Archive for Poetry

Lock Me Away

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on August 14, 2015 by telescoper

In the NHS psychiatric test
For classifying the mentally ill
You have to spell ‘world’ backwards.
Since I heard this, I can’t stop doing it.
The first time I tried pronouncing the results
I got a sudden flaring picture
Of Danny La Rue in short pants
With his mouth full of marshmallows.
He was giving his initial and surname
To a new schoolteacher.
Now every time I read the Guardian
I find its columns populated
By a thousand mumbling drag queens.
Why, though, do I never think
Of a French film composer
(Georges Delerue, pupil of
Darius Milhaud, composed the waltz
In Hiroshima, Mon Amour)
Identifying himself to a policeman
After being beaten up?
But can I truly say I never think of it
After I’ve just thought of it?
Maybe I’m going stun:
Dam, dab and dangerous to wonk.
You realise this ward you’ve led me into
Spelled backwards is the cloudy draw
Of the ghost-riders in the sky?
Listen to this palindrome
And tell me that it’s not my ticket out.
Able was I ere I saw Elba.
Do you know who I am, Dr La Rue?

by Clive James

The Small Window

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on July 28, 2015 by telescoper

In Wales there are jewels
To gather, but with the eye
Only. A hill lights up
Suddenly; a field trembles
With colour and goes out
In its turn; in one day
You can witness the extent
Of the spectrum and grow rich
With looking. Have a care;
The wealth is for the few
And chosen. Those who crowd
A small window dirty it
With their breathing, though sublime
And inexhaustible the view.

by R.S. Thomas (1913-2000)

Verity

Posted in Cricket, Poetry with tags , , , on July 23, 2015 by telescoper

Something rather different from my usual poetry postings. This poem was written in memory of celebrated cricketer Hedley Verity, who was wounded in action in Caserta, Sicily and taken prisoner; he later died of his wounds in a Prisoner-of-War camp at the age of 38. It was a tragic end to a life that had given so much to the world of cricket.

The following is a brief account of his playing career taken from the website where I found the poem. You can find a longer biography here.

Verity was born in 1905 within sight of Headingley Cricket Ground. It seems strange to think that Verity was originally turned down by Yorkshire at trials in 1926, but he was eventually given a chance by the county in 1930 and, of course, became a fixture until the start of the war. He was the natural successor to that other great Yorkshire left-arm spinner, Wilfred Rhodes, whose career drew to a close in 1930 after an amazing 883 games for the county. Verity was never going to get close – Hitler saw to that – but he did turn out for Yorkshire 278 times and in that time he produced some remarkable bowling analyses.

In 1931 he took ten for 36 off 18.4 overs against Warwickshire at Leeds, but incredibly he bettered these figures the following season by taking ten for ten in 19.4 overs against Nottinghamshire, also at Headingley. They remain the county’s best bowling figures for an innings while Verity’s 17 for 91 against Essex at Leyton in 1933 remain Yorkshire’s best bowling in a match. Verity claimed nine wickets in an innings seven times for Yorkshire. He took 100 wickets in a season nine times and took 200 wickets in three consecutive seasons between 1935-37. He ended with 1,956 first-class wickets at an average of 14.9, took five wickets in an innings 164 times and ten wickets in a match 54 times. On 1 September, 1939, in the last first-class match before war was declared, he took seven for nine at Hove against Sussex.

The year after he first appeared for Yorkshire, Verity made his England debut against New Zealand at The Oval, finishing the game with four wickets. After that summer he was ignored until 1932/33, the Bodyline Series, in which he took 11 wickets, including Bradman twice. By the time his career was over, Verity had dismissed Bradman ten times, a figure matched only by Grimmett. As with his domestic career, Verity’s international performances threw up some astonishing bowling figures. He took eight for 43 and finished with match figures of 15 for 104 against Australia at Lord’s in 1934. His stamina was demonstrated during the 1938-39 tour of South Africa when he bowled 95.6 eight-ball overs in an innings at Durban, taking four for 184. By the time war arrived, Verity had taken 144 wickets at an average of 24.37.

During the war he was a captain in the Green Howards. He sustained his wounds in the battle of Catania in Sicily and died on 31 July, 1943. His grave is at Caserta Military Cemetery, some 16 miles from Naples.

Ironically, the poet, Drummond Allison, was also killed in action during World War 2.

The ruth and truth you taught have come full-circle
On that fell island all whose history lies,
Far now from Bramhall Lane and far from Scarborough
You recollect how foolish are the wise.

On this great ground more marvellous than Lord’s
– Time takes more spin than nineteen thirty four –
You face at last that vast that Bradman-shaming
Batsman whose cuts obey no natural law.

