Monday, 10 May 2010

Bring Me The Sunset In A Cup, Or Something...

I should have been a pair of ragged claws. Scuttling across the floors of silent seas. But I’m not. I’m a fucking sub-editor. Scuttling across scores of tiresome screeds and wasting vast swathes of my all-too-brief time on this planet poring over deeply dull, stultifyingly self-important crud.

I don’t want to be a bore about it – I know almost all of us have to endure the gluttonous teeth of the toad work squatting on our glazed faces and sucking out all that is good and vital about life – but today it was particularly irksome. Today, because I had to stay late to finish some especially egregious crud, I missed out on an opportunity to see something I really wanted to see. Something that I suspect might have moved me, and reminded me of the good stuff.

To wit, a recital, with the words of Pablo Neruda read by Charles Dance and set to the music of Astor Piazzola. When Astor Met Pablo it’s called, and it’s happening now. For one night only. My flatmate Imogen got me a ticket. All I had to do was be in Farnham for 8 o’clock. But because the toad was particularly poisonous today, I couldn’t make it.

So I came home, furious, and opened a bottle of wine. Night-coloured wine. Wine with purple feet.

I knew next to nothing about Pablo Neruda until yesterday when I watched Il Postino, and then, still weeping from the film, I found some of his poetry online and quickly realised that he’s awfully, awfully good.

I read a poem of his called Don't Go Far Off, Not Even For A Day and I found myself yearning to be in love, even in unrequited love (although preferably not), and I thought ah, yes… poetry.

I’ve always found poetry a little difficult and I’ve rarely read it for my own pleasure. In fact, I could probably only name half a dozen poets of whom I’ve read more than just a few lines. Probably very predictable stuff too. Let’s see… Philip Larkin, Emily Dickinson, TS Eliot, ee cummings… um… I’m running out. Roger McGough. And aaaaah, Baudelaire. But only one poem. Oh, and a little bit of Keats.

So I have decided, on finding Neruda, on losing Neruda, that I must read more poetry. I think I might be ready. I think I might need it. And not just because in Il Postino, an ignorant man uses it to snag this heavenly creature…

…but partly.

I have also decided – because I started having premonitions of death and I really don’t want to die now, not now – that I shall stop riding my bike to work for the next three weeks. This means I can read poetry again on my commute. (Ugh, what a ghastly word.)

So I need your advice. Which poets should I seek out? (One good thing about work by the way, is that I can go in early and spank seven shades of sycamore out of the printer, so don’t hold back. And if a thousand trees must die in my quest to have the barnacles ripped from my brain and my emotional moorings stripped and scattered on the shore, so be it. You see? I need help.) What poets do you like? Which ones make you cry? I want to cry. Crying is good. As long as there is laughter involved too.

Oh, and Dylan Thomas! I love Dylan Thomas.

So, poetry please... if you'd be so kind.

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gongman said...

Sorry Bète,can't help.Not my bag,man.
Wait!What am I saying.I am soooo stooopid.

Not a poem.That's what threw me.A book.Small.But exquisitely formed.

I must have bought six copies in my life and given them to people who I sensed needed it.


The Prophet.

Khalil Gibran.

These days you don't even need to buy it,just google him.

But a paper copy is a joy to give :)

Some Chilean Woman said...

Be still my Chilean heart. I was learning about Pablo Neruda by age 10! Not too familiar with a lot of poetry though so i am going to pay attention to your comments.

You might also enjoy Isabel Allende, not a poet, but great writing nonetheless.

Charlene said...

Well that's a damn shame you didn't get to go to the show. I read my first Pablo Neruda when given a book of his poetry by a new friend. It had the original Spanish and English translation and I so wished I knew how to read Spanish. While he is known for love poems he has had a darker focus. Whatever you read of him it is worth your time.

A hint for the men; if you want to be a seducer of women, learn poems and store them ready to recite at the appropriate time. Ah how much virtue has been surrendered to a poem?

Our Glamorous Heroine said...

I am completely in love with Dorianne Laux at the moment. Here is one of my favourites:


Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.
Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don't regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You've walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You've traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied
of expectation. Relax. Don't bother remembering
any of it. Let's stop here, under the lit sign
on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.

clumpf said...

