green, so green

Poetry Breakfast ~ at home

 

Dip into our weekly Poetry Breakfast ~ at home.

This week’s photograph, above,  was taken this morning at the woodland end of our garden.

There is such a range of poems for you today – which is one of the many things I love about Poetry Breakfast!  The poem ‘Green’  by David Scott, which his wife Miggy sent in,  has the lines

‘But now in these green days

when grass is more political,’

and they just took my breath away, with their timely resonance with the politics of green spaces. But enough!  Enjoy the poems, thank you to all who have contributed, and especially to our guest poets …

Sending you all much love,

Anna x

PS The next theme will be ‘Hope is the thing with feathers’

OUR GUEST POETS

ALISON BRACKENBURY

CHAR MARCH

GILL McEVOY

Fern  

Does anyone wear ‘buttonholes’?

We made them for the village fete.

So I was sent up to the gate

of the old man who would have gone

to ‘Grammar,’ if they could have bought

a crested cap, soft shoes for sport.

He passed from village desk to farm.

The one girl he had waited for 

ran to an airman in the War.

His sister kept the tiny house.

A courteous, clever man, all said.

In June heat, at a long lane’s end

through the blue gate, on a grass path

I stepped beneath the roses’ cloud.

I saw him bend to stakes, head bowed

by billows of asparagus fern

for farmhand’s collar, or the Queen,

webbed, spread like hands, its tiny veins

crisp as dead leaf, all green, so green.

 

This poem is by Alison Brackenbury and was published in The Times Literary Supplement

Half-day

Padding the green alleys of my grass

Watching jackdaws crest upon the roof

I sit, red dock seed rustling by my head.

Great hollyhocks sway up from last year’s roots.

My neighbour’s child cries, her mother shouts

‘I’m busy with the ironing! You must come in or out!’

So she goes in. And it is sad, the quiet,

The grass still warm, seed-silver. Will she lift

Her face from cloth’s slow steam: will she find out

Ironing is duty; summer is a gift?

This poem is by Alison Brackenbury and is published in Gallop (Carcanet, 2019)

The Cloud Appreciation Society’s Day Out

We help Marjorie with her zimmer,

Freda shrugs off everyone, threshing

her white-sticked way out of the minibus

across the tussocks, beheading several

lesser-spotted orchids, but Gordon says

“Well, they’re not that rare”.  And gradually

we settle.  Some perch on boulders,

David and Sasha hold hands

on their plastic-backed tartan rug, 

the ones who haven’t got their bus passes yet

lie flat on their backs, almost hidden

by the slowly uncurling bracken.

Alice has forgotten her “seeing glasses” 

but says Gregory’s reading ones seem 

just the job.  Josie has already listed off: 

a cat stretching;  Anglesey;  a woolly mammoth;

and “a thing like a Kenwood mixer”.

Geoffrey points and says:  Is that the Gulf

of Mexico with an oil tanker?”  Ranjit has found

Winston Churchill in some cirrus.  

Margo’s sunhat has slipped down and she is already 

snoring.  I’ve brought my folding chair 

and neck pillow.  I zone out the list-makers, 

tune into the oyster-catchers’ double whistles 

sonaring off the cloud-filled reservoir.  

I look up, shade my eyes, see a fish 

with one huge feathered wing

very slowly turning 

into a tumbling pile 

of bangers and mash.

by Char March

from her collection ‘The Cloud Appreciation Society’s Day Out’ published by Indigo Dreams 2011

Lest we Forget

This quiet graveyard is now eulogised

as ‘wildflower-friendly’: Eggs-And-Bacon

thread through Ladies’ Bedstraw and Self-Heal.

The Norman church displays a list

of the one hundred and three lichen species

found by the enthusiastic British Lichen Society

including the rare  Myriospora smaragdula.

We stroll through knee-high Yorkshire Fog

and Sweet Vernal Grass mouthing 

the graves’ names, their ages.

Turn a verdant corner and come 

upon them: scoured,

buzz-cut, rawly new.

Do they want this regimented scrubbing?

This forever standing to attention:

All-ready-for-inspection-sir!

Why not let this 19 year old, this 22 year old,

this Private, this Lieutenant develop a skin

of lichen, a suit of moss, a softening

of bird-splatter?

Do they want their grasses and wildflowers

shaved to within a millimetre of their soil?

Does this six-monthly assault with electric sander

comfort them?

Or do they wish to rest, to lie

hammocked in the curve of the earth,

to become one with the bearded graves

that cluster round them, that lean in

like ears, like hands ready to soothe,

while the soldiers stand to attention

in uniforms stiff with bleach.

by Char March from Full Stops in Winter Branches, published by Valley Press

Champagne Fortnight

Magnolia goblets brim

with radiance,

the corks are popping on their

sealed canisters of light.

