All 19 entries tagged Favourite Poems

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June 15, 2007

How to Write Anglo–Welsh Poetry by John Davies

It’s not too late I suppose…
You could sound a Last Post or two,
and if you could get away with saying
what’s been said, then do.

First, apologise for not being able
to speak Welsh. Go on: apologise.
Being Anglo-_any_thing is really tough;
any gaps you can fill with sighs.

And get some roots, juggle name like
Taliesin and ap Gwilym, weave
a Cymric web. It doesn’t matter what
they wrote. Look, let’s not be naive.

Now you can go on about the past
being more real than the present -
you’ve read your early R.S. Thomas,
you know where Welsh Wales went.

Spray place-names around. Caernarfon.
Cwmtwrch. Have perhaps a Swansea
sun marooned in Glamorgan’s troubled
skies; even the weather’s Welsh, see.

But a mining town is best, of course,
for impact, and you’ll know what to say
about Valley Characters, the heart’s dust
and the rest. Read it all up anyway.

A quick reference to cynghanedd
always goes down well; girls are cariad;
myth is in; exile, defeat, hills…
almost anything Welsh and sad.


Style now. Nothing fancy: write
all your messages as prose then chop
them up – it’s how deeply red and green
they bleed that counts. Right, stop.

That’s it, you’ve finished for now -
just brush your poems down: dead, fluffed
things but ayour own almost. Get
them mounted in magazines. Or stuffed.

in Wales: the Imagined Nation, Studies in Cultural and National Identity. Ed. Tony Curtis. Bridgend: Poetry Wales Press, 1986. 66-67.

May 17, 2007

Gwyneth Lewis: ‘Bayeux Tapestry’

King William conquered the British Isles
by griffin and dragon with knots in their tails:
God’s order in the borders of time –
centaurs rampant and leopards tame
with the lambs they slaughtered and the crane
kind to the wolf that killed it. Now a wife
opens her arm in a garden, starts a gale
that impregnates the Normans’ sails
and brings them in force to Pevensey.
Now the peacock and the harpie cry
out so Saxons die and horses fall
while, in the border, ornament is all
and trees are rooted in history
hold birds more real than the sights they see
until the wyverns are put to rout
by human bodies that blot the border out.

May 04, 2007

Billy Collins: Paradelle for Susan

I remember the quick, nervous bird of your love.
I remember the quick, nervous bird of your love.
Always perched on the thinnest, highest branch.
Always perched on the thinnest, highest branch.
Thinnest love, remember the quick branch.
Always nervous, I perched on your highest bird the.

It is time for me to cross the mountain.
It is time for me to cross the mountain.
And find another shore to darken with my pain.
And find another shore to darken with my pain.
Another pain for me to darken the mountain.
And find the time, cross my shore, to with it is to.

The weather warm, the handwriting familiar.
The weather warm, the handwriting familiar.
Your letter flies from my hand into the waters below.
Your letter flies from my hand into the waters below.
The familiar waters below my warm hand.
Into handwriting your weather flies you letter the from the.

I always cross the highest letter, the thinnest bird.
Below the waters of my warm familiar pain,
Another hand to remember your handwriting.
The weather perched for me on the shore.
Quick, your nervous branch flew from love.
Darken the mountain, time and find was my into it was with to to.

NOTE: The paradelle is one of the more demanding French fixed forms, first appearing in the langue d’oc love poetry of the eleventh century. It is a poem of four six-line stanzas in which the first and second lines, as well as the third and fourth lines of the first three stanzas, must be identical. The fifth and sixth lines, which traditionally resolve these stanzas, must use all the words from the preceding lines and only those words. Similarly, the final stanza must use every word from all the preceding stanzas and only those words.

For more on Collins’ joke of the paradelle see its Wikipedia entry:

Muriel Rukeyser: 'Myth'

Long afterward, Oedipus, old and blinded, walked the
roads. He smelled a familiar smell. It was
the Sphinx Oedipus said, “I want to ask one question.
Why didn’t I recognize my mother?” “You gave the
wrong answer,” said the Sphinx “But that was what
made everything possible,” said Oedipus “No,” she said.
“When I asked, What walks on four legs in the morning,
two at noon, and three in the evening, you answered,
Man You didn’t say anything about woman.”
“When you say Man,” said Oedipus, “you include women
too. Everyone knows that.” She said, “That’s what
you think.”