Pam Ayres is good. said...

"almost all of us have to endure the gluttonous teeth of the toad work squatting on our glazed faces"

With a turn of phrase as good as this, you should be writing poetry, not reading it!

Zoe said...

I love the poetry of Sophie Hannah

Leaving and Leaving You by Sophie Hannah
When I leave you postcode and your commuting station,
When I left undone all the things we planned to do
You may feel you have been left by association
But there is leaving and leaving you.

When I leave your town and the club that you belong to,
When I leave without much warning or much regret,
Remember, there's doing wrong and there's doing wrong to
You, which I'll never do and I haven't yet,

And when I have gone, remember that in weighing
Everything up, from love to a cheaper rent,
You were all the reasons I thought of staying,
And none of the reasons why I went

And although I leave your sight and I leave your setting,
And our separation is soon to be a fact,
Though you stand beside what I'm leaving and forgetting,
I'm not leaving you, not if motive makes the act.

La Bête said...

Gongman, you surprise me. I thought you'd be like, 'Baudelaire this, Blake that'. Anyway, I shall look out for this Prophet of which you speak. Ooh, it is small, isn't it? I shall print it out on paper, and give it to myself.

Hi, Carla. Have you seen Il Postino then? I'm sure you'd love it.

Hi, Charlene. Yes, I think I need to prepare an arsenal of snippets for when I meet someone called Beatrice, or Gracie, or whatever.

OGH, thanks. I really enjoyed that. Dorianne Laux is on the list.

Clumpf - someone on Twitter suggested Pam Ayres and I kind of thought she might be joking. I guess not. Alright then, I'll see what I can do.

Hello, ninja lady. I didn't hear you come in. And thank you. Ganbarimasu.

La Bête said...

Excellent. Thank you, Zoe. Exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for too. That brought a tingle of poignancy to the corners of my eyes. Sophie Hannah. She's on the list.

Antipo Déesse said...

Victor Hugo's Mes Deux Filles

"In the cool light and dark of sultry nightfall,

One my swan, the other a dove,
Beautiful, and both joyful, o tenderness!

Look! the elder sister and the younger,

On the threshold of the garden, and leaning over them,

From a marble urn, a bouquet of white carnations with long frail stems,

Stirred by the wind, bending to observe them, motionless yet vital,

By the lip of the vase,
Trembling in the shadow,
One would take them for a flight of butterflies fixed in ecstasy."

I also love John Cooper Clarke for his grim humour:

"Like a Night Club in the morning, you’re the bitter end.
Like a recently disinfected shit-house, you’re clean round the bend.

... Like a sucked and spat out Smartie..."

Catofstripes said...

I think you want Byron and I only have AA Milne but I recently read some stuff by Anne Sexton and decided I liked it enough to put on Amazon wish list. So try a little of that if you like.

Anonymous said...

Bonjour La Bête,
Georges Brassens was a brilliant french songwriter. He also put music on other people words.
"Les passantes" is one of his best work, and some english guy had the good idea to translate it.

A deliciously sad and universal song that brings tears to your eyes.
Well, to mine anyway.
Uncle Did

Imogen said...

x x x

phaude said...

John Berryman. He'll probably depress you but it'll be worth it.

emordino said...

That Dorianne Laux poem is so fucking good. Thanks OGH, you made my day.

I've been in the same boat re: getting into poetry. It can be bloody hard getting good recommendations. On a related note, I got a kick out of this.

venture pop said...

For funny - John Hegley, John Cooper Clarke (actually, Hegley can do 'sad' too).

For misanthropy - Philip Larkin, Thomas Hardy (his poems are a lot more delicate than his great huge novels).

For quiet anger - Sylvia Plath (never mind the biographical stuff - she was a splendid word wrangler).

For general excellence - Seamus Heaney, Carol Ann Duffy

Miss K said...

Get an anthology! A good one to have by the bed is "Being Alive", edited by Neil Astley and published by Bloodaxe.

Anonymous said...

Ted Hughes' The Jaguar has always sent a shiver down my spine - something about the ferocity of the last two stanzas.

