Category Archives: Poem of the Week

Poem of the Week #22: Adam’s Curse (Yeats)

We sat together at one summer’s end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.’

. . . . . . . . . And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There’s many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, ‘To be born woman is to know-
Although they do not talk of it at school-
That we must labour to be beautiful.’

I said, ‘It’s certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
Precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.’

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.

I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poem of the Week

Poem of the Week #21: Excuses (Bukowski)

once again

I hear of somebody who is going to

settle down and

do their work,

painting or writing or whatever,

as soon as they get a better light

installed,

or as soon as they move to a new

city,

or as soon as they come back from the trip they

have been planning,

or as soon as…

it’s simple; they just don’t want

to do it,

or they can’t do it,

otherwise they’d feel a burning

itch from hell

they could not ignore

and “soon”

would turn quickly into

“now.”

2 Comments

Filed under Poem of the Week, Writing

Poem of the Week #20: The Art of Poetry (Borges)

On a related note to my ponderings below about the craft of writing

The Art of Poetry (Jorge Luis Borges)

To gaze at a river made of time and water
and remember Time is another river.
To know we stray like a river
and our faces vanish like water.

To feel that waking is another dream
that dreams of not dreaming and that the death
we fear in our bones is the death
that every night we call a dream.

To see in every day and year a symbol
of all the days of man and his years,
and convert the outrage of the years
into a music, a sound, and a symbol.

To see in death a dream, in the sunset
a golden sadnesssuch is poetry,
humble and immortal, poetry,
returning, like dawn and the sunset.

Sometimes at evening there’s a face
that sees us from the deeps of a mirror.
Art must be that sort of mirror,
disclosing to each of us his face.

They say Ulysses, wearied of wonders,
wept with love on seeing Ithaca,
humble and green. Art is that Ithaca,
a green eternity, not wonders.

Art is endless like a river flowing,
passing, yet remaining, a mirror to the same
inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
and yet another, like the river flowing.

3 Comments

Filed under Poem of the Week, Writing

Poem of the Week #19: Cuchulan’s Fight With The Sea

Cuchulan’s Fight With The Sea (Yeats)

A man came slowly from the setting sun,
To Emer, raddling raiment in her dun,
And said, ‘I am that swineherd whom you bid
Go watch the road between the wood and tide,
But now I have no need to watch it more.’

Then Emer cast the web upon the floor,
And raising arms all raddled with the dye,
Parted her lips with a loud sudden cry.

That swineherd stared upon her face and said,
‘No man alive, no man among the dead,
Has won the gold his cars of battle bring.’

‘But if your master comes home triumphing
Why must you blench and shake from foot to crown?’

Thereon he shook the more and cast him down
Upon the web-heaped floor, and cried his word:
‘With him is one sweet-throated like a bird.’

‘You dare me to my face,’ and thereupon
She smote with raddled fist, and where her son
Herded the cattle came with stumbling feet,
And cried with angry voice, ‘It is not meet
To idle life away, a common herd.’

‘I have long waited, mother, for that word:
But wherefore now?’

‘There is a man to die;
You have the heaviest arm under the sky.’

‘Whether under its daylight or its stars
My father stands amid his battle-cars.’

‘But you have grown to be the taller man.’

‘Yet somewhere under starlight or the sun
My father stands.’

‘Aged, worn out with wars
On foot. on horseback or in battle-cars.’

‘I only ask what way my journey lies,
For He who made you bitter made you wise.’

‘The Red Branch camp in a great company
Between wood’s rim and the horses of the sea.
Go there, and light a camp-fire at wood’s rim;
But tell your name and lineage to him
Whose blade compels, and wait till they have found
Some feasting man that the same oath has bound.’

Among those feasting men Cuchulain dwelt,
And his young sweetheart close beside him knelt,
Stared on the mournful wonder of his eyes,
Even as Spring upon the ancient skies,
And pondered on the glory of his days;
And all around the harp-string told his praise,
And Conchubar, the Red Branch king of kings,
With his own fingers touched the brazen strings.

At last Cuchulain spake, ‘Some man has made
His evening fire amid the leafy shade.
I have often heard him singing to and fro,
I have often heard the sweet sound of his bow.
Seek out what man he is.’