Eavan Boland: 'Irish Poetry'

for Michael Hartnett

We always knew there was no Orpheus in Ireland.
No music stored at the doors of hell.
No god to make it.
No wild beasts to weep and lie down to it.

But I remember an evening when the sky
was underworld-dark at four.

When ice had seized every part of the city
and we sat talking -
the air making a wreath for our cups of tea.

And you began to speak of our own gods.
Our heartbroken pantheon:

No Attic light for them and no Herodotus.
But thin rain and dogfish and the stopgap
of the sharp cliffs
they spent their winters on.

And the pitch-black Atlantic night.
And how the sound
of a bird’s wing in a lost language sounded.

You made the noise for me.
Made it again.
Until I could see the flight of it: suddenly

the silvery, lithe rivers of your south-west
lay down in silence.

And the savage acres no one could predict
were all at ease, soothed and quiet and

listening to you, as I was. As if to music, as if to peace.

April 23, 2007

'This is Just to Say' by William Carlos Williams

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

April 02, 2007

'To the Harbormaster' by Frank O' Hara

I wanted to be sure to reach you;
though my ship was on the way it got caught
in some moorings. I am always tying up
and then deciding to depart. In storms and
at sunset, with the metallic coils of the tide
around my fathomless arms, I am unable
to understand the forms of my vanity
or I am hard alee with my Polish rudder
in my hand and the sun sinking. To
you I offer my hull and the tattered cordage
of my will. The terrible channels where
the wind drives me against the brown lips
of the reeds are not all behind me. Yet
I trust the sanity of my vessel; and
if it sinks, it may well be in answer
to the reasoning of the eternal voices,
the waves which have kept me from reaching you.

In Meditations in an Emergency .

March 29, 2007

From 'Three Moments in Paris' by Mina Loy

I post this poem here for Katy Murr who took an interest in Mina Loy on my teaching blog:

Mina Loy

One O’Clock at Night
Though you have never possessed me
I have belonged to you since the beginning of time
And sleepily I sit on your chair beside you
Leaning against your shoulder
And your careless arm across my back gesticulated
As your indisputable male voice roared
Through my brain and my body
Arguing dynamic decomposition
Of which I understand nothing
And the only less male voice of your brother pugilist of the intellect
Booms as it seemed to me so sleepy
Across an interval of a thousand miles
An interim of a thousand years
But you who make more noise than any man in the world when you clear your throat
Deafening woke me
And I caught the thread of the argument
Immediately assuming my personal mental attitude
And cease to be a woman

Beautiful halfhour of being a mere woman
The animal woman
Understanding nothing of man
But mastery and the security of imparted physical heat
Indifferent to cerebral gymnastics
Or regarding them as the self-indulgent play of children
Or the thunder of alien gods
But you wake me up
Anyhow who am I that I should criticize your theories of plastic velocity

“Let us go home she is tired and wants to go to bed.”

From The Lost Lunar Baedeker.

March 17, 2007

As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Gerard Manley Hopkins

This is a lovely example of what happens when a poet uses cynghanedd in English.

‘As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame’

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Christ—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

March 09, 2007

'The Cwtch' by Kathryn Gray

Writing about web page

Kathryn Gray

Here’s a word for us – strictly untranslatable -
having nothing of the kick of legs and stone as Babel
falls (and because of which you’d never hear in chapel)

from the softer tongue of a woman
who birthed to the world working men,
well-travelled down to black, carrying her pain

upwards in their arms, which unfold
really, never, but keep close that old
word at picket lines, in conversation with the cold,

which some say is “a place for coal, under the stairs”
or this very bundle here, which we’ll bear
along with us on our way to where.

[From The Never-Never (35)]

The Never Never


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