The apes yawn and adore their fleas in the sun.
The parrots shriek as if they were on fire, or strut
Like cheap tarts to attract the stroller with the nut.
Fatigued with indolence, tiger and lion

Lie still as the sun. The boa-constrictor’s coil
Is a fossil. Cage after cage seems empty, or
Stinks of sleepers from the breathing straw.
It might be painted on a nursery wall.

But who runs like the rest past these arrives
At a cage where the crowd stands, stares, mesmerized,
As a child at a dream, at a jaguar hurrying enraged
Through prison darkness after the drills of his eyes

On a short fierce fuse. Not in boredom—
The eye satisfied to be blind in fire,
By the bang of blood in the brain deaf the ear—
He spins from the bars, but there’s no cage to him

More than to the visionary his cell:
His stride is wildernesses of freedom:
The world rolls under the long thrust of his heel.
Over the cage floor the horizons come.

Anonymous said...


Jenny Kissed Me

by Leigh Hunt

Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in.
Time, you thief! who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in.
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad;
Say that health and wealth have missed me;
Say I'm growing old, but add-
Jenny kissed me!

La Bête said...

Hi Antipo. Not sure I fully appreciated that Hugo poem. It didn’t really move me. I really want to read The Hunchback of Notre Dame though. One day, one day. John Cooper Clarke appeared in The Sopranos – did you see that? Pretty great it was too. Here it is:

I never could get into Byron actually, Stripey, but I do like AA Milne, although I’ve only ever read Pooh I think. I shall check out his poetry forthwith.

Did! Thanks for that. I’ll have to check it out when I get home though.

Moggy! I know that one. X

Phaude, that’s very interesting. I didn’t know him at all. I like the sound of him though – confessional, depressional, jumping off a bridge an’ all! I’m on it. Thanks.

Mordy, hello. I enjoyed that too ‘the failed homosexuals’ of the English department. Ho ho. And this is especially great: ‘used judiciously verse unfurls / certain layers of certain girls’. Thanks for that.

VP, Hegley I read, and really loved, when I was a teenager. Larkin too. Thomas Hardy though – I’ve known a few people who’ve professed to adore his poetry. I really must seek it out. And thanks for the other suggestions too. I think a trip to the library is in order. I don’t think I like Seamus Heaney though. I saw him on the telly once, and he totally lost me.

MissK, I used to have loads and I bloody sold them all. I am an arse. But you’re right, I should get some more. Thanks for the suggestion.

Anonymouses, thanks for those too. I shall be looking into both of those poets. With alacrity.

Thanks, everyone! More please.

venture pop said...

I think the main reason why I put Heaney on the list is this poem:

alskj;lasdja;lsdj said...

I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.

But who shall so forecast the years
And find in loss a gain to match?
Or reach a hand thro’ time to catch
The far-off interest of tears?

Let Love clasp Grief lest both be drown’d,
Let darkness keep her raven gloss:
Ah, sweeter to be drunk with loss,
To dance with death, to beat the ground,

Than that the victor Hours should scorn
The long result of love, and boast,
'Behold the man that loved and lost,
But all he was is overworn.'

It's from Tennyson's 'In Memoriam' which is very, very fucking long. But it's been a comfort to me, this bit, since my heart got broken.

Pueblo girl said...

I think you might enjoy Wislawa Szymborska. Check her out here:

In Praise of Feeling Bad About Yourself
by Wislawa Szymborska - 1976

The buzzard never says it is to blame.
The panther wouldn't know what scruples mean.
When the piranha strikes, it feels no shame.
If snakes had hands, they'd claim their hands were clean.

A jackal doesn't understand remorse.
Lions and lice don't waver in their course.
Why should they, when they know they're right?

Though hearts of killer whales may weigh a ton,
in every other way they're light.

On this third planet of the sun
among the signs of bestiality
a clear conscience is Number One.


Conversation With A Stone
- by Wislawa Szymborska

I knock at the stone's front door.
"It's only me, let me come in.
I want to enter your insides,
have a look round,
breathe my fill of you."

