Saturday, 28 February 2015

poem for the day: Spleen by Ernest Dowson

I was not sorrowful, I could not weep,
And all my memories were put to sleep.
I watched the river grow more white and strange,
All day till evening I watched it change.
All day till evening I watched the rain
Beat wearily upon the window pane.
I was not sorrowful, but only tired
Of everything that ever I desired.
Her lips, her eyes, all day became to me
The shadow of a shadow utterly.
All day mine hunger for her heart became
Oblivion, until the evening came,
And left me sorrowful, inclined to weep,
With all my memories that could not sleep.
Born into an eminent family at Belmont Hill in Kent, Dowson left Queen's College, Oxford, without finishing his studies, and became part of Wilde's and Beardsley's set in London.  He inherited a dry dock from his father, but, having become a heavy drinker, he lived there in squalor, later moving to France and converting to Roman Catholicism.  He died at the age of 32.

Friday, 27 February 2015

poem for the day: To My Mother by George Barker

Most near, most dear, most loved and most far,
Under the window where I often found her
Sitting as huge as Asia, seismic with laughter,
Gin and chicken helpless in her Irish hand,
The lame dogs and hurt birds that surround her, -
She is a procession no one can follow after
But be like a little dog following a brass band.
She will not glance up at the bomber, or condescend
To drop her gin and scuttle to a cellar,
But lean on the mahogany table like a mountain
Whom only faith can move, and so I send
O all my faith, and all my love to tell her
That she will move from mourning into morning.
George Barker's mother was Irish but his father was English and he was born in Loughton, Essex.  He was educated at the Regent Street Polytechnic and was always aware of poverty and deprivation.  He was a youthful prodigy, with a book of poems and a novel published at the age of 20.  Yeats described him as "a lovely subtle mind", whose poetry showed a "rhythmical invention comparable to Gerard Hopkins".

Thursday, 26 February 2015

poem for the day: Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze.  No one ever thanked him.
I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house.
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?
Robert Hayden was born in Detroit and educated at Wayne State University.  His poetry books included Heart-Shape in the Dust and Words in the Mourning Time.  He was the editor of Kaleidoscope-Poems by American Negro Poets.  In this book, he warned against the black writer being consigned to a "kind of literary ghetto" where he would be "not considered as a writer but a species of race-relations man".

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

poem for the day: from 'Preludes' by T.S. Eliot

 Thomas Stearns Eliot by Lady Ottoline Morrell (1934).jpg
The winter evening settles down
With smells of steaks in passageways.
Six o'clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.
Eliot insisted that "The essential advantage for a poet is not to have a beautiful world with which to deal; it is to be able to see beneath both beauty and ugliness; to see the boredom, and the horror, and the glory."  Preludes was the first of Eliot's poetry to be published in the magazine Blast in July 1915.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

poem for the day: New Every Morning by Susan Coolidge

 Susan Coolidge. (Sarah Chauncey Woolsey). Another author from our childhood.
Every day is a fresh beginning,
Listen my soul to the glad refrain.
And, spite of old sorrows
And older sinning,
Troubles forecasted
And possible pain,

Take heart with the day and begin again.
This poem has been used in a UK hospice to bring comfort to patients.  Susan Coolidge (the pseudonym of Sarah Chauncey Woolsey) was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in January 1835.  She composed three volumes of verse, wrote the Katy books and other unsentimental stories in a natural style for girls, and edited the letters of Jane Austen and Fanny Burney.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Poem for the day: Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took Robert Frost home with me.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

This was Frost's favourite poem, he termed it "my best bid for remembrance".  In John Ciardi's account, one night Frost "had sat down after supper to work at a long piece of blank verse.  The piece never worked out, but Mr. Frost found himself so absorbed in it that, when next he looked up, dawn was at the window.  He rose, crossed to the window, stood looking out for a few minutes, and then it was that "Stopping by the Woods" suddenly 'just came', so that all he had to do was cross the room and write it down."

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Poem for the Day: The Voice by Thomas Hardy

"The main object of religion is not to get man into heaven, but to get heaven into him." Thomas Hardy

Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who was all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair.

Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown!

Or is it only the breeze, in its listlessness
Travelling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessness,
Heard no more again far or near?

Thus I; faltering forward,
Leaves around me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,
And the woman calling.

Hardy's strained marriage to his first wife Emma Gifford nevertheless resulted in moving love poetry after her death in 1912.  At his own death in 1928, his heart was buried with Emma in Dorset and his ashes were placed in Westminster Abbey next to those of Charles Dickens.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Poem for the Day: Words by Sylvia Plath

sylvia plath

After whose stroke the wood rings,
And the echoes!
Echoes traveling
Off from the center like horses.