Every garden has its wedding tent

of almond, pink or white.

We could switch off 

street lamps, dance all night 

in incandescent 

almond and magnolia light.

Later we’ll slip and skid 

on rubber petal-strew

but now we’re winging 

down the street, 

our hearts like birds in flight.

by Gill McEvoy

In the Cloister Garden

This is the silence that enters my head

before the poem.

This is the green of leaf and grass, this is the peace

before the poem.

This is the sky, the eye of blue, that sees the wren that flirts away

before the poem.

This is my heart that measures its beat like water trickling into this pool

before the poem.

This is the tree whose sap seeps up through my warm veins

before the poem.

This is the branch, the living hand that grasps the pen

before the poem.

These are the life that gives its all for the 

sake of the poem.

by Gill McEvoy

Thank you so much to Steve for another fabulous poem, and for making the YouTube video to go with it! Steve has been Poet in Residence to Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock, for many years now: it’s good to see you, Steve.

Anna

Twenty-One Love Poems (The Floating Poem, Unnumbered) by Adrienne Rich

Whatever happens with us, your body

will haunt mine—tender, delicate

your lovemaking, like the half-curled frond

of the fiddlehead fern in forests

just washed by sun. Your traveled, generous thighs

between which my whole face has come and come—

the innocence and wisdom of the place my tongue has found there—

the live, insatiate dance of your nipples in my mouth—

your touch on me, firm, protective, searching

me out, your strong tongue and slender fingers

reaching where I had been waiting years for you

in my rose-wet cave—whatever happens, this is.

from The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974-1977 by Adrienne Rich, pubished by WW Norton.

 

Thank you, Laura, for giving me this beautiful poem in 1979, introducing me to the wonderful work of Adrienne Rich – a lifelong, life-changing passion!

Green by David Scott 

Colour spurs us to philosophise

WITTGENSTEIN

I never did think grass was just a plant,

but saw it more like custard,

or a towel, something that got rolled out

for lazing on before exams; part of the English kit.

But now in these green days

when grass is more political,

I rather long for it to be a species

and get in close to it with spectacles.

So on this upland grass of Dorset

I wonder how is it that we see green

as green? What process sets

the green in motion, as something known and seen?

I notice how the colour changes with the break

in cloud; or, which edge of the green shoot

shows most green; or, how it weathers into the light

or away; or how the green sheath

is caught by the light, or not, or starts its dull reverse;

or, what the yellow cowslip has to say 

to blend the greenness down a shade, when it converses

in a ‘hello, how are you?’ sort of way.

Green doesn’t advertise itself,

except to the sun. Its secret is hidden,

but it can surprise you,

becoming ‘all green on the sudden’.

I think of Mendel, Bateson, Crick,

each surpassing the other in theories;

their models ever more tree-like,

taking over the laboratory.

But for most it’s ‘Green grow the rushes O’,

and here’s to the grass, and the grass to us,

along with the nappies on the hard shoulder,

scattered by the whoosh of the motorway bus.

In the end, how we see the green shoots

depends on what we know of green,

which depends on how much is left to be seen

when we’ve poisoned all England to its roots.

from Beyond the Drift, published by Bloodaxe.

Permission from Miggy Scott, 13.5.2020

Clungunford lanes and gardens

The Trees, by Philip Larkin

The trees are coming into leaf

Like something almost being said;

The recent buds relax and spread,

Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again

And we grow old? No, they die too,

Their yearly trick of looking new

Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh

In fullgrown thickness every May.

Last year is dead, they seem to say,

Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

A very popular choice: Philip, Tim, Carol and Ali all picked this one out.  Do click on both these title links for something a bit special!

I thank You God for most this amazing – E E Cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing

day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees

and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything

which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,

and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth

day of life and love and wings; and of the gay

great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing

breathing any – lifted from the no

of all nothing – human merely being

doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and

now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

from The Emergency Poet edited by Deborah Alma, published by Michael O’Mara Books 2015

Ali

hosts Poetry Breakfast at Aardvark Books

Elizabeth chose:

May Day  by Tess Taylor       

Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood  by William Wordsworth 

Elizabeth picked out verse X, see opposite

and The Green Linnet by William Wordsworth

Thank you for these choices, Elizabeth

Thank you so much for this incredible photograph ~ Andrew Fusek Peters

Then sing, ye Birds, sing, sing a joyous song!

                      And let the young Lambs bound

                      As to the tabor’s sound!

We in thought will join your throng,

                      Ye that pipe and ye that play,

                      Ye that through your hearts to-day

                      Feel the gladness of the May!

What though the radiance which was once so bright

Be now for ever taken from my sight,

                Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;

                      We will grieve not, rather find

                      Strength in what remains behind;

                      In the primal sympathy

                      Which having been must ever be;

                      In the soothing thoughts that spring

                      Out of human suffering;

                      In the faith that looks through death,

In years that bring the philosophic mind.

