.

Ruth Walmsley

Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock

Unending Love by Rabindranath Tagore

I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times.
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs
that you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
in life after life, in age after age, forever.

Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, its age-old pain;
its ancient tale of being apart or together.
As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge;
clad in the light of a pole-star piercing the darkness of time:
you become an image of what is remembered forever.

You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount.
At the heart of time, love of one for another.
We have played alongside millions of lovers, shared in the same
shy sweetness of meeting, the same distressful tears of farewell –
old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.

Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you.
The love of all man’s days both past and forever;
universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life.
The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours –
and the songs of every poet past and forever.

Clare Snow

Reader's Retreat

The Cradle by James Sheard

And I’ll tell you all over, if allowed
of how I always loved you. That yes,
it was a love I often cradled much too close.

But I would ask you to let yourself think
of what such a cradling is like –
of the children we each have held,
close, and lifted into ourselves. To think

of how our backs must sometimes turn,
our shoulders hunch, to shield the love
from all that the world has dealt us.

So whatever you believe of me,
and whatever I must now live with,
do not believe that in that cradling
I would have sought to stifle what I held.

 

Late by James Sheard

You could be my garden, for think how gardens
can be our last and best love, our late love,
brought up and out of our earth and made to bloom.

Think how we bring to them our lifetime of care,
our longing for a place to lie in and call our own.
That is why I brought you here in late summer,

to watch you walk up through the blown grasses
and their feathery tops moving gently around you.
You came to me, slowly, down the long shade

of the laburnum arch, as if approaching shyly
from the long years of my early and middle life –
dappled and distant, but coming on, coming on.

Both poems by James Sheard, from The Abandoned Settlements, Cape Poetry, 2017. Thank you to James for kind permission to include these poems.

Carol Caffrey

Actor, poet

I feel that this poem echoes the theme ‘Love – what will survive of us’. It was early in 1978 when I suggested to David that we walk across Hampstead Heath to visit Keats’ House, where we leant in over the fading handwriting. We had met before Christmas, and you would never describe ours as a conventional courtship. This poem was my first intimation that he found me more than a friend. We married soon after.

PS We later filmed this poem with the BBC and had great difficulty getting our toggles to tap on the glass!

On Visiting Keats House by David Scott

I had anticipated the wall-to-wall
carpet: the bookstall; and the staff toilet;
but not the brown ink of Keats’ handwriting:
neat, round, and vertical.
Our duffle coats, when we leaned
on the glass to read this letter to Fanny,
gave a slight tap of toggle. We read,
with eyes only, a postscript full of dashes
and torment. I recalled the ring
he sent her, which she hid under a thin glove.
We replaced the cover, bought cards,
and left: aware that even one’s frustration
from now, would be an imitation.
That if we were brave enough to say what we felt
this winter, it would have been said before,
in ink the colour of tea, to perfection.

From Beyond the Drift, Bloodaxe Books, 2014, with kind permission of Miggy Scott.

Miggy Scott

Circle Dance

Sonnet XIX

Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws,
And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger’s jaws,
And burn the long-liv’d Phoenix in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleets,
And do whate’er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
To the wide world and all her fading sweets;
But I forbid thee one more heinous crime:
O, carve not with the hours my love’s fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen!
Him in thy course untainted do allow
For beauty’s pattern to succeeding men.
Yet do thy worst, old Time! Despite thy wrong
My love shall in my verse ever live young.

William Shakespeare

Ali Redgrave

Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock and Aardvark Books

Answer by Carol Ann Duffy

If you were made of stone,
your kiss a fossil sealed up in your lips,
your eyes a sightless marble to my touch,
your grey hands pooling raindrops for the birds,
your long legs cold as rivers locked in ice,
if you were stone, if you were made of stone, yes, yes.

If you were made of fire,
your head a wild Medusa hissing flame,
your tongue a red-hot poker in your throat,
your heart a small coal glowing in your chest,
your fingers burning pungent brands on flesh,
if you were fire, if you were made of fire, yes, yes.