The sap
Wells like tears, like the
Water striving
To re-establish its mirror
Over the rock

That drops and turns,
A white skull,
Eaten by weedy greens.
Years later I
Encounter them on the road -

Words dry and riderless,
The indefatigable hoof-taps.
From the bottom of the pool, fixed stars
Govern a life.

Exactly three years earlier.  Sylvia Plath had written to her mother and brother with news of her first book of poems, The Colours, being accepted by Heinemann.  "Amaze of amaze", she wrote.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Poem for the Day: The Starlight Night by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins - English poet  -  1844  -  1889

Look at the stars! look, look up at the skies!
O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!
The bright boroughs, the circle-citadels there!
Down in dim woods the diamond delves! the elves' -eyes!
The grey lawns cold where gold, where quickgold lies!
Wind-beat whitebeam! airy abeles set on a flare!
Flake-doves sent floating forth at a farmyard scare!-
Ah well! it is all a purchase, all is a prize.

Buy then! bid then! - What? - Prayer, patience, alms, vows.
Look, look: a May-mess, like on orchard boughs!
Look! March-bloom, like on mealed-with-yellow sallows!
These are indeed the barn; withindoors house
The shocks.  This piece-bright paling shuts the spouse
Christ home, Christ and his mother and all his hallows.

A couple of years before he wrote 'The Starlight Night' Hopkins described a visit to Ugbrooke Park, the Devon home of a Catholic peer, Lord Clifford:  "As we drove home the stars came out thick: I leant back to look at them and my heart opening more than usual prised our Lord, to and in whom at that beauty comes home."
Hopkins described this poem and 'God's Grandeur' to his mother (March 1st 1877) as 2two sonnets I wrote in a freak the other day ... They are not so queer, but have a few metrical effects, mostly after Milton".  And to Robert Bridges he added the note "to be read, both of them, slowly, strongly marking the rhythms and fetching out the syllables."

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Poem for the Day: Meeting at Night by Robert Browning

The grey sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i' the  slushy sand.

Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scrath
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, thro' its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each!

On October 27th 1845, Elizabeth Barrett saw 'Meeting at Night' in printer's proof and wrote to Robert Browning:  "You throw largesses out on all sides without counting the cost: how beautiful".
On September 12th 1846 they were married secretly leaving almost immediately for the milder climate and cheaper living in Italy.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Love at First Sight

So sweet!!
a look
a glance
a smile askance
the touch of a hand
a sideways glance

to be yourself
is hard to do
you're sometimes me
and you're sometimes you

you succeed
you fail
breathe in


Poem for the Day: Long-Legged Fly by W.B. Yeats

William Butler Yeats, by Alice Boughton

That civilisation may not sink,
Its great battle lost,
Quiet the dog, tether the pony
To a distant post;
Our master Caesar is in the tent
Where the maps are spread,
His eyes fixed upon nothing,
A hand under his head.
Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence.

That the topless towers be burnt
And men recall that face,
Move most gently if move you must
In this lonely place.
She thinks, part woman, three parts a child,
That nobody looks; her feet
Practise a tinker shuffle
Picked up on a street.
Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
Her mind moves upon silence.

That girls at puberty may find
The first Adam in their thought,
Shut the door of the Pope's chapel,
Keep those children out.
There on that scaffolding reclines
Michael Angelo.
With no more sound than the mice make
His hand moves to and fro.
Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence.


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Poem for the Day: Up-Hill by Christina Rossetti

"Remember me when I am gone away, Gone far away into the silent land; When you can no more hold me by the hand, Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay..." - Christina Rosetti

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yes, beds for all who come.

On this day in 1827, Christina's older sister, Maria Francesca Rossetti, was born.  The most responsible and practical of the siblings, Maria, a Dante scholar, only felt herself free of family responsibilities at the age of 46.  She entered an Anglican sisterhood, but her health soon failed and she dies several years later in 1876.
Christina Rossetti was born in London, her father Italian and her mother half-Italian.  The house was a magnet for literary refugees and she was educated at home, and lived there all her life, retiring from work as a governess as a result of ill-health.  "Differing from her Bohemian brother, Dante Gabriel, and more like her older sister, she found the world evil.  She repudiated pleasure:  'I cannot possibly use the word "happy" without meaning something beyond this present life' " (Louis Untermeyer).

