more precious than moons

Poetry Breakfast ~ at home

 

Our very special guest this week, and fortnightly until the first week of July is the poet and artist, Pauline Prior-Pitt. It gives me enormous pleasure to welcome her to our online Poetry Breakfasts.
We miss the coffee, the croissants and the company, but with Pauline here – a little of the cheer and gentle friendship is surely restored.
Pauline lives in the tiny township of Grenitote on the Isle of North Uist, just a twenty minute drive over the causeway from our island home on Berneray. We met, and became friends, in 2010, and Pauline appeared at sell-out events at the Wenlock Poetry Festival until its demise in 2017.

Welcome, Pauline.

NB Next week our guest is the poet and wildlife photgrapher Andrew Fusek Peters, with the theme ‘The Poetry of Birds’.  To share poems on this (or any other of our themes) please email us or use the comments below.

 

Pauline’s theme for this week is ‘More Precious than Moons’ which is the title of her pamphlet of poems about grand-children. We asked our readers: ‘what is more precious than moons for you?’ and we received some wonderful poems in response  …  and here is my favourite, opposite.

My more-precious-than-moons grandchildren, waiting for the boat to Berneray

Grandchild 

(for Sam, Jake, Jack and Johan)

Before he’s born you can’t understand

what the fuss is about. You’re not

even bothered about having one.

Friends bore you with incessant chat

about their sleeping patterns, eating patterns,

bowel movements, the funny things they say,

always having packs of photos

taken from every angle, and you

wonder if they know there’s a war on.

And then your own love affair begins.

He is exceptionally beautiful, of course

everyone will want to see the photographs,

will want to listen when you tell them

all the funny things he does, how well he sleeps,

how very, very special he is.

And your dear grandmother friends

who know all about this obsessive love

indulge you, agree he is exceptionally beautiful,

And you discover that their incessant chat

about their grandchildren is compelling

and the war can wait.

by Pauline Prior Pitt, from More Precious than Moons, published by Spike Press

More Precious than Moons

I Like How

for Jack 

I like how

his new born eyes

latch onto mine    

as if this is not 

a chance encounter

I like how 

he seems content

with the way things 

are as they are

I like how

he takes adoration 

for granted

Magic Doors

(for Jake aged four)

On the phone he says, we need magic doors.

When he steps through his magic door, 

he will be here. 

When I step through my magic door, 

I will be there.

And he’s stepping through, clutching his teddy, 

helping me find the mixing bowl, 

the butter, sugar, bars of chocolate, 

asking questions all the time.

And I am stepping through,

hugging them all for a moment

and stepping back    

                                     or on a whim 

sharing the pizza they bake together on Saturdays, 

and stepping back.

I tell him it’s a brilliant idea, just what we need,

no more travelling six hundred miles 

for hugs and tickles and butterfly kisses.

He says, the trouble is we haven’t got one have we.

And I see him, a scientist inventing one.

When he’s a grandfather

he’ll take magic doors in his stride.

Pebble

Weigh two hundred million years

in your hand, the mystery of eras,

a single syllable

pulsing in a pebble.

It quivers in your palm

like the heartbeat of a hare in its form,

with the shindig of ocean, ancient landslips,

rock-fall, storm, the sea’s and centuries’ lapse.

Take in your right hand from the evening sky

that other sad old stone, the moon.

You, Earth, pebble, moon-stone,

held together in the noose of gravity.

Feel the beach shift underfoot, the planet turn,

all Earth’s story in a stone.

From Ice, by Gillian Clarke, published by Carcanet.

 

With grateful thanks to Gillian Clarke for giving permission to include this poem, which was requested by Jude and Hilary

Tim chose two poems from Carol Ann Duffy, to whom grateful thanks for giving her permission for us to include them here.

Tim

Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock

Warming Her Pearls by Carol Ann Duffy 

for Judith Radstone

Next to my own skin, her pearls. My mistress

bids me wear them, warm them, until evening

when I’ll brush her hair. At six, I place them

round her cool, white throat. All day I think of her,

resting in the Yellow Room, contemplating silk

or taffeta, which gown tonight? She fans herself

whilst I work willingly, my slow heat entering

each pearl. Slack on my neck, her rope.