If you were made of water,
your voice a roaring, foaming waterfall,
your arms a whirlpool spinning me around,
your breast a deep, dark lake nursing the drowned,
your mouth an ocean, waves torn from your breath,
if you were water, if you were made of water, yes, yes.

If you were made of air,
your face empty and infinite as sky,
your words a wind with litter for its nouns,
your movements sudden gusts among the clouds,
your body only breeze against my dress,
if you were air, if you were made of air, yes, yes.

If you were made of air, if you were air,
if you were made of water, if you were water,
if you were made of fire, if you were fire,
if you were made of stone, if you were stone,
or if you were none of these, but really death,
the answer is yes, yes.

from Rapture, Picador, 2017. Grateful thanks to Carol Ann Duffy for kind permission to include this poem.

Pauline Prior-Pitt

Poet, Artist

Winter Swans

The clouds had given their all –
two days of rain and then a break
in which we walked,

the waterlogged earth
gulping for breath at our feet
as we skirted the lake, silent and apart,

until the swans came and stopped us
with a show of tipping in unison.
As if rolling weights down their bodies to their heads

they halved themselves in the dark water,
icebergs of white feather, paused before returning again
like boats righting in rough weather.

‘They mate for life’ you said as they left,
porcelain over the stilling water. I didn’t reply
but as we moved on through the afternoon light,

slow-stepping in the lake’s shingle and sand,
I noticed our hands, that had, somehow,
swum the distance between us

and folded, one over the other,
like a pair of wings settling after flight.

by Owen SheersSkirrid Hill, Seren, 2005, reprinted by kind permission of Owen Sheers.

Owen would have been our headline guest at Poetry in the Barn last summer. We very much hope that when we are free to reschedule this gorgeous event at Aardvark Books, he will be able to join us. If you would like to be on the mailing list for the event, just email me.

Alex Hiam

Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock

I’ve chosen two poems by Thomas Hardy: The Going and I Found Her Out There.

They are both in the Golden Treasury Series, Selected Poems of Thomas Hardy, published by Macmillan in 1924. 

Bert Molsom

Poetry Breakfast, Aardvark Books

I suggest two poems which speak to each other: Strawberries by Edwin Morgan, and Jackie Kay’s Strawberry Meringue.  

‘Strawberries’ is one of the late Edwin Morgan’s best-known poems.  It’s a sensual and erotic love poem with that powerful last line ‘Let the storm wash the plates’.  It’s certainly a love poem which will survive.  Edwin Morgan himself was a survivor – still writing and translating poetry after he had moved into a residential home in his eighties. You can listen to a recording of Edwin Morgan reading the poem here.

Jackie Kay’s ‘Strawberry Meringue’ recalls ‘Strawberries’ and recounts a ‘wee tea party’ with Edwin on his ninetieth birthday.  In his room the poems hover like ‘old friends’, ‘old lovers’.   

Strawberry Meringue

for Edwin Morgan

The time before the last time I saw you
my mum and I bought you a strawberry meringue,
a vanilla slice and a cream fancy
and round your bed we three
had our own wee tea party;
a nice auxiliary, Nancy, brought the tea,
and we thought of words to rhyme with meringue.
Did you say harangue? Am I right or am I wrang?

The old Home used to take you to Dobbies
on Mondays where they did marvellous meringues,
you said, your boyish eyes gleaming.
Then you asked me if I’d read Orhan Pamuk’s
Snow, or Red, which was open on your bed,
and told me of a poem
you were translating from the Russian,
and asked after my son, and Carol Ann.
Love, you said. Ah love, wistfully.
If you can be friends you’re doing not bad.

In your room today are perhaps a dozen books
and a few favoured paintings; life pared down,
clean as an uncluttered mind.
Friendship, dear Edwin, a scone, a meringue,
and your poems hovering like old friends too,
or old lovers – Strawberries, that last thrilling line –
was it let the storm wash the plates?
Nancy puts the rest of the cakes
in the fridge for you for later.
You are ninety! Happy Birthday Edwin!
Your head is buzzing with Variations,
and what is age but another translation?

by Jackie Kay from Fiere, Picador, 2011. Grateful thanks to Jackie Kay for her kind permissin to include this poem.