Monday, 16 February 2015


The soul of the land can best be felt through the soles of you feet.  ~Essence of Wild  ~~⊱*Connect*⊰~~
Take off your shoes
Feel the earth beneath your feet
Connect with nature
Rebel against restriction
Walk softly on the sand
Watch the sea trickle between your toes

Poem for the Day: Love's Philisophy by Percy Bysshe Shelley

The fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the Ocean,
The winds of Heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
Why not I with thine? -

See the mountains kiss high Heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth
And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
If thou kiss not me?

Café Kiss, by Ron Hicks

Shelley flirted with the young and attractive Sophia Stacey, a ward of one of his uncles, who cam with her chaperone to visit Mary Shelley and him in Florence in December 1819.  Mary commented that "the younger one was entousiasmee to see him - the elder said he was a very shocking man". Whilst Mary stayed at home looking after their child, Shelley would take Sophia and her chaperone out to galleries.  Sophia, Mary admired, "sings well for an English dilettante" and Shelley wrote her several love lyrics, including this one.


Sunday, 15 February 2015

Poem for the Day: Harp Song of the Dane Women by Rudyard Kipling

Harp Song of the Dane Women
Rudyard Kipling

What is a woman that you forsake her,
And the hearth-fire and the home-acre,
To go with the old grey Widow-maker?

She has no house to lay a guest in -
But one chill bed for all to rest in,
That the pale suns and the stray bergs nest in.

She has no strong white arms to fold you,
But the ten-times-fingering weed to hold you -
Out on the rocks where the tide has rolled you.

Yet, when the signs of summer thicken,
And the ice breaks, and the birch-buds quicken,
Yearly you turn from our side, and sicken -

Sicken again for the shouts and the slaughters,
You steal away to the lapping waters,
And look at your ship in her winter-quarters.

You forget our mirth, and talk at the tables,
The kine in the shed and the horse in the stables -
To pitch her sides and go over her cables.

Then you drive out where the storm-clouds swallow,
And the sound of your oar-blades, falling hollow,
Is all we have left through the months to follow.

Ah, what is Woman that you forsake her,
And the hearth-fire and the home-acre,
To go with the old grey Widow-maker?

Embittered by a quarrel with his brother-in-law in America, and by the death of his daughter and the loss of his son in the Great War, Kipling lived in relative seclusion in Burwash, Sussex, but continued to venture forth on travels to South Africa and elsewhere.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Poem for the Day: Valentine by Carol Ann Duffy

Secretly we spoke, that wise one and me. I said, Tell me the secrets of the world. He said, Sh... Let silence Tell you the secrets of the world.  -Rumi-

Carol Ann Duffy

Not a red rose or a satin heart.
I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.
I am trying to be truthful.
Not a cute card or a kissogram.
I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.
Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring.
if you like.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

Carol Ann Duffy writes:
"This was written for radio one February.
There was a basket of onions on the kitchen table,
where I was sitting with my notebook.
A couple of years later, a reader sent me a lovely
watercolour based on the poem.  More recently
a proof copy from a publisher misprinted 'onion'
throughout as 'opinion'. 
An improvement perhaps." 


Friday, 13 February 2015

Poem for the Day: Rain - Birdoswald by Frances Horovitz

Going to sleep to the sound of rain bashing against your window whilst your snuggled up in the warm

Rain - Birdoswald
Frances Horovitz

I stand under a leafless tree
more still, in this mouse-pattering
thrum of rain,
than cattle shifting in the field.
It is more dark than light.
A Chinese painter's brush of deepening grey
moves in the subtle tide.

The beasts are darker island now.
Wet-stained and silvered by the rain
they suffer night,
marooned as still as stone or tree.
We sense each other's quiet.

Almost, death could come
inevitable, unstrange
as is this dusk and rain,
and I should be no more
myself, than raindrops
glimmering in last light
on black ash buds

or night beasts in a winter field.
Frances Horovitz began to write poetry after her marriage to the performance poet Michael Horovitz.  In 1980, inspired by a commission on the theme of Hadrian's Wall, she lived in a farmhouse at Kiln Hill, near the Roman fort of Birdoswald in Cumbria.  Many of her poems at that time took their inspiration from the Irthing Valley below Birdoswald.

She died at the age of 45 after a long struggle with cancer, and her 'Collected Poems' were edited by her second husband, Roger Garfitt.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Poem for the Day

Granny Puretta of Havana....

Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Jenny Joseph was born in Birmingham, and became a scholar at St Hilda's College, Oxford.  She has worked as a reporter, a lecturer and a pub landlady.  This poem comes from her collection 'Rose in the Afternoon' published in 1974.