Christine chose Green by DH Lawrence

Hilary chose Moonlit Apples by John Drinkwater

Carol chose Canal Bank Walk by Patrick Kavanagh  and The Passionate Shepherd to His Love by Christopher Marlowe

Alex chose The Herefordshire Carol by Geoffrey Hill  

This reminds me that spring isn’t the only green month and I know what he means about the green of winter.

Alex also chose The Bright Field by RS Thomas from her Collected Poems edited by Anthony Thwaite, Everyman

It doesn’t actually use the word Green but it is about a field in Wales so I think that the field must be very green indeed.

Tim chose

Eat Your Greens, Miranda by Paul Bright

Eat your greens, Miranda,

Like a sensible young girl.

They’ll put colour in your cheeks

And make your hair begin to curl.

They’re good for your complexion,

They help you see at night.

Whatever’s wrong, I tell you

Eating greens will put it right.

For an end to global warming

Eat your greens – it just can’t fail.

You can mend the ozone layer,

You can help to save the whale.

There’ll be global peace and harmony

Before you reach your teens.

You can save the world, Miranda,

If you’ll only eat your greens!

First published in Parents Keep Out!, edited by Brian Moses, Published by Macmillan, 2001.

Tim also chose Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. He says

Of course it’s one of the best known, or known-of, classical English poems, and rightly so. I don’t think it uses the word “green” once. But read it through, all through (it’s long) and see if you don’t find that the whole scene in your mind’s eye has a background of green, all the green shades of the English countryside. It’s a key to what the poem evokes. (In any case it’s a wonderful poem to revisit!). 

This painting was made by our dear friend and neighbour for the last twenty years, Paula Williamson.

I do hope you have enjoyed your Poetry Breakfast ~ at home.  Please feel free to add poems, comments or suggestions in the comments box below.  Till next time …

12 Comments

  1. Carol Caffrey (Witherow)

    My, what riches! This is the first of the “At Home” breakfasts that I’ve managed to catch and there is enough here to keep me going for a week, never mind catching up wth past editions. To hear John Gielgud and Richard Burton again was such a delight. Fern HIll, one of my favourites. Tender, humorous and powerful poems from the fabulous guests. Wonderful choices from everyone. This has been a little miracle of quiet and reflection in the maelstrom. Anna Dreda I don’t know how you have time to put all this together, to keep all of us together, but you do. Such a beautiful creation, with the photos and the links and the surprises… Just marvellous, like opening a gorgeous book. Thank you so much. It really is the next best thing to being together in the coffee shop for our usual breakfasts. I’m now going to pour myself another cup and delve in once again. Thank you again and love to everyone.

    Reply
    • Anna Dreda

      Thank you so much Carol – you’ve made me cry!

      Reply
  2. Alex Hiam

    I loved Steve’s poem – I have just played it to my husband, who is about to retire from teaching and is missing out on his chance to see the end results of his labours. A surprising number of the poems encourage us to think of mortality, so Larkin’s Trees cheered me up!

    Reply
    • Anna Dreda

      That must be so hard for your husband – glad Steve’s poem helped and that the Trees have been cheering you!

      Reply
  3. Gill McEvoy

    THis is lovely; I’m so glad Hilary chose Moonlit Apples, it’s sensually delicious! I was also very glad to see Canal Bank Walk as I am very fond of Patrick Kavanagh’s poems. Indeed all the poems were a joy to read, and I am so pleased to be part of this. Well done Anna!

    Reply
    • Anna Dreda

      Thank you Gill, very happy you were a part of it! Anna x

      Reply
  4. Hilary

    Ali’s choice of Fern Hill gave me goosebumps of pleasure. It also made me dig out Richard Burton and others reading Under Milk Wood on CD which I was given as a birthday present some time back and which I am now going to listen to.

    Reply
    • Anna Dreda

      Oh! What a treat – enjoy it, Hilary! Anna x

      Reply
  5. Hilary

    I loved Fern by Alison Brackenbury. I could absolutely picture the cottage, the garden, the beauty of it but it was for me a poem so tinged with loneliness and unfulfilled dreams. Wonderful!

    Reply
    • Anna Dreda

      So glad you liked it Hilary – it is a lovely poem. Anna x

      Reply
  6. Pauline Prior-Pitt

    I loved Fern, by Alison. For some reason it reminded me of the bachelor crofters who live here, sometimes with their sisters, often alone. Also the EE cummings. Thought Adrienne Rich was amazing and daring!
    I should have been working this morning, but have spent the last hour entranced by these poems. Thank you so much Anna

    Reply
    • Anna Dreda

      I’m so glad it diverted you Pauline! I’ve spent the morning working on the next post! Lots of love, Anna x

      Reply

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