All 9 entries tagged Favourite Poems

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March 08, 2007

From 'The Sunstroke Sonnets' by Robert Minhinnick

Robert Minhinnick

No. 3

This is a bad mirror.
It shows someone who is not myself.
Vague and pulsing in its chrysalis.

Go out. A man draws a net
From the bay, the fish stretched
Like an alphabet over its staves.

In the bars language and music
Make a space for themselves.
White walls, black coffee:
Across the air the mosquitoes’ barbed wire.

So a dish of bread, the parching wine,
And the rubbish falls a thousand feet,
Tins and fire and polythene
Over the island into the sea.

[from The Looters(1989)]

February 27, 2007

'Dolphin' by Robert Lowell

Robert Lowell

My Dolphin, you only guide me by surprise,
a captive as Racine, the man of craft,
drawn through his maze of iron composition
by the incomparable wandering voice of Phèdre.
When I was troubled in mind, you made for my body
caught in its hangman’s-knot of sinking lines,
the glassy bowing and scraping of my will. . . .
I have sat and listened to too many
words of the collaborating muse,
and plotted perhaps too freely with my life,
not avoiding injury to others,
not avoiding injury to myself—
to ask compassion . . . this book, half fiction,
an eelnet made by man for the eel fighting—

my eyes have seen what my hand did.

(From Collected Poems )

July 26, 2006

The Shirt of a Lad: Anonymous Poem trans. Tony Conran

As I did the washing one day
Under the bridge at Aberteifi,
and a golden stick to drub it,
And my sweetheart's shirt beneath it –
A knight came by on a charger,
Proud and swift and broad of shoulder,
And he asked if I would sell
The shirt of the lad that I loved so well.

No, I said, I will not trade –
Not if a hundred pounds were paid;
not if two hillsides I could keep
Full with wethers and white sheep;
Not if two fields of oxen
Under yoke were in the bargain;
Not if the herbs of all Llandewi,
Trodden and pressed were offered to me –
Not for the like of that I'd sell
The shirt of the lad that I love well.

July 21, 2006

Poem by Marina Tsvetayeva for Parted Lovers (trans Elaine Feinstein)

Marina Tsvetaeva

I leave for a writing retreat in North Wales tomorrow where I will keep this poem in mind.

No one has taken anything away

No one has taken away anything—–
there is a sweetness for me in being apart.
I kiss you now across the many
hundreds of miles that separate us.

I know: our gifts are unequal, which is
why my voice is—–quiet, for the first time.
What can my untutored verse
matter to you, a young Derzhavin?

For your terrible flight I give you blessing.
Fly, then, young eagle! You
have stared into the sun, without blinking.
Can my young gaze be too heavy for you?

No one has ever stared more
tenderly or more fixedly after you…
I kiss you—–across hundreds of
separating years.


Marina Tsvetayeva, Selected Poems , trans. Elaine Feinstein (London: Hutchinson, 1986), p. 3–4.

July 20, 2006

Passages from the Bible

Some passages from the Bible have been playing on my mind recently. First these sections from the Song of Songs, the Song of Solomon.

Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions' dens, from the mountains of the leopards. Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck. How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices! Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon. A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard, Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices: A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon. Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.

I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved. I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night. I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them? My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him. I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock. I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer. The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me. I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love. What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us? My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven. His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set. His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh. His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

Sad here that the woman is punished for her hesitation (see part in bold). She hesitates when having to open her self to an other and suffers as consequence – when the moment of confrontation comes her 'soul' fails her and the lover disappears. When she searches for him, tries to reach him, it is impossible and as a result she is beaten and humiliated. The moment is lost and perhaps the watchmen represent the passing of time or her conscience.

Also this from Revelations…

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

I have written from the Song of Songs before in 'The Jewel Box' for example:

The Jewel Box

A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.
óSong of Solomon 4:12

I become a closed gardd, collapsing castell. Yet hear that!
A knock at my clogwyn: a boda reach of nesting thatch,
brim of ewinedd, esgyrn or dannedd. Remember the rivet grip and
the maharen. My lover is a pauper to whom I gift my fingers
as music for speaking and silence; yet I am a milwr.
I do not beg for fleshly talk, a luxurious bed: muscling
in a square room, I bring love. Who is that there raveling in
the closed garden? The maharen, who will have my purse, brings
a pearl and a boy knock–knocks at humming piano keys.
My love is the thrum of brown nightingale, for he sings
the bell of me and recalls begging entry. Who shall enter?
Remember the gweddw: she, of knitting or dam, spindles
at my door. But who will come in? My love knocks at pearl
and purse; yet I am a square room with such long lessons
in my fingers, tokens of paupers. But still a knock–knock
at eryr defiance, at a boda reach. Now will you not come in?
A pauper without, I tap at doorframes and windowpanes.

Some of the Welsh Words

boda: buzzard
maharen: ram
milwr: soldier
eryr: eagle

September 23, 2005

Aztec Response to Cortez (in Keen p. 37)

Follow-up to Aztec Poem 2 (in Keen p. 41) from The Midnight Heart

It is not enouhh that we have already lost,
that our way of life has been taken away,
has been annihilated.

Were we to remain in this place,
we could be prisoners.
Do with us
as you please.

This is all that we answer,
that we reply,
to your breath,
to your words.
Oh, our Lords.

Aztec Poem 2 (in Keen p. 41)

Follow-up to Poem from Ancient City of Huexotzinco (in Keen, 42) from The Midnight Heart

Now let the Eagle knights and Jaguar knights embrace oh princes!
The shields make a great din,
ready is the company that must make prisoners!
Through our efforts alone are the flowers of war stained and moved to and fro!
It is time to give pleasure to the god.

Poem from Ancient City of Huexotzinco (in Keen, 42)

Follow-up to Aztec Poem (in Keen, 41) from The Midnight Heart

Besieged, hated
would be the city of Huexotzinco,
if it were surrounded by cactus,
if it were ringed with thorny arrows.

The kettledrum, the conch shell,
are heard in thy house,
they remain in Huexotzinco.
There is Tecayehuatzin
there is Lord Quecehuatl
plays the flute and sings
in his house at Huexotzinco.
Hither descends our father the god.
Here is his house,
where in is the jaguar drum,
where the songs have endured
to the sound of kettle drums.

Aztec Poem (in Keen, 41)

Follow-up to Research at Na Bolom from The Midnight Heart

There is nothing like death in war,
nothing like flowery death
so precious to the Giver of Life:
far off I see it: my heart yearns for it.


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