Run up again, as gravely smile as ever,
Veer without fear your left unlucky arm
In His so dark direction, but no length
However lovely can disturb the harm
That is His style, defer the winning drive
Or shake the crowd from their uproarious calm.

by Drummond Allison (1921-1943).

I know I am but summer to your heart

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on July 1, 2015 by telescoper

I know I am but summer to your heart,
And not the full four seasons of the year;
And you must welcome from another part
Such noble moods as are not mine, my dear.
No gracious weight of golden fruits to sell
Have I, nor any wise and wintry thing;
And I have loved you all too long and well
To carry still the high sweet breast of Spring.
Wherefore I say: O love, as summer goes,
I must be gone, steal forth with silent drums,
That you may hail anew the bird and rose
When I come back to you, as summer comes.
Else will you seek, at some not distant time,
Even your summer in another clime.

by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

Night Sky

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on May 30, 2015 by telescoper

What they are saying is
that there is life there, too:
that the universe is the size it is
to enable us to catch up.

They have gone on from the human:
that shining is a reflection
of their intelligence. Godhead
is the colonisation by mind

of untenanted space. It is its own
light, a statement beyond language
of conceptual truth. Every night
is a rinsing myself of the darkness

that is in my veins. I let the stars inject me
with fire, silent as it is far,
but certain in its cauterising
of my despair. I am a slow

traveller, but there is more than time
to arrive. Resting in the intervals
of my breathing, I pick up the signals
relayed to me from a periphery I comprehend.

by R.S. Thomas (1913-2000)

Dust, by Phyllis King

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on May 19, 2015 by telescoper

I do not know what dust is.
I do not know where it comes from.
I only know that it settles on things.
I cannot see it in the air or watch it fall.
Sometimes I’m home all day
But I never see it sliding about looking for a place to rest when my back is turned.
Does it wait ’til I go out?
Or does it happen in the night when I go to sleep?
Dust is not fussy about the places it chooses
Though it seems to prefer still objects.
Sometimes, out of kindness, I let it lie for weeks.
On some places it will lie forever
However, dust holds no grudges and once removed
It will always return in a friendly way.

by Phyllis April King

The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler

Posted in Music, Poetry with tags , , , , on May 14, 2015 by telescoper

Now fully in Brighton Festival mode, last night I went to the Theatre Royal for the first night (and indeed the English premiere) of The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler, which continues until Saturday at the same venue. The show is a collaboration between Vanishing Point and the National Theatre of Scotland and continues at the Theatre Royal until Sunday (17th May).

If you don’t know who Ivor Cutler was, he was a Scottish poet and songwriter who gained a cult following through his many appearances on BBC Radio programmes, notably with John Peel. I was introduced to him by an undergraduate friend of mine, Richard Allen, himself a Scot, who loved Ivor Cutler’s poetry and had many cassette tapes of performances by the poet in which he either spoke the poems or sang them to a musical accompaniment, often a harmonium. I loved listening to Ivor Cutler’s voice on these recordings, which added an extra dimension of lugubriousness to the whimsical and at times downright bizarrely comic verses. Many of his poems are about the various bizarre ways in which people try (and usually fail) to communicate with each other. Some of these are joyously silly but they also, like the very best jokes,  convey quite profound things about the limitations of language. Here, for example, is Ivor Cutler’s inimitable hymn to the joy of Morse Code:

Little Black Buzzer is one of the pieces included in The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler, but the show is far more than a collection of the poet’s work. It’s also an exploration and celebration of the life of one of the great eccentrics, from his impoverished childhood, through his period of critical and popular success, his long relationship with another poet, Phyllis King , and his old age in which he suffered from dementia, arthritis and Parkinson’s disease. Music and poetry, life and death, joy and sadness, comedy and tragedy are all woven together in a fitting tribute to a unique individual who lived an extraordinary life.

I don’t need to describe the production in detail because there’s a video trailer that gives a very accurate idea:

My verdict on The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler is that it’s the best thing I’ve seen in a theatre for decades. If you’re in Brighton then get yourself to the Theatre Royal and see this show. You won’t regret it.

P.S. The Beautiful Cosmos of the title comes from this poem, which I have posted before:

You are the centre of your little world
and I am of mine.
No one again we meet for tea
we’re two of a kind.

This is our universe…
cups of tea.
We have a beautiful cosmos,
you and me.
We have a beautiful cosmos.

What do we talk of whenever we meet:
nothing at all.
You sit with a sandwich,
I look at a roll.
Sometimes I open my mouth,
then shut it.

We have a beautiful cosmos,
you and me.
We have a beautiful cosmos.

You are the centre of your little world
and I am of mine.
No one again we meet for tea
we’re two of a kind.

This is our universe…
cups of tea.
We have a beautiful cosmos,
you and me.
We have a beautiful cosmos.

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