Tag: poet

Our swan sister: white, black, golden

Sunday, 9 April, 2017 0 Comments

“The people who live in a golden age usually go around complaining how yellow everything looks,” said Randall Jarrell, the American poet, critic, essayist and novelist. In The Black Swan, Jarrell explored the colours of the swan spectrum. Excerpt:

When the swans turned my sister into a swan
I would go to the lake, at night, from milking:
The sun would look out through the reeds like a swan,
A swan’s red beak; and the beak would open
And inside there was darkness, the stars and the moon.

Randall Jarrell (1914 – 1965)

Cork Swan


The woman in the lake

Tuesday, 4 April, 2017 0 Comments

“The tide will take you, or the lake will accept it all
as you sink toward the weedy disarray of the bottom,
leaving behind what you have already forgotten,
the surface, now overrun with the high travel of clouds.”

The Art Of Drowning by Billy Collins

The lake


Winter Trees

Wednesday, 4 January, 2017 0 Comments

Although he respected the work of T.S Eliot, William Carlos Williams was critical of Eliot’s highbrow style with its use of foreign languages and allusions to classical literature. Instead, Williams preferred colloquial American English.

Winter Trees

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

William Carlos Williams (1883 – 1963)

Cullane winter


Two more sleeps to Christmas

Friday, 23 December, 2016 0 Comments

“2 More Sleeps”. That’s how John Cummins terms the countdown to Christmas Day at this late stage of the season. Cummins is a “Poetician” and “Dublineez” is his language.

Before turning to poetry, professional football was John’s game but it came to bad end during his days with 1860 Munich, as he told Breffni Cummiskey. Snippet:

“I played football to a fairly high standard. I was over at Arsenal briefly as a kid. Had a trial. Then during my decade living in Germany I played for 1860 Munich. I’d a couple of serious injuries and that was it. On my 21st birthday actually, in 1994. I was on a pre-season thing to Austria. It was before the World Cup. I went up for a header and woke up in hospital. I had been knocked out and fell awkwardly and snapped all my ligaments in my left ankle. That was the guts of a year out. Six months on crutches. I got fucked over by them during that time. 1860 Munich sent me the hospital bill to pay. I couldn’t afford it.”


Allingham: The fullness and emptiness of writing

Friday, 18 November, 2016 0 Comments

Many an eerie Hallowe’en night is still graced with a reading of The Fairies by William Allingham, which begins:

“Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a-hunting
For fear of little men.”

William Allingham, who died on this day in 1889, was an Irish poet and chronicler best known for his Diary, in which he recorded his encounters with Tennyson, Carlyle and other 19th-century writers. For Allingham, the act of writing was double edged.

Writing

“A man who keeps a diary, pays
Due toll to many tedious days;
But life becomes eventful — then
His busy hand forgets the pen.
Most books, indeed, are records less
Of fullness than of emptiness.”

William Allingham (1824 – 1889)


Ko Un can win

Wednesday, 12 October, 2016 0 Comments

The Samsung catastrophe has made this a very bad week so far for Seoul, but the Nobel Prize in Literature will be awarded tomorrow and, according to Ladbrokes, Ko Un has a 14/1 chance of winning it. The South Korean poet was born on 1 August 1933 and among his works are haiku-like reflections with epigrammatic juxtapositions:

Some say they can recall a thousand years
Some say they have already visited the next thousand years
On a windy day
I am waiting for a bus

Other works, however, are longer. Much longer. There’s his seven-volume epic of the Korean independence movement under Japanese rule, Paektu Mountain, and this is topped by the monumental 30-volume Ten Thousand Lives, which was written during the years 1983–2010 to fulfil a vow Ko Un made during his imprisonment, when he expected to be executed following the coup d’état led by Chun Doo-hwan. If he lived, he swore that every person he had ever met would be remembered with a poem. Ko Un would be a deserving winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, but Japan’s running writer, Haruki Murakami, is our bet at 5/1.


Hodge and his lexicographer

Sunday, 18 September, 2016 0 Comments

On this day in 1709, Samuel Johnson was born. The poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer spent nine years writing his Dictionary of the English Language, which was published in 1755 and continues to enlighten and amuse: “Oats: a grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.”