"Go away," says the stone.
"I'm shut tight.
Even if you break me to pieces,
we'll all still be closed.
You can grind us to sand,
we still won't let you in."

I knock at the stone's front door.
"It's only me, let me come in.
I've come out of pure curiosity.
Only life can quench it.
I mean to stroll through your palace,
then go calling on a leaf, a drop of water.
I don't have much time.
My mortality should touch you."

"I'm made of stone," says the stone,
"and must therefore keep a straight face.
Go away.
I don't have the muscles to laugh."

I knock at the stone's front door.
"It's only me, let me come in.
I hear you have great empty halls inside you,
unseen, their beauty in vain,
soundless, not echoing anyone's steps.
Admit you don't know them well yourself."

"Great and empty, true enough," says the stone,
"but there isn't any room.
Beautiful, perhaps, but not to the taste
of your poor senses.
You may get to know me, but you'll never know me through.
My whole surface is turned toward you,
all my insides turned away."

I knock at the stone's front door.
"It's only me, let me come in.
I don't seek refuge for eternity.
I'm not unhappy.
I'm not homeless.
My world is worth returning to.
I'll enter and exit empty-handed.
And my proof I was there
will be only words,
which no one will believe."

"You shall not enter," says the stone.
"You lack the sense of taking part.
No other sense can make up for your missing sense of taking part.
Even sight heightened to become all-seeing
will do you no good without a sense of taking part.
You shall not enter, you have only a sense of what that sense should be,
only its seed, imagination."

I knock at the stone's front door.
"It's only me, let me come in.
I haven't got two thousand centuries,
so let me come under your roof."

"If you don't believe me," says the stone,
"just ask the leaf, it will tell you the same.
Ask a drop of water, it will say what the leaf has said.
And, finally, ask a hair from your own head.
I am bursting with laughter, yes, laughter, vast laughter,
although I don't know how to laugh."

I knock at the stone's front door.
"It's only me, let me come in."

"I don't have a door," says the stone.

Anonymous said...

Try some Maya Angelou.

Here's a poem for those who have ever been broken-hearted and can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. Trust me, one day you will.

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Derek Walcott

clumpf said...

Of course I was joking about Pam Ayres Stan. Now I'm not sure if you're joking.

*stares manically from side to side*

misspiggy said...

Alice Oswald

Wendy Cope

Gerard Manley Hopkins - especially The Windhover and Pied Beauty...

Keats - Ode to Autumn never gets old

ee cummings:



balloonMan whistles

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

ooh I could do this all day!

Anonymous said...

I've always loved John Donne. (Or is it Dunn?) His erotic poems are like a religious experience, and his religious poems are surprisingly erotic.

Maria in Oregon

PS, Sylvia Plath is good too!

Anonymous said...

Oh god yes, Tennyson's In Memoriam. Beautiful:

There rolls the deep where grew the tree.
O earth, what changes hast thou seen!
There, where the long street roars, hath been
The stillness of the central sea.

The hills are shadows, and they flow
From form to form, and nothing stands;
They melt like mist, the solid lands,
Like clouds they shape themselves and go.

But in my spirit will I dwell,
And dream my dream, and hold it true;
For though my lips may breathe adieu,
I cannot think the thing farewell.

Anonymous said...

One of my favourite poems ever is The Highwayman, by Alfred Noyes. A great story, a rollicking rhythmn and a tragic end - a true romantic epic.

Anonymous said...

I love Mid Term Break by Seamus Heaney!

Anonymous said...

Il Postino is a beautiful, beautiful movie. Massimo Troisi died shortly after filming wrapped – the following day, I believe. He never got to see his splendid movie. And on the subject of death…

I bought a book in a charity shop for 30p – possibly 10p. It’s very old, thin, fragile and smells like age. The book is called Quiet Thoughts, by Patience Strong. In it I found a note date 16 April 1940, from Mary of 9 Lockwood Road, SE 16, written in beautiful script, to a woman named Dorothy. It says, among other things: ‘Dear Dorothy. Thank you for a happy weekend… Love Mary.’ I would like to think Dorothy and Mary were lovers. This is an excerpt of my favourite one. It’s called Sorrow:

… Someone knocked upon my door, I could not see his face. His form was cloaked, his countenance was dark and gaunt and grim – I cried aloud in horror at the very sight of him. He said: “It’s time I knew you – you have had your happy years. Now I have come to bring you pain and agony and tears.” He broke my heart a thousand times, forlorn and desolate. He robbed me of my dearest one, then left me to my fate…

I found this about Patience Strong

Tomorrow is my birthday and my busiest day at work. Ideally, I should spend it with my child, but I know I will instead be sat at a desk, rewriting other people’s words, taking in corrections and making PDFs. And I will get home late - possibly even too late to tuck my son in, let alone blow out a candle. Some day I’ll look back on it with regret. Work should never come before life.

Anonymous said...

One of the best rhyming books I've ever read my son was Bubble Trouble, by Kiwi Margaret Mahy. Beautifully woven story, clever use of language, it begins:

Little Mabel blew a bubble, and it caused a lot of trouble, such a lot of bubble trouble in a bibble-bobble way. For it broke away from Mabel, as it bobbed across the table, where it bobbled over baby and it wafted him away…

And Roald Dahl, of course: No animal is half so vile, as Crocky-wock the crocodile. On Saturdays he likes to crunch, six juicy children for his lunch…

And Spike Milligan: Today I saw a little worm, wriggling on his belly. Perhaps he'd like to come inside, and see what's on the telly.

~~Silk said...

I highly recommend the CD "Hafiz: The Scent of Light". Hafiz, or Hafez, was a fourteenth-century Sufi Persian poet. The CD is an "audio book" of translated readings from his romantic and spiritual poems, with Indian (sitar), Persian, and Arabic musical accompaniment. It's absolutely beautiful. I highly recommend it.

Hafez was the one who likened true love to "taking an iron hold on the painful swollen balls of a Divine rogue elephant, and not having the good fortune to die."

Ok, some verses aren't so beautiful.

Anonymous said...

If you fear not indulge in Giacomo Leopardi´s intelectual pessimism, you might enjoy some of his verses, particularly "The Dominating Thought" on the vitalizing force of love even when unrequited.

La Bête said...

VP, yes! I know that poem. It's amazing how much I'd forgotten I know. That is very good. Doesn't quite punch me in the heart though. And that's what I need. 

alskj;lasdja;lsdj, I've read that too! Christ, I forgot how incredibly literate I am. I must read it again though, because I remember none of it. Sorry about your heart. Pesky organs, aren't they?

Pueblo Girl, I really like those. The second one in particular. I don't fully understand it at all - anywhere near - but it moves things inside of me. I guess that's what poetry does, isn't it - it gets in there deep, sometimes beyond meaning - certainly beyond obvious meaning. It's very clever stuff. Thank you. 

Anon, I like that one a lot too. That poem almost makes me wish I was broken-hearted so I could feel it even more acutely. 

Clumpf, you bugger! I wasn't joking. What do I know? The Sunday Times said she's 'a proper poet'. Oh. I've just had a look at some of her stuff. She's bloody awful. She's not quite in the same league of awfulness as Carla Lane - - but bloody awful nonetheless. You bugger.

Piggy, thanks for those. I can't believe I forgot about Hopkins. I love Hopkins, despite his silly beliefs. And that WCW poem is great. I have no idea why it's great, but it clearly is.

Thanks, Maria. I'm on it.

And another vote for Tennyson. I have a story about Tennyson. One day I will tell it.

Not sure about the dandy highwayman there though - reminds me too much of a Chris de Burgh song.

Another for Heaney. Thanks, Anon. I'll look it up.

Anonymous, thanks so much for that. You made me a bit sad I'm afraid. I hope you had a wonderful birthday - although that seems unlikely from what you've said, so I hope you have a wonderful year. Happy year then. Balls to your birthday. It looks like we do the same job by the way. Shit innit?

Mwah. Thanks to you all.

La Bête said...

There's more! Anon - interesting, that Mahy. Maybe I should have kids. Or spend more time with friends' kids, so I can read to them. Roald Dahl was so good, wasn't he. So very good.

