November 16th Lady L Andromeda

Andromeda (about 1900)  Clovis Delcour (Active around 1900)
Ivory, calcite, onyx, bronze and granite

Andromeda was tied naked to the rocks on the coast of her native Ethiopia as a victim for the sea monster then ravaging the area.  Perseus rescued and eventually married her.  Small polychrome erotic sculptures using many different materials were a French specialty around 1900.  The pure white ivory of Andromeda’s body makes her seem enticingly available and desirable – she cannot escape and appears to writhe as much in anticipation as in fear.

November 14th Adam Zagajewski, Try to Praise the Mutilated World

Try to Praise the Mutilated World

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You've seen the refugees going nowhere,
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

November 12th Keats When I Have Fears

When I have Fears

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charact'ry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love!—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink-

November 8th Voices of the Benares

Recently reread Voices of the Benares by Pauline Rowe, and was thinking about the poems again today in light of the memorial service held at the local park.  This is a short review i wrote last year for Pauline's book: 

REVIEW of Voices of the Benares by Pauline Rowe

 42pp, £10.00, Lapwing Publications,
c/o Ballysillan Drive, Belfast BT14 8HQ,

ISBN 978-909252-76-9

From the beginning, with its simple language, Pauline Rowe’s elegiac Voices of the Benares presents the facts of the sinking of the vessel, City of Benares, as a moving lament for the departed and those left behind. 

The final poem of the small powerful collection, ‘Litany’, is a fitting title to close the work in which a reference to prayer and faith is never far: ‘… their ornate sashes mother-of-God blue.’, (‘The Children’s Song’);‘some as brave as guardian angels.’ (‘After the Torpedo’); ‘… the deer that yearns / for running streams.’ (‘A Young Man’s Prayer’); and ‘Rope is our prayer’ (‘Holding On’). 

The presence of prayer is one of several hallmarks of this work. Others include the use of space, naming, contrast, repetition, and the reference to mother – a reminder that the tragedy involved children. 

I admire the use of space creating a silence and reverence on the page, and adding a starkness that allows every note to be heard and sets a tone of foreboding which recurs throughout the work, ‘He thought he heard a song / carried from the river.’ (‘Farewell’); and ‘The wind blows hard, /carries death within its call.’ (‘The Commander of the Hurricane’).

I loved the naming that was a distinctive feature of such poems as, Farewell (the naming of places the children had come from), The Children’s Song with its exotic Asian place names, ‘Serang, paniwallahs, / bhandaris. Cassab, Topass, Tindal,’, The naming of people, ‘Connie, Violet and me…’ in ‘Letter from Gussie’, and the reference to naming in ‘A Sailor’s prayer’. 

The presence of mother, as mother-of-God in ‘The Children’s Song’; in Colin’s Rescue Song as a form of hope, ‘My mother told me’; ‘The Man’sVoice in the Sea’ reference, ‘I feel my mother’s heart / against my own,’; culminating in ‘A Mother’s Lament’ with its strong beat and rhymes, gives the sense of an omniscience of the mother and yet of course there is the tragedy that at times even a mother cannot help. 

One of the moving qualities of Pauline Rowe’s collection is the use of contrast and repetition. Repetition is used to great effect throughout, culminating in the plea, ‘remember them’ in ‘Litany’ while repetition also evoked a sense of muttering prayers – an action of a person of faith facing tragedy. 

Contrast between what is said and what is felt in ‘Letter from Gussie’ is exposed through repetition of ‘I’m not afraid of the sea’. Contrast is also revealed between the voices in the sea as they face death, and between the words of celebration of ‘The Men in the U-Boat’. Even in this contrast though, Pauline Rowe manages to highlight how all those trapped in the conflict of war long for home. ‘We dream of home, / our children sleeping…’ (‘The men in the U-Boat’).