The drudgery of lexicography was alleviated somewhat by Hodge, a cat the good doctor loved, and his friend and biographer James Boswell found Johnson’s relationship with Hodge so important that he preserved it for posterity:

“I never shall forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat; for whom he himself used to go out and buy oysters, lest the servants, having that trouble, should take dislike to the poor creature. I am, unluckily one of those who have an antipathy to a cat, so that I am uneasy when in the room with one; and I own, I frequently suffered a good deal from the presences of this same Hodge. I recollect him one day scrambling up Dr. Johnson’s breast, apparently with much satisfaction, while my friend smiling and half-whistling, rubbed down his back, and pulled him by the tail; and when I observed he was a fine cat, saying why, yes, Sir, but I have had cats whom I liked better than this; and then as if perceiving Hodge to be out of countenance, adding, but he is a very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed.”

Hodge is remembered by a bronze statue outside the house at 17 Gough Square in London he shared with Johnson and Barber, Johnson’s black manservant and heir. The statue shows the cat sitting next to a pair of empty oyster shells atop a copy of Johnson’s dictionary, with the inscription “a very fine cat indeed”.

Hodge


All you who sleep tonight

Thursday, 8 September, 2016 0 Comments

“Life is not easy for anyone here. Loss and fear, failure and disappointment, pain and ill-health, doubt and death – even those who have escaped from poverty have no escape from these. What makes life bearable is love – to love, to be loved, and – even after death – to know that you have loved and been loved.” Vikram Seth

The novelist and poet Vikram Seth divides his time between India, England, China and the USA. His most famous work is A Suitable Boy. Published in 1993, the book is one of the longest novels ever printed in the English language with its 1,488 pages and 591,552 words. A sequel, to be called A Suitable Girl, is due for publication next year.

At Evening

All you who sleep tonight
Far from the ones you love,
No hand to left or right
And emptiness above —

Know that you aren’t alone
The whole world shares your tears,
Some for two nights or one,
And some for all their years.

Vikram Seth

Evening candle


Yes, he did.

Friday, 2 September, 2016 0 Comments

On Wednesday, here, our post was about the Irish poet Seamus Heaney, who died on 30 August 2013. As Henry Miller put it in Tropic of Cancer: “In this chthonian world the only thing of importance is orthography and punctuation. It doesn’t matter what the nature of the calamity is, only whether it is spelled right.”

He did


I remembered her head bent towards my head

Tuesday, 30 August, 2016 0 Comments

The poet Seamus Heaney was born on 13 April 1939 in a “one-storey, longish, lowish, thatched and whitewashed farmhouse” in Mossbawn, Co. Derry. He was the eldest of nine children and he grew up in a culture that was “Catholic, folk, rural, Irish”. He died on 30 August 2013 in Dublin, after a short illness.

Seamus Heaney shows us a sepia snapshot here of a mother and her son preparing dinner. It is a simple, almost hum-drum scene, with the silence being broken by “pleasant splashes” of water as their peeled potatoes drop into a bucket. The next sounds we hear are of sobbing and of murmured prayers: “some were responding and some crying”. As his mother dies, Seamus Heaney recalls the peeling of those potatoes “when all the others were away at Mass,” and the beauty of that moment is heartbreaking.

In memoriam M.K.H., 1911 – 1984

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives —
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

Picking the potatoes


Word of the Day: amain

Thursday, 30 June, 2016 0 Comments

On this day in 1666, the English poet Alexander Brome died. A lawyer by profession, he wrote satirical verse in favour of the Royalists and in opposition to the Rump Parliament. Following the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Brome published Songs and other Poems, which contained ballads, epistles, elegies, epitaphs and epigrams.

“Then I’ll fall to loving and drinking amain” is how Brome’s poem The Mad Lover ends. In this context, the archaic word “amain” means with great haste.

The Mad Lover

I have been in love, and in debt, and in drink,
This many and many a year;
And those three are plagues enough, one would think,
For one poor mortal to bear.
‘Twas drink made me fall in love,
And love made me run into debt,
And though I have struggled and struggled and strove,
I cannot get out of them yet.

There’s nothing but money can cure me,
And rid me of all my pain;
‘Twill pay all my debts,
And remove all my lets,
And my mistress, that cannot endure me,
Will love me and love me again, —
Then I’ll fall to loving and drinking amain.

Alexander Brome (1620 – 1666)