Mary Robinson

Poet

I would like to suggest these two poems:

And yet we managed fine by Dennis O’Driscoll, from Exemplary Damages, Anvil Press, 2002

and 

And I thought you beside me by Mervyn Peakefrom Selected Poems of Mervyn Peake, Faber, 1972.

Alison Gouldstone

Rapture 

Thought of by you all day, I think of you.
The birds sing in the shelter of a tree.
Above the prayer of rain, unacred blue,
not paradise, goes nowhere endlessly.
How does it happen that our lives can drift
far from our selves, while we stay trapped in time,
queuing for death? It seems nothing will shift
the pattern of our days, alter the rhyme
we make with loss to assonance with bliss.
Then love comes, like a sudden flight of birds
from earth to heaven after rain. Your kiss,
recalled, unstrings, like pearls, this chain of words.
Huge skies connect us, joining here to there.
Desire and passion on the thinking air.

by Carol Ann Duffy, from Rapture, published by Picador, 2005, also in Collected Poems, Picador, 2015. Thank you to Carol Ann for kindly giving permission for us to include this poem.

They Are a Tableau at the Kissing Gate

Maids of honour, bridegroom, bride,
the best man in a grey silk suit,
a flash to catch them in the arching
stone, confettied by a sudden gust —
an apple tree in full white spread
beyond the reach of bone and dust.

I am the driver in a passing car:
the wedding-dress a cloud of lace.
A small hand clutching at a skirt,
some nervous bridesmaid, eight
or maybe nine, has seen
the blossom fall, has closed her eyes —

her head falls back into the scent,
the soundless whirr and whirl of earth —
bound petals like sycamore seeds
on a current of air, silent helicopters
bringing light — a wedding gift
the bride will brush away, unconsciously.

This is no ordinary act, no summer fête,
another simple wedding held in June.
This is the wind shaking the apple-tree,
the bell above the kissing-gate,
the sudden fall of blossom into light
which only love and innocence can see.

We must be held accountable to love:
where they step out together arm in arm
as newly-weds, spring-cleaned, and climb
into a waiting car beneath a summer sky,
the blossom will still fall, unstoppable —
a drift of change across a changeless time.

by Jane Hollandfrom The Brief History of a Disreputable Woman1997, Bloodaxe Books (out of print). Thank you to Jane for kindly allowing us to include this poem.

This poem is new to me; I am so pleased Jenny suggested it. I love how its story-telling captures this fleeting moment. The original book is out of print, but this poem is included in her collection Flash Bang: New and Selected Poems, available to order here.

Jenny Swann

I would like to suggest this enigmatic poem by Robert Bly about marriage, The Third Body, which I have in ten poems to open your heart,  Roger Housden, Hodder and Stoughton, 2003 (out of print) and which was originally published in Eating the Honey of Words, 1999 (out of print).

Chris Pelton

Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock

We let you go

Into the freedom of the wind and the sunshine
We let you go.
Into the dance of the stars and the planets
We let you go.
Into the wind’s breath and the hands of the storm maker
We let you go.
We love you, we miss you, we want you to be happy.
Go safely, go dancing, go running home.

by Ruth Burgess, from Saying Goodbye, Iona Books

Judy King

Circle Dance

Yearn On by Katie Donovan

I want you to feel
the unbearable lack of me.
I want your skin
to yearn for the soft lure of mine;
I want those hints of red
on your canvas
to deepen in passion for me:
carmine, burgundy.
I want you to keep
stubbing your toe
on the memory of me;
I want your head to be dizzy
and your stomach in a spin;
I want you to hear my voice
in your ear, to touch your face
imagining it is my hand.
I want your body to shiver and quiver
at the mere idea of mine.
I want you to feel as though
life after me is dull, and pointless,
and very, very aggravating;
that with me you were lifted
on a current you waited all your life to find,
and had despaired of finding,
as though you were wading
through a soggy swill of inanity and ugliness
every minute we are apart.
I want you to drive yourself crazy
with the fantasy of me,
and how we will meet again, against all odds,
and there will be tears and flowers,
and the vast relief of not I,
but us.
I am haunting your dreams,
conducting these fevers
from a distance,
a distance that leaves me weeping,
and storming,
and bereft.