I was moved especially by the contrast in the language and oneiric quality evoked in each of the voices ‘in’ the sea – poems from the point of view of a girl, a woman, and a man. These poems are brimful of imagery, ‘the sun against my face’, ‘free like the geese / on the lake / their full grey wings / ready for escape’; (‘A Girl’s Voice in the Sea’); ‘There’s a splinter of moon / on my hand / as brief as a kiss…’ (‘A Woman’s Voice in the Sea’); Salt is gone from my mouth / for a spoon of syrup…’, ‘A fragrance lifts me…’ ; and the beautiful, ‘Om Jaya Jagadisha Hare’ of the Hindu prayer.  (‘A Man’s Voice in the Sea’).

Throughout the narrative, during which the reader is drawn into the solemn tragedy made all the more harrowing by the stark presentation of facts, the characters rise before us as though on waves of a shared memory: the prayer of the Captain and his assertion, ‘My duty is to stay with her and die.’. The viewpoint of the crew man watching the ship sink and the imagery and characterization of the ship and sea leave a lasting impression like a flare in the middle of the ocean, ‘Nature’s Blitzkreig’ (‘In the Life-boats’), 

‘…then she lights up.

One defiant burst of life, 
a dazzling brilliance 
as though she burned with rage  
from within.’               
                                                            (‘ACrew Man Watches the Ship Sink’). 

November 7th A Valediction …Donne

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

As virtuous men pass mildly away, 
   And whisper to their souls to go, 
Whilst some of their sad friends do say 
   The breath goes now, and some say, No: 

So let us melt, and make no noise, 
   No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move; 
'Twere profanation of our joys 
   To tell the laity our love. 

Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears, 
   Men reckon what it did, and meant; 
But trepidation of the spheres, 
   Though greater far, is innocent. 

Dull sublunary lovers' love 
   (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit 
Absence, because it doth remove 
   Those things which elemented it. 

But we by a love so much refined, 
   That our selves know not what it is, 
Inter-assured of the mind, 
   Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss. 

Our two souls therefore, which are one, 
   Though I must go, endure not yet 
A breach, but an expansion, 
   Like gold to airy thinness beat. 

If they be two, they are two so 
   As stiff twin compasses are two; 
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show 
   To move, but doth, if the other do. 

And though it in the center sit, 
   Yet when the other far doth roam, 
It leans and hearkens after it, 
   And grows erect, as that comes home. 

Such wilt thou be to me, who must, 
   Like th' other foot, obliquely run; 
Thy firmness makes my circle just, 
   And makes me end where I begun. 

November 6th Martha Graham

Friday November 6th

Nothing is more revealing than movement.
                                                         Martha Graham

Just from wiki… but summarises a poignant part of her life but how she rallied:
In the years that followed her departure from the stage Graham sank into a deep depression fueled by views from the wings of young dancers performing many of the dances she had choreographed for herself and her former husband. Graham's health declined precipitously as she abused alcohol to numb her pain. In Blood Memory she wrote,
It wasn't until years after I had relinquished a ballet that I could bear to watch someone else dance it. I believe in never looking back, never indulging in nostalgia, or reminiscing. Yet how can you avoid it when you look on stage and see a dancer made up to look as you did thirty years ago, dancing a ballet you created with someone you were then deeply in love with…' 
[When I stopped dancing] I had lost my will to live. I stayed home alone, ate very little, and drank too much and brooded. My face was ruined, and people say I looked odd, which I agreed with. Finally my system just gave in. I was in the hospital for a long time, much of it in a coma.
After a failed suicide attempt she was hospitalized. Graham not only survived her hospital stay but she rallied. In 1972 she quit drinking, returned to her studio, reorganized her company and went on to choreograph ten new ballets and many revivals. Her last completed ballet was 1990's Maple Leaf Rag.

...choreographed until her death in 1991, aged 96. Just before she became sick with pneumonia, she finished the final draft of her autobiography, Blood Memory, which was published posthumously. 

