The Winter After Your Death

by Sharon Olds

The Winter After Your DeathThe long bands of mellow light

across the snow

narrow slowly.

The sun closes her gold fan

and nothing is left but black and white–

the quick steam of my breath, the dead

accurate shapes of the weeds, still, as if

pressed in an album.

Deep in my body my green heart

turns, and thinks of you. Deep in the

pond, under the thick trap

door of ice, the water moves,

the carp hangs like a sun, its scarlet

heart visible in its side.

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Forget-Me-Nots

Forget-Me-Nots

Jean Starr Untermeyer

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.
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Further still we sauntered under old trees that bended with

         such a dignity

But hardly acknowledged our passing

Until at last—(and it was like a gift,

A treasure lifted from a dream of the past)

We came to a pond banded in lindens.
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The bank curved under its crown of forget-me-nots;

They shone like blue jewels from the further shore.

And they were free! I could have had them all

To father and to carry in my arms!

But I took only a few,

Seven blue gems,

To set in the gold of my memory.

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The Secret

John Clare

I loved thee, though I told thee not,

Right earlily and long,

Thou wert my joy in every spot,

My theme in every song.
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And when I saw a stranger face

Where beauty held the claim,

I gave it like a secret grace

The being of thy name.
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And all the charms of face or voice

Which I in others see

Are but the recollected choice
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Of what I felt for thee.
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John_ClareThis 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.

Read the short analysis of this poem

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Brent

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?
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From The Irish Times:

BrentLaura 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.

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SINGULARITY

by Marie Howe

         (after Stephen Hawking)

SINGULARITYDo you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity

we once were?
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so compact nobody

needed a bed, or food or money —
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nobody hiding in the school bathroom

or home alone
.
pulling open the drawer

where the pills are kept.
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For every atom belonging to me as good

Belongs to you.   Remember?
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There was no   Nature.    No

them.   No tests
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to determine if the elephant

grieves her calf    or if.
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the coral reef feels pain.    Trashed

oceans don’t speak English or Farsi or French;
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would that we could wake up   to what we were

— when we were ocean    and before that
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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.
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Can molecules recall it?

what once was?    before anything happened?
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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

 

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Poetry, painting and the world of Christopher Wood

Matthew Sperling

Poetry, painting and the world of Christopher WoodUt 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.
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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.

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“The Darkness and the Light Are Both Alike to Thee”

Psalms 139:12

Anthony Hecht

The Darkness and the LightLike 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.
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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,
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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.

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Seamus Heaney, our dad the poet, by Catherine, Chris and Mick Heaney

For his family, choosing 100 poems from a long career, was weighted with memories

Deirdre Falvey

Seamus Heaney, our dad the poet, by Catherine, Chris and Mick HeaneyFive 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.
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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.”

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Poetry in the age of Brexit

David Wheatley reflects on the lyricism of slurry

Poetry in the age of BrexitReturning to Scotland via Belfast shortly after the Brexit vote in 2016, I was amused to read a local news story about a malfunctioning slurry tanker in Crossgar, which resulted in random passers-by being sprayed with copious amounts of manure. Even at the time, this struck me as an over-obvious analogy for the resurgent English nationalism about to descend like a pall (of slurry) over Britain and Northern Ireland. Naturally then, when invited by Ágnes Lehóczky and JT Welsch to contribute to Wretched Strangers, an anthology of poetry written in the shadow of Brexit, it was the first thing I turned to, providing just the scabrous grotesquery I wanted.
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The thought of political poetry riles and overexcites people in equal measures, particularly when Shelley’s famous line that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world” puts in an appearance. We hate poetry with a palpable design on us, said Keats, yet politics often introduces a strange double standard here. When Larkin says “Life is first boredom, then fear”, we are aware that life can be many other things too, and make allowances for the line being spoken in character. But when Michael Hartnett says “The act of poetry is a rebel act”, readers will often, depending on their politics, mentally head off to the nearest barricade or place a disgusted call to (poetry) Crimestoppers. Why do we not extend the same courtesy to this line that we do to Larkin’s?

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A Critic Sells Books Down by the Seashore

A bookstore in the village of Wigtown, Scotland, allows people to run the shop while renting an apartment upstairs. A book critic for The Times recently took his turn at the till.

By Dwight Garner

A Critic Sells BooksWIGTOWN, Scotland — Isak Dinesen had a farm in Africa. Recently, if only for a day, I had a bookstore in Scotland.
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It wasn’t easy to get to Wigtown, in the remote Dumfries and Galloway region of Scotland, in time for my shift. Though the village is only a two-hour drive from Glasgow, a GPS sent me through 33 miles of the desolately beautiful Galloway Forest Park on a single-track road that rattled the nerves.
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The nerve rattling was compounded because I was driving on the “wrong” side of the road and with a stick shift installed on my left rather than my right. This felt like trying to use a mortar and pestle with my good arm tied behind my back. While in oncoming traffic.
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It is worth getting to Wigtown, population 1,000, however. It is lush and green and smells of the nearby sea. It is Scotland’s national book town, its Hay-on-Wye. With a dozen used bookstores tucked into its small downtown, it is a literary traveler’s Elysium.

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