Katie Donovan, from Rootling: New & Selected Poems, Bloodaxe Books, 2010, included here with kind permission of the publisher.

 

I’ve also chosen Patagonia by Kate Clanchy.  I came across it in How to be a Poet by Jo Bell and Jane Commane and I know it is also in Selected Poems by Kate Clanchy, Picador, 2014.

How to be a Poet is also very good for readers of poetry, not just writers – I really enjoyed it.

Kathy Watson

Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock

I have chosen Pad, Pad by Stevie Smith. 

I heard it on the radio and liked it so much I looked it up. It is in The Collected Poems of Stevie Smith, Penguin, 1985 and was originally published in Harold’s Leap, Chapman and Hall, 1950.

Kathryn Hill

I would like to suggest

Love Songs in Age by Philip Larkinfrom The Whitsun Weddings, Faber, 1975.

Catherine Okoronkwo

Poet, featured on Poetry Book Society Winter 2020 list.

View from a Travelodge Window by Tess Jolly

Looking out over the platforms
of Clapham Junction station

we marvel at the tracks, the lucky
or unlucky carriages, the gaps

our younger selves might have
slipped through, the end points

we could have chosen or been taken to,
at how we’ve travelled back to this city

where connections are made or lost
or sustained – and sleeping,

balancing heart with heart,
dawn will break, let dawn not break.

from Breakfast at the Origami Café, Blue Diode Publishing, 2020

Tess Jolly

Poet

In Defence of Adultery by Julia Copus

We don’t fall in love: it rises through us
the way that certain music does –
whether a symphony or a ballad –
and it is sepia coloured,
like tea that stains as it creeps up
the tiny tube-like gaps inside
a cube of sugar lying by a cup.
Yes, love’s like that: just when we least
needed or expected it
a part of us dips into it
by chance or mishap and it seeps
through our capillaries, it clings
inside the chambers of the heart
to atriums and ventricles. We’re
victims, we say: merely vessels
drinking the vanilla scent
of this one’s skin, the lustre
of another’s blue eyes skilfully
darkened with bistre. And whatever
damage might result we’re not
to blame for it: love is an autocrat
and won’t be disobeyed.
Sometimes we almost manage
to convince ourselves of that.

by Julia Copus, from In Defence of Adultery, Bloodaxe Books, 2003 (out of print). With grateful thanks to Julia Corpus for her kind permission to include this poem.

Pat Morrison

Poetry Breakfast, The Poetry Pharmacy

Thank you everyone!

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this Poetry Breakfast anthology – what a feast of poetry it has been. And special thanks of course to Paul Henry, our esteemed and lovely guest. Paul has been a welcome guest at many of our events, including, most recently, Poetry in the Barn. Thank you Paul, for all you have put into this Poetry Breakfast – and thank you to everyone for being inspired by Paul’s theme.

Our next guest is Tess Jolly, who I didn’t know until Maureen chose her poem Winter Solstice, for The Year’s Midnight. I loved the poem, ordered her book, Breakfast at the Origami Café, and spent one whole, wonderful morning reading it. I’m now a firm fan. Tess’s choice of theme for March is ‘Disappearing Acts’ – let’s have fun with that! Please let me have your poetry choices by February 15th please.

There is no charge for these poetry blogs but they do take a huge amount of time. If you would like to show your appreciation by chipping in to my ‘coffee and paperback book fund’ you can do so here. If you don’t use Paypal you can email me for other ways to do this.

Feedback very much welcomed in the comments section below.

Thank you everyone, till next time …

Anna Dreda

Wenlock Books Events

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