November 4th Fiona Benson

Wednesday November 4th
Tonight I reread some of Fiona Benson's Faber New Poets pamphlet.
Fiona was the first Faber New Poet.

I love Caveat and read it in a workshop yesterday.


                        But consider the cactus:
                        its thick hide
                        and parched aspect

                        still harbour a moist heart;
                        nick its rind and sap
                        wells up like sugared milk

                        from the store of water
                        held beneath its spines,
                        its armoury of barbs

                        and, once in a lifetime,
                        when the hard rains fall

                        there is this halo of flowers.

November 3rd John Glenday

Tuesday November 3rd
I reread some of John Glenday's poems from Grain on Monday and again this evening.

Two of my favourites from the book are: Mangurstadh (p.30), and Imagine You are Driving. (p.4)
reading the opening lines* of Imagine You are Driving, and a recent poem from my friend led me to start a new draft of a poem loosely draws on ideas with both poems… well at least ideas which came to me as a reader.

I love the use of the negative at the beginning [nowhere, no one, absence], and end of the poem [no one, neither], bookending hope:
'so you drive on, hopeful of a time //
when the ocean will rise up before you like dusk
and you will make landfall at last - '

*Imagine You are Driving

Imagine you are driving
nowhere, with no one beside you;
with the empty road unravelling and ravelling
in sympathy as the wheel turns in your hands.

November 2nd Niall Campbell

Monday November 2nd 2015

Today I reread some of Niall Campbell's poems from Moontide.  I heard Niall read in Liverpool last year and found out he had grown up on S.Uist close to a couple I knew in Liverpool who had moved to Uist in the late1980s / early 90s.  I remember visiting them there and loved Niall's reading which brought to life the landscape I remembered. 

A poem which has stayed with me over this year from first reading it closely (exactly a year ago on Crosby beach as it turns out), is Rodin Sculpts 'The Kiss(p.26).  

I loved then and still love the repeated use of 'there', the repetition of 'strange', the way he evokes absence as presence,  '... a figure leaning in to kiss / what's not there yet', the use of 'cradles' (as though the stone the figure / cradles receives it), and how in the anticipation / trust, the kiss is drawn forth, the symbiosis, how in the creation there is what is created and the creation of what is left behind too - '…the white dust and the scattered chippings / of what's fashioned out.' - and the memorable final stanza, describing a beautiful communion.

Rodin Sculpts 'The Kiss'

There with a swung hammer is a man in love,
there's crafting, and there's breaking of squared marble.
There, the white dust and the scattered chippings
of what's fashioned out. How bare it looks,

half-made - a figure leaning in to kiss
what's not there yet, the arms encircling nothing
but a rougher offshoot of themselves. And yet
the kiss is held - as though the stone the figure

cradles receives it.  Here is a strange knowledge
and a strange trust: his heart can sense the stone
heart aching in the block, his lips can taste
the mountainside that shapes into a mouth.

I love so many of the poems in Moontide.  I'll just cite the one more which I've returned to over this year and which I reread tonight.  I love the tender address of the The Winter Home, the use of 'ruminate', the image of breath made visible in the cold, and the reference to winter jasmine. 

I read Niall Campbell's collection slowly, a poem at a time often sitting on the stone steps at the beach during the winter months last year.  They're like small prayers and made me long for space but for the company of maybe one person to address from time to time., to share the wonder of the poems, and the beauty of the open face of the sea. So many of his lines are like mantras, and reading again through his poems I'm moved by so many of the final lines*. 

The Winter Home

Darling, allow me the best evenings
to breathe the cold, to ruminate
like a diver on his rising breath.

The low-backed seat of the house step
inches ever further from the road.
and there's jasmine opening

in garden branches. A white flower,
unfurling in the sub degrees,
in its pale rush of residing.