She’s beautiful. I dream about her

in my attic bed; picture her dancing

with tall men, puzzled by my faint, persistent scent

beneath her French perfume, her milky stones.

I dust her shoulders with a rabbit’s foot,

watch the soft blush seep through her skin

like an indolent sigh. In her looking-glass

my red lips part as though I want to speak.

Full moon. Her carriage brings her home. I see

her every movement in my head …. Undressing,

taking off her jewels, her slim hand reaching

for the case, slipping naked into bed, the way

she always does…. And I lie here awake,

knowing the pearls are cooling even now

in the room where my mistress sleeps. All night

I feel their absence and I burn.

From Selling Manhattan, published Anvil 1997

Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy 

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.

from Rapture, published by Picador, 2005, also in  Collected Poems, Picador, 2015

 

Carol Ann Duffy and the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University have brought together poets from around the world to write new poems about the recent days past and the weeks ahead. The poets were invited to write directly about the Coronavirus pandemic or about the personal situation they find themselves in right now.

 

Steve came at the idea of what is precious from a different direction, choosing Katrina Naomi’s poem ‘The Leopard Print Coat’, from her collection The Way the Crocodile Taught Me (Seren, 2016). Katrina’s new collection, is Wild Persistence, and was just published by Seren on June 1st. Thanks for choosing this, Steve, and thank you Katrina for permission to include your poem here.

Steve Harrison

Poet in Residence, Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock

The Leopard Print Coat by Katrina Naomi

I love the coat’s fakery,

the brash barmaid ballsiness of it,

each fibre thrilling to the musk and cloy

of my mother’s Youth Dew.

I’ve still not had it cleaned;

my neck’s grease mingles with hers,

my smaller breasts push towards

the rise hers made.

I’d never have worn this coat

had my sister not reached beyond the curtain,

stolen up the flock-walled stairs.

He didn’t know she had a key.

And after, he never saw me wear it.

Never.

And this coat dreams of glitterballs,

of cider and Pomagne,

of crimson nail varnish,

of sashaying down the Old Kent Road.

Silver by Walter de la Mare

Slowly, silently, now the moon

Walks the night in her silver shoon;

This way, and that, she peers, and sees

Silver fruit upon silver trees;

One by one the casements catch

Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;

Couched in his kennel, like a log,

With paws of silver sleeps the dog;

From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep

Of doves in silver feathered sleep

A harvest mouse goes scampering by,

With silver claws, and silver eye;

And moveless fish in the water gleam,

By silver reeds in a silver stream.

These two poems chosen by Meg, Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock. Thank you, Meg.

Invictus by W E Henley

Out of the night that covers me,

      Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

      For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

      I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

      My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

      Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

      Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

      How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

      I am the captain of my soul.

 

Adlestrop by Edward Thomas

Yes. I remember Adlestrop—

The name, because one afternoon

Of heat the express-train drew up there

Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.

No one left and no one came

On the bare platform. What I saw

Was Adlestrop—only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,

And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,

No whit less still and lonely fair

Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang

Close by, and round him, mistier,

Farther and farther, all the birds

Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

I have realised that something very precious to me is silence, or silence punctuated by birdsong. I think it is something that a lot of people who live in towns and cities have been able to appreciate more recently. Also I do love walking and remember finding Adlestrop Station (now unused but preserved as a memorial to Thomas) on a lovely summer’s day walk with a friend who lives in the Cotswolds.

 

Alex

Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock

These two, chosen by Philip, from Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock. Thank you Philip.

Full Moon and Little Frieda by Ted Hughes

A cool small evening shrunk to a dog bark and the clank of a bucket –
And you listening.
A spider’s web, tense for the dew’s touch.
A pail lifted, still and brimming – mirror
To tempt a first star to a tremor.

Cows are going home in the lane there, looping the hedges with their warm
wreaths of breath –
A dark river of blood, many boulders,
Balancing unspilled milk.
‘Moon!’ you cry suddenly, ‘Moon!  Moon!’

The moon has stepped back like an artist gazing amazed at a work
That points at him amazed. 

