Archive for Poetry


Posted in Biographical, Education, Poetry with tags , , , on April 15, 2023 by telescoper

Not long ago I did a post about an anthology of Poems I studied at school many years ago. I bought that second-hand at the same time as I bought the three volumes shown above, Books 1-3 of Voices (edited by Geoffrey Summerfield). I seem to remember that we studied these at an earlier stage of 11+ education, probably in consecutive years before O-level. I remember the covers quite well, especially the rather spooky picture on Book 3.

They’re quite interesting books, each of which contains an eclectic collection of poems, including traditional rhymes and there is even some music at the back to accompany some of the verses that work as songs.

Anyone else remember these books?

Patterns of Earth – Hyam Plutzik

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on April 11, 2023 by telescoper

Now the new grass is vivid with dandelions,
As last night the ancient sky was constellated.

And the Scorpion, the Dog, Perseus and Hercules
Are less than the gold children of my field.

Whom I will name quickly for their time is flying:
The Butcher, the Baker, and the Candlestick maker.

They will be gone in a fortnight, full upon the wind
And the bullies of the sky will resume their mastery.

by Hyam Plutzik (1911-1962)

Nine Modern Poets

Posted in Biographical, Education, Literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2023 by telescoper

I recently acquired – at negligible expense – the above second-hand copy of the anthology Nine Modern Poets. I got a copy because this book was one we we studied when I was at school back in the 1970s. The First Edition was published way back in 1966, and it was reprinted until the mid-1980s but has long been superseded as a school poetry text by other anthologies. It has been out of print for many years so I had to find a second-hand copy via the internet. I bought some other second-hand anthologies too, which I may share in due course.

Anyway, the Nine Modern Poets are: W.B. Yeats, Wilfred Owen, T.S Eliot, John Betjeman, W.H. Auden, R.S. Thomas, Dylan Thomas, Philip Larkin, and Ted Hughes. Yes, they are all male.

Looking back it’s surprising to see John Betjeman in there, I’d have swapped him for Sylvia Plath (though her first collection, Colossus was only published in 1960 and the second, Ariel, in 1965 so these might have been too late), but the reason I look back on this book with some fondness, indeed nostalgia, is that it was this collection that introduced me to the poetry of R.S. Thomas, and I am very grateful to it for that.

A Poem for St David’s Day

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on March 1, 2023 by telescoper

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

Today is St David’s Day, and it seems apt to celebrate it with a poem by Dylan Thomas. I’ve loved this particular one since I first heard it when I was a student many years ago. I say “heard it” rather than “read it” because it was through buying a tape of the man himself reading his poems that got me hooked. I have posted this on St David’s Day before but that was many years ago and I hope you will forgive the repetition.

Fern Hill reflects about the passage of time, the loss of childhood happiness and the inevitability of death but its mood is defiant rather than gloomy. It’s full of vibrant imagery, but it’s also written with a wonderful feeling for the natural rhythms and cadences language. You can listen to Dylan Thomas reading this exactly as if it were music.


 Fern Hill

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace.

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

At the Solstice, by Sean O’Brien

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on December 22, 2022 by telescoper

We say Next time we’ll go away.
But then the winter happens, like a secret

We’ve to keep yet never understand,
As daylight turns to cinema once more:

A lustrous darkness deep in ice-age cold,
And the print in need of restoration

Starting to consume itself
With snowfall where no snow is falling now.

Or could it be a cloud of sparrows, dancing
In the bare hedge that this gale of light

Is seeking to uproot? Let it be sparrows, then,
Still dancing in the blazing hedge,

Their tender fury and their fall,
Because it snows, because it burns.

by Sean O’Brien (born 1952)

Four Quartets, No. 2. – East Coker II by T.S. Eliot

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on November 27, 2022 by telescoper

What is the late November doing
With the disturbance of the spring
And creatures of the summer heat,
And snowdrops writhing under feet
And hollyhocks that aim too high
Red into grey and tumble down
Late roses filled with early snow?
Thunder rolled by the rolling stars
Simulates triumphal cars
Deployed in constellated wars
Scorpion fights against the Sun
Until the Sun and Moon go down
Comets weep and Leonids fly
Hunt the heavens and the plains
Whirled in a vortex that shall bring
The world to that destructive fire
Which burns before the ice-cap reigns.