Silky! Hello. Long time, no see. Hafez sounds excellent. Anyone who can write about he painful swollen balls of a Divine rogue elephant has my vote. I shall definitely seek him out at some stage.

Anon - eek!

Anonymous said...

Message for Clumpf, please! Sorry to use and abuse your blog for this.

Clumpf, are you going to Stan's party on the 4th? You must make yourself known to everyone. I get the impression you are lovely and hilarious. A great combo. Like Stan, actually.

A Twitter Friend

Pearl said...

This is fabulous! I wish I could inject some of this enthusiasm into my bloody undergraduates!

If you can get hold of a copy of a book called 'Love and the Turning Year' (out of print, the idiots) then do. It's translations of Japanese poetry, and it's BEAUTIFUL. Editor is Kenneth Rexroth.

Oh, and for sheer sumptuousness of language that's so delicious you'll want to stamp round London saying the words out loud, try Gerard Manley Hopkins. Some of it's really depressing, but not all.

Ah, poetry!

Pearl said...

Oh, and U A Fanthorpe, to whom I was introdued by a lovely monk called Brother Peter, and who I always assumed (wrongly) was a man.

Have you read 'From the Foot to it's Child'? It's the poem that made me fall in love with Neruda.

Richard Bartlett said...

Hi Bète. I love Andrew Marvel, especially "To His Coy Mistress"

Also check out "Dialogue Between a Body and a Soul". I love the sound of 17th century poetry.

I had questions on that Derek Walcot poem in GCSE English literature. Thanks for reminding me of it anon.

Anonymous said...

I second Hopkins!

The Windhover

To Christ our Lord

I CAUGHT this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

clumpf said...

Bless you anon - I think you're female and you sound lovely :)

I'm still not sure about the 4th - will you all be nutters? Or you'll all be really clever and talking about poetry and shiz. And I'll be in the corner with notkeith lighting his farts.

Or something.

Catherine Rowan Jones said...

WB Yeats, Spike Milligan (not all funny), Roger McGough and Benjamin Zephaniah for short/medium poems

Coleridge - Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (trans Fitzgerald) for long ones

and I like this one too:

Anonymous said...

Clumpf, you've made me laugh out loud!!!! You must go. I'm far from cerebral and only nutty on a bad day. Please go. I will definitely be there. I'll bring the matches to help you light NotKeith's farts. If you introduce yourself to Stan, then he can introduce you to me. BTW, I'm not gay - not that there's anything wrong with it, in the words of Jerry Seinfeld. Just sayin is all, OK?

Go. You must! It'll be funny. It will!

Stan's Twitter Friend.

Anonymous said...

A bleak but powerful poem about nuclear war from NZ poet Hone Tuwhare

No Ordinary Sun

Tree let your arms fall:
raise them not sharply in supplication
to the bright enhaloed cloud.
Let your arms lack toughness and
resilience for this is no mere axe
to blunt nor fire to smother.

Your sap shall not rise again
to the moon’s pull.
No more incline a deferential head
to the wind’s talk, or stir
to the tickle of coursing rain.

Your former shagginess shall not be
wreathed with the delightful flight
of birds nor shield
nor cool the ardour of unheeding
lovers from the monstrous sun.

Tree let your naked arms fall
nor extend vain entreaties to the radiant ball.
This is no gallant monsoon’s flash,
no dashing trade wind’s blast.
The fading green of your magic
emanations shall not make pure again
these polluted skies . . . for this
is no ordinary sun.

O tree
in the shadowless mountains
the white plains and
the drab sea floor
your end at last is written.

Pearl said...

Oh God. 'Love and the Turning Year' is Chinese poetry, not Japanese. My teenage self, who read that book every bloody day, is not beating my stupid adult self around the head with a pointy shoe.

Michael said...


Anonymous said...

Hey! I'll come and light farts with any of you lot.
Hurray for the fourth. May the fourth be with you.

"dreadful name" said...

