For Amy Lowell
We walked through garden closes
Languidly, with dragging Sunday feet,
And passed down a long pleached alley,
And could remember, as one remembers in a fairy tale,
Ladies in brocade, and lovers, and musk.
We surprised tall dahlias
That shrugged and turned scarlet faces to the breeze.
I loved thee, though I told thee not,
Right earlily and long,
Thou wert my joy in every spot,
My theme in every song.
And when I saw a stranger face
Where beauty held the claim,
I gave it like a secret grace
The being of thy name.
And all the charms of face or voice
Which I in others see
Are but the recollected choice
Of what I felt for thee.
This little poem by John Clare (1793-1864) is not his most famous, but it’s worth sharing here because it so perfectly puts into words the power of untold love. ‘I loved thee, though I told thee not’: undoubtedly we could all tell a similar story, especially during those powerful years when we’re in the grip of first love.
by Laura McKenna
What then is the signal to go?
The sun low in its arc, the yellowing moss
Or the drift of downy white,
A scrim of ice on tundra pools?
Do you shuffle forward, seaward
Ruffle feathers, ruk ruk, stretch your wings
Out, up? Is it the pull of go,
The push of fly, the open sky
That leads to this, beat on beat,
Over the seas of Baffin Bay
Coasting the fjords of Greenland
Soaring over icecaps, heart pumping
To push, push to three thousand metres
Find the current, to bring you down
The Denmark Strait, to Iceland, a time
At least to feed on eel grass,
Then gather the last reserves,
Fly low, follow the stars? Or is it the sun
That spurs you on, through Atlantic gales
To land at last at Strangford Lough
Or a stretch of Darndale wasteland
To graze with Travellers’ piebalds?
So what went wrong, that brings just one
to Coulagh Bay, in September?
Were your fellows prey to kestrels,
Or hunters’ guns in Iceland
Or did your compass point you here
For a solitary journey’s end?
From The Irish Times:
Laura McKenna lives in Cork where she is completing a novel as part of a Creative Writing PhD at UCC. Her poems have been published in New Irish Writing, The SHOp, and the Irish Examiner among others. She is a past Hennessy Award and Forward Prize nominee and this year she received a commendation in the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize. Her first (unpublished) novel was a winner at the Irish Novel Fair, and longlisted in 2016 for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize and Bath Novel Award. Her short stories have been published in The Litro Anthology of New Fiction, Southword and Banshee and she is a past winner of the Penguin/RTÉ Guideshort story competition.
by Marie Howe
(after Stephen Hawking)
Do you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity
we once were?
so compact nobody
needed a bed, or food or money —
nobody hiding in the school bathroom
or home alone
pulling open the drawer
where the pills are kept.
For every atom belonging to me as good
Belongs to you. Remember?
There was no Nature. No
them. No tests
to determine if the elephant
grieves her calf or if.
the coral reef feels pain. Trashed
oceans don’t speak English or Farsi or French;
would that we could wake up to what we were
— when we were ocean and before that
to when sky was earth, and animal was energy, and rock was
liquid and stars were space and space was not
at all — nothing
before we came to believe humans were so important
before this awful loneliness.
Can molecules recall it?
what once was? before anything happened?
No I, no We, no one. No was
No verb no noun
only a tiny tiny dot brimming with
is is is is is
All everything home
Ut pictura poesis, Horace wrote sometime around the year 19 BC: as is painting, so is poetry. Few ideas have had longer careers in the history of aesthetics than this dictum. It has inspired much elaboration and also much disagreement; the Earl of Shaftesbury huffed and puffed, in his unfinished treatise of 1712, Plastics, to say that ‘comparisons and parallels between painting and poetry’ are ‘almost ever absurd and at best lame, constrained and defective’. He did little to slow such comparisons down.
The parallel between painting and poetry has also encouraged close relations between the two arts. A very small number of people have achieved great things in both (Michelangelo, William Blake, David Jones), but many more have mastered one art while aspiring to the condition of the other. Since poetry, which takes place in language, is a fundamentally temporal art, and painting, which takes place in form and colour, is a fundamentally spatial one, interesting things happen when they collide.
Like trailing silks, the light
Hangs in the olive trees
As the pale wine of day
Drains to its very lees:
Huge presences of gray
Rise up, and then it’s night.
Distantly lights go on.
Scattered like fallen sparks
Bedded in peat, they seem
Set in the plushest darks
Until a timid gleam
Of matins turns them wan,
Like the elderly and frail
Who’ve lasted through the night,
Cold brows and silent lips,
For whom the rising light
Entails their own eclipse,
Brightening as they fall.
For his family, choosing 100 poems from a long career, was weighted with memories
Five years after the jolt of Seamus Heaney’s unexpected death we are back at a moment. Back with Heaney, whose poems resonate with the rhythm of the lives of those he touched – casual reader, familiar student, his close-knit family. The public, the private; at this moment, two interlinked events. Nobel laureate and beloved public figure; family man and generous friend. The archive of work he donated to the National Library of Ireland in 2011 is being spun into a significant exhibition. And his family – his wife, Marie, and three children, Mick, Chris and Catherine, long adults now – have chosen 100 poems from his life’s work for a collection. Because they have made the selection, the poems echo publicly and privately. This is a moment all right, after an interval, luxuriating in his words.
Mick Heaney, who is also this newspaper’s radio critic, talks about looking at his father’s poems again and making these choices now. “To the general reader, which would include me in poetry terms, 100 poems has you well covered. But also, in the process, a poem can spark different things, and you can be drawn in for different reasons.”