That was a way of putting it—not very satisfactory:
A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion,
Leaving one still with the intolerable wrestle
With words and meanings.
The poetry does not matter.

It was not (to start again) what one had expected.

What was to be the value of the long looked forward to,
Long hoped for calm, the autumnal serenity
And the wisdom of age? Had they deceived us
Or deceived themselves, the quiet-voiced elders,
Bequeathing us merely a receipt for deceit?
The serenity only a deliberate hebetude,
The wisdom only the knowledge of dead secrets
Useless in the darkness into which they peered
Or from which they turned their eyes.
There is, it seems to us,
At best, only a limited value
In the knowledge derived from experience.

The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment
And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been.
We are only undeceived
Of that which, deceiving, could no longer harm.

In the middle, not only in the middle of the way
But all the way, in a dark wood, in a bramble,
On the edge of a grimpen, where is no secure foothold,
And menaced by monsters, fancy lights,
Risking enchantment.
Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God.

The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.

The houses are all gone under the sea.

The dancers are all gone under the hill.

by T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

September Song, by Geoffrey Hill

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on September 13, 2022 by telescoper

born 19.6.32—deported 24.9.42

Undesirable you may have been, untouchable
you were not. Not forgotten
or passed over at the proper time.

As estimated, you died. Things marched,
sufficient, to that end.
Just so much Zyklon and leather, patented
terror, so many routine cries.

(I have made
an elegy for myself it
is true)

September fattens on vines. Roses
flake from the wall. The smoke
of harmless fires drifts to my eyes.

This is plenty. This is more than enough.

by Geoffrey Hill (1932-2016)

(The word “deported”  alongside the dates of birth and death of a child at the beginning is of course euphemistic; the poem tells us what really happened.)

Love after Love, by Derek Walcott

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on August 15, 2022 by telescoper

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.

by Derek Walcott (1930-2017)

“The Whale”, by John Donne

Posted in Literature with tags , , , on August 2, 2022 by telescoper

A beached Sperm Whale (Dutch woodcut, 1598)

At every stroake his brazen finnes do take,
More circles in the broken sea they make
Than cannons’ voices; when the aire they teare:
His ribs are pillars, and his high arch’d roofe
Of barke that blunts best steele, is thunder-proofe:
Swimme in him swallow’d Dolphins, without feare,
And feele no sides, as if his vast wombe were
Some inland sea, and ever as he went
He spouted rivers up, as if he meant
To joyne our seas, with seas above the firmament.

He hunts not fish but as an officer,
Stayes in his court, at his own net, and there
All suitors of all sorts themselves enthrall;
So on his backe lies this whale wantoning,
And in his gulfe-like throat, sucks every thing
That passeth neare. Fish chaseth fish, and all,
Flyer and follower, in this whirlpool fall;
O might not states of more equality
Consist? and is it of necessity
That thousand guiltlesse smals, to make one great, must die?


These are Stanzas XXXII and XXXIII from “Metempsycosis” by John Donne (1572-1631); posted because they feature in the programme I watched yesterday.


What would I do without this world – #PoetryDayIRL

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on April 28, 2022 by telescoper

what would I do without this world faceless incurious
where to be lasts but an instant where every instant
spills in the void the ignorance of having been
without this wave where in the end
body and shadow together are engulfed
what would I do without this silence where the murmurs die
the pantings the frenzies towards succour towards love
without this sky that soars
above its ballast dust

what would I do what I did yesterday and the day before
peering out of my deadlight looking for another
wandering like me eddying far from all the living
in a convulsive space
among the voices voiceless
that throng my hiddenness

by Samuel Beckett (1906-89)