Hi Bête,

remember me? It was I who thought you should buy a French sleep book and become a raw vegan to get your sleep in order, yes? :)

Now listen carefully, cause now you're gonna get the best peace of poetry advice of your entire life :)

What you should do is you should go and find Walt Whitman's book Leaves of Grass, sit down in some nice and peaceful place when you have a couple of hours free, and then read his very long poem Song of Myself. (It's good to read this poem somewhere between sunrise and two hours before sunset, so that the atmospheric energy corresponds to that of the poem :P Seriously actually.)


And you don't need to thank me afterwards.
Just thank the Divine, or Life, or whatever, as I'm sure you'd do in any case, without me telling you to. :)

Now, Whitman reworked this poem throughout his life, and towards the end of it as he was getting a reputation as a poet sage, he became a bit more solemn which was perhaps not necessarily to the better for his poetry, so if you could get the original edition, I think that would be the best. It's available online here:
(from after the prose foreword down to page 57)
but that is of course not how it should be read (maybe one can print it out?). Anyhow, the final edition is immortal poetry too.

Apart from Whitman, almost all my favorite poets wrote in Swedish, and as you may have heard, poetry is that which is no longer there in a translation... But sometimes poetry actually can be translated (I read Whitman in a Swedish translation) and here's what I think could be worth checking out:

"Evening Land", by Nobel price winner Pär Lagerkvist. This was his last volume of poems, and in my mind it's absolutely the summit of his work. So very beautiful... *sigh*

Tomas Tranströmmer could perhaps also be worth checking out. The power of his poetry is mostly in the thoughts and the metaphors, so I think his poems may still be alive after translation. :)
I checked the net but only found a few haikus, and I don't think he really comes to his right in that format.

And finally there's Rumi. I think I once read that "The Essential Rumi", a selection of poems translated by Coleman Barks, was the most spread book of poetry in the world(?). I haven't read that particular one, but Rumi could be worth checking out.

My best advice is still Whitman though, of course.
So. Hope this will save your soul and also give me some good karma. :P

"dreadful name" said...

PS. Yes, I know, I know......

I'm simply addicted to smileys, and there seems to be nothing I can do about it......

Just pretend they're not there, ok?

La Bête said...

Hey, Pearl. I just tried to buy that Chinese collection on Amazon but for some bilious reason I can’t access my account. I’ll try again when I’m not in a hurry. Oh, and I just read that Neruda poem. It brought tears to my eyes. It’s beautiful. Will check out U A Fanthorpe too. Thank you.

RB, thank for that. That’s a cool site. I’d like to read everything on it. Aah, had I but world enough and time.

ATF, clumpf and Anon – there will be no fart-lighting at my party. I forbid it. Oh, alright then. But stay in the corner.

CRJ – I love that Craig Raine poem – it never fails to delight utterly. Thanks for the other suggestions too.

Anon, I’m going to come back to the nuclear war poem. The real sun is shining outside at the moment and I want to get out in it. I’ll come back to it, I promise.

Michael. Cheers!

DM – I had a copy of Whitman’s collected verse – I had it for years and I never got round to reading it. Then I sold it along with everything else. I’ll get it again. I will. And I’ll damn well read it this time. Thanks for all your words and other suggestions.

Have a lovely day now, and a smashing weekend.


Anonymous said...

I just checked out the Pablo poem and apparently it's incorrectly titled. Also, I checked out a Maya Angelou poem and according to poemhunter Walt Whitman, William Shakespeare, William Blake and Emily Dickinson ALL read Maya Angelou.
I suspect NOT!

Anonymous said...

There is a wonderful biography of Pablo Neruda. I think you'd like it. He was my special subject when I did my Spanish degree. I particularly remember Ode to a pair of socks. I think he likened them to fish...

Sylvia Plath I would also recommend. Not as depressing as I expected. Very beautiful.

Hope you enjoy.

brokenbiro said...

Wow! You have some really interesting replies here - I'll be checking out a few of them too.

I was going to say that if you want a really good anthology to start with, go for Staying Alive (Published by Bloodaxe) - nice variety of 20th century poems/ poets organised in sections like 'Body and Soul,' 'War and Peace,'and 'In and Out of Love'.

Lots of people get put off poetry through being forced to do it at school, which seems unreasonable - it doesn't put people off French irregular verbs or quadratic equations does it?