' even when this cold the ice weeps.'     Return, Isle of Eriskay

'Things will be different when the sun is lower.'   Grez, Near Dusk

'…as the sleet falls, that hush in her red wake.'   Exchange Street

'I'll raise this waking to my mouth, and drink.'   Black Water 

'How we stood by as if we'd nothing / to say, when, love, I did. I do.'  When the Whales Beached

'I watched / her drink the moon from a moon-filled trough.' On Eriskay

November 1st Colette Bryce

Poetry thoughts:  some associative…  Sunday November 1st

Rereading some favourite poems from Self-Portrait in the Dark by Colette Bryce, and from Grain by John Glenday.

I love the 10 line poem 'The Hopes' for the vivid image of hopes as mechanical giraffes, and the assertion that the hopes are 'Dignified', and 'there for a reason' (hopeful in itself to know that!). The third couplet, 'Cables hang / from their heads like harnesses.' is striking in its imagery and personally strong to me as I remember a dream years ago, one of those with images you don't forget. In the dream, horses were bolting in the sky, their harnesses hanging as Colette describes. The dream came the day after my eldest daughter had left for university - I'd been tidying her almost empty room, read a photocopy of Ted Hughes' poem The Horses,  a poem she must have been studying, and the poem must have influenced the dream.
In Colette Bryce's poem, I love also the subtle rhymes, sure voice, and the final words that feel like perfect advice: 'Don't give up.'

The Hopes

They extend above the houses
like mechanical giraffes.

they are there for a reason.

Cables hang
from their heads like harnesses.

Behind them, the sky is unusually
blue and clear

for a month so late
in the year. Don't give up.

I read Colette's interview in Poetry London too and love her comment about truth in poetry:

CB: Well… I think a poem is no good if it doesn’t have an emotional truth. And, you know, autobiographical writing is not fashionable in poetry these days. ‘It’s all about form’ tends to be the gospel. But I believe content is equally important. I’d like to fly the flag for content because as human beings we are interested in each other’s lives, and the world. That’s why we read.

The Horses                                       [Ted Hughes]
I climbed through woods in the hour-before-dawn dark.
Evil air, a frost-making stillness,
Not a leaf, not a bird-
A world cast in frost. I came out above the wood
Where my breath left tortuous statues in the iron light.
But the valleys were draining the darkness
Till the moorline blackening dregs of the brightening grey
Halved the sky ahead. And I saw the horses:
Huge in the dense grey ten together
Megalith-still. They breathed, making no move,
With draped manes and tilted hind-hooves,
Making no sound.
I passed: not one snorted or jerked its head.
Grey silent fragments
Of a grey still world.
I listened in emptiness on the moor-ridge.
The curlews tear turned its edge on the silence.
Slowly detail leafed from the darkness. Then the sun
Orange, red, red erupted
Silently, and splitting to its core tore and flung cloud,
Shook the gulf open, showed blue,
And the big planets hanging
I turned
Stumbling in a fever of a dream, down towards
The dark woods, from the kindling tops,
And came the horses.
There, still they stood,
But now steaming, and glistening under the flow of light,
Their draped stone manes, their tilted hind-hooves
Stirring under a thaw while all around them
The frost showed its fires. But still they made no sound.
Not one snorted or stamped,
Their hung heads patient as the horizons,
High over valleys, in the red levelling rays
In din of the crowded streets, going among the years, the faces,
May I still meet my memory in so lonely a place
Between the streams and the red clouds, hearing curlews,
Hearing the horizons endure.


Maria lives in Liverpool, has an MA in creative writing from Lancaster University, and over the past two years has had poetry published in print and online in the UK, Ireland and the US. Maria reviews poetry and art, and last year she was highly commended in the Gregory O’ Donoghue International Poetry Competition, shortlisted in The Munster Literature Fool for Poetry International Chapbook Competition, and Penfro, and was awarded first prize in Ver Poets Open Competition with her poem Adrift. Maria’s first pamphlet, Caveat was published by Poetry Bus Press in Ireland in February 2015.