One went and came.
‘He bade me let all know he gives his name
At the sword-point, and waits till we have found
Some feasting man that the same oath has bound.’

Cuchulain cried, ‘I am the only man
Of all this host so bound from childhood on.

After short fighting in the leafy shade,
He spake to the young man, ‘Is there no maid
Who loves you, no white arms to wrap you round,
Or do you long for the dim sleepy ground,
That you have come and dared me to my face?’

‘The dooms of men are in God’s hidden place,’

‘Your head a while seemed like a woman’s head
That I loved once.’

Again the fighting sped,
But now the war-rage in Cuchulain woke,
And through that new blade’s guard the old blade
broke,
And pierced him.

‘Speak before your breath is done.’

‘Cuchulain I, mighty Cuchulain’s son.’

‘I put you from your pain. I can no more.’

While day its burden on to evening bore,
With head bowed on his knees Cuchulain stayed;
Then Conchubar sent that sweet-throated maid,
And she, to win him, his grey hair caressed;
In vain her arms, in vain her soft white breast.
Then Conchubar, the subtlest of all men,
Ranking his Druids round him ten by ten,
Spake thus: ‘Cuchulain will dwell there and brood
For three days more in dreadful quietude,
And then arise, and raving slay us all.
Chaunt in his ear delusions magical,
That he may fight the horses of the sea.’
The Druids took them to their mystery,
And chaunted for three days.

Cuchulain stirred,
Stared on the horses of the sea, and heard
The cars of battle and his own name cried;
And fought with the invulnerable tide.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poem of the Week

Poem of the Week #18: Marina of the Rocks (Elytis)

Poem of the week recommended by my former creative writing guru and poet extraordinaire David Morley

Marina of the Rocks (Odysseus Elytis)

You have a taste of tempest on your lips—But where did you wander
All day long in the hard reverie of stone and sea?
An eagle-bearing wind stripped the hills
Stripped your longing to the bone
And the pupils of your eyes received the message of chimera
Spotting memory with foam!
Where is the familiar slope of short September
On the red earth where you played, looking down
At the broad rows of the other girls
The corners where your friends left armfuls of rosemary.

But where did you wander
All night long in the hard reverie of stone and sea?
I told you to count in the naked water its luminous days
On your back to rejoice in the dawn of things
Or again to wander on yellow plains
With a clover of light on your breast, iambic heroine.

You have a taste of tempest on your lips
And a dress red as blood
Deep in the gold of summer
And the perfume of hyacinths—But where did you wander
Descending toward the shores, the pebbled bays?

There was cold salty seaweed there
But deeper a human feeling that bled
And you opened your arms in astonishment naming it
Climbing lightly to the clearness of the depths
Where your own starfish shone.

Listen. Speech is the prudence of the aged
And time is a passionate sculptor of men
And the sun stands over it, a beast of hope
And you, closer to it, embrace a love
With a bitter taste of tempest on your lips.

It is not for you, blue to the bone, to think of another summer,
For the rivers to change their bed
And take you back to their mother
For you to kiss other cherry trees
Or ride on the northwest wind.

Propped on the rocks, without yesterday or tomorrow,
Facing the dangers of the rocks with a hurricane hairstyle
You will say farewell to the riddle that is yours.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poem of the Week

Poem of the Week #17: As Our Bloods Separate (David Constantine)

Recommended to me by Tom Beyts this one – any other favourite poems will be gratefully received…

As Our Bloods Separate

As our bloods separate the clock resumes,
I hear the wind again as our hearts quieten.
We were a ring: the clock ticked round us.
For that time and the wind was deflected.
The clock pecks everything to the bone.
The wind enters through the broken eyes.
Of houses and through their wide mouths
And scatters the ashes from the hearth.
Sleep. Do not let go my hand.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poem of the Week

Poem of the Week #16: Expenses (Carol Ann Duffy )

New Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy has made her debut with a pithy couplet on the ongoing clusterfuck that is the MP’s expenses saga. Personally, I think everyone has gone a little nuts over this, but if it leads to political reform and weakens the stranglehold the two main parties have on the political system, then happy days.

Expenses

What did we do with the trust of your vote?
Hired a flunky to flush out the moat.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poem of the Week