Thank you Andrew Fusek Peters for another lovely photograph.

To finish, another of Pauline’s wonderfully atmospheric paintings. This one is Shore 3, and a poem chosen by Kathy, Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock.

Cradle by Pauline Prior-Pitt 

The cradle stood empty

awaiting your presence.

I placed a hot bottle

between the small sheets

warming a place for you,

Knowing in pain

you were ready.

The time had come

for your journey.

I remember the agony.

I remember your final

leap from my womb

as you fell into the sunlight.

And I remember

the last moment of my girlhood

when I warmed your cradle.

From Be an Angel published by Spike Press

So that’s it for another week!  Please send us poems on this, or any of the themes by email  or you can use the message function at the bottom of the page.  You can also follow us using the social media buttons just below.

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We would love to hear (and share) your suggestions!

Anna

15 Comments

  1. Tim Cook

    Despite not being a grandmother, I do think this edition is a bit special. Like all these PB at Hs that Anna’s produced, it’s worth moving gradually through, now and later. One of the hallmarks of Poetry Breakfasts, “real-life” and online, is the extraordinary variety of quality poetry that gathers around whatever the theme happens to be. A bit like the Candlestick Press magic, in its way.
    Getting a borrow of AFP’s utterly brilliant photos is a bit special too!

    Reply
    • Anna Dreda

      Thanks Tim – and for all your contributions. The variety and quality of the poetry is outstanding as ever – this is such a good collaboration!

      Reply
  2. Jude Walker

    Oh goodness… ‘Cradle’ has just stopped me in my tracks.
    The preciousness of a baby, safe in the womb. Definitely more precious than moons.

    Love ‘Magic Doors’ too. I suspect we’d all join Jack at the magic door if we could!

    Thanks again for such a beautiful and evocative selection of poems.

    Reply
    • Anna Dreda

      Thanks Jude, and for your contributions, too!

      Reply
  3. Margaret Howson

    Coming across this was a wonderful surprise, some of the poetry I knew some was new, all a wonderful distraction from the times we are living in. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Anna Dreda

      Thank you Margaret, I’m glad you found us!

      Reply
  4. Pauline PP

    So many favourites here, but I didn’t know The Leopard Print Coat. It’s so good, so evocative and yes, Youth Dew, we all wore it way back in the day! thank you

    Reply
    • Anna Dreda

      It is a powerful poem – and Katrina Naomi is going to be our guest poet in July!

      Reply
  5. Gill McEvoy

    How I’d love a magic door, to step through and find my grandchildren waiting on the other side! Thank you for all these poems Anna, and Pauline; so enjoyable to spend time with them on a rather chilly damp Thursday! Oh and I still love Silver by Walter de la Mare after first hearing it at primary school.

    Reply
    • Anna Dreda

      Thank you Gill (I did have a magic door yesterday and the grand-children did come through it!) Those early, first heard poems really stay with us don’t they? And I don’t think it matters that we didn’t understand the meaning then – the magic of the rhythms and the rhymes, the music of the poems, that’s what lingers and warms our hearts 60, 70 years on …

      Reply
  6. Kathy Watson

    Loved Steve’s choice ‘The Leopard Print Coat’, a new one to me. What a wonderful collection of poems Anna … and thank you to all who made these wonderful choices.

    Reply
    • Anna Dreda

      Yes, that’s a great poem isn’t it, Kathy. And Katrina Naomi will be our guest poet in July, so more to come! Thanks to you and Ann for your contributions, too!

      Reply
  7. Anna Dreda

    A late addition – the lovely Liz Lefroy has agreed I can share this link to her blog post, in which there is this gorgeous poem.

    Reply
  8. Andrew James

    I like all the poems here, without exception. Indeed, some of them are among the 90-odd poems I’ve learned by heart. A poem in a similar vein, but parental rather than grandparental, is “To My Daughter” by Stephen Spender.

    Reply
    • Anna Dreda

      I’m so glad you have enjoyed the poems – and thank you for the Stephen Spender poem which I shall track it down now! – Just read it, what a powerful and moving poem, I love the image of his daughter’s hand around his finger like a ring – beautiful.

      Reply

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