End Stops


End Stops

I had a short poetic excursion yesterday as a result of what seems an extraordinary co-incidence. I have just received my copy of Writing the Real: A bilingual Anthology of Contemporary French Poetry from Enitharmon Press. I was very excited by the book – living in a rural, fairly unknown cultural space with no easy access to bookshops or French literary journals, I have no knowledge of contemporary poetry in France comparable to pamphlets, small press books and readings in England.

I took the book to my French lesson and showed it to my French teacher who has been teaching me grammar through carefully chosen poems for a long time now. Her daughter happened to be at home with her and she read aloud the first poem to her and they both collapsed in giggles.

It wasn’t the poem or poet I would have chosen for them to assess the book! It is called ‘bref sur la method’ and is by Christian Prigent and translated by Jerome Game. ‘Christian Prigent has authored over forty works of poetry, fiction and criticism…he is a radical experimenter of form and his works attest to his battle with language’ say the end notes. Yes. Not the best of ones to start with! Not the easiest either – I didn’t understand the English translation let alone the French. Here is a taster:

Premièrement :                              and here is the English translation

D’entre tes dents                            From between your teeth

lâche du Petant,                             drop some fartsy,
du caréné carapate                       some skedaddled streamlined,
en maque mic-mac                        in carry-on pimped

cake chiose qui saque                  soyme fing that gives the slack
le mou,                                               the sack
la soumission a tout !                   the submission to all

It was the mic-mac which they repeated and laughed at the most.

I was reading Wallace Stevens ‘An Ordinary Evening in New Haven’ yesterday morning when I was startled to read this line:
‘Dangling and spangling, the mic-mac of mocking birds’.
I love inter-textuality and immediately thought of my French poem. It started me off on a morning of total joy as I started to fiddle with the meaning for myself. I ended up with this, after much dictionary searching.


Between your teeth
release a breath of wind – a fart
a cheap gift of Carapote
a squeezed out call of the mocking bird
mic mac
the fruit cakes that obscure the truth
the submission to everything conventional.

My translation leaves a lot to be desired but does make the point that I think Prigent was trying to make – the weight of defined and conventional poetry can become a blockage, we need to break through with the strange and the truthful. I love ‘An Ordinary Evening in New Haven’ it is late Stevens and for me it is a wonderful rumination on the meaning of poetry:

‘The poem is the cry of its occasion,
part of the res itself and not about it.
The poet speaks the poem as it is.’
‘….we seek
The poem of pure reality, untouched
By trope of deviation, straight to the word,
straight to the transfixing object

At the exactest point at which it is itself,
Transfixing by being purely which it is,
A view of New Haven, say, through the certain eye.’

Poetry needs to speak its truth to us whether we are readers or writers. The end stop seems to me to be a time when reflection, observation, recall all together are laid out so that the truth can be seen, so that
‘its adventure to create
Forms of farewell, furtive among green ferns’.

Apart from obscure researches I have had lovely times with family last month.  This photo shows four generations of the women in my family – my daughter Morag, granddaughter Hannah, me – le femme sage of course- and my new great granddaughter  Florence.  Beside this august group is the whole wild lot of children.

IMG_9677            IMG_9681



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Reflections in a garden.

How do we find the rain? And what do we leave behind us so that we can come alive again. Certainly not the meals we have cooked, soup burned, successful dinners, chocolate cake – some maybe leave, have left, recipes from grandmas, mothers, friends that are made again, replicated out of love, greed, enjoyment. So – what do I leave? A series of written stuff that is not sorted, that is not edited or finalised and would be too difficult for anyone to sort out. Some people have my poems and may occasionally read them again.

I was sitting, among the head high flowers in the overgrown garden, and wondering about this. What is there tangible that might be thought of as a memorial, what do I want to celebrate as my leavings? Leavings in the fridge eventually get thrown out – too much effort, mould, faint distaste to make that strange effort of ‘using up’. I thought that I might not have changed many systems, that politics and disinterest would be likely to have wasted much of the work that I have done. But – and it is actually a big but – maybe the work I have done face to face with people may have made a small difference.

Did those men who said they had stopped beating their little pupils and learned to love them continue to spread the word; that love overcomes fear and that working together with children is real learning? Did they go on making small books from sheets of paper and hanging them on bushes and trees to make a library. Some teachers I worked with have influenced a lot of others. Iffat and her love of words and books and poems and songs and the way she inspires teachers and children – hers and mine lasting memories of good done maybe? The Institute of Learning continues in some form – Inyat Ali has his own school with many child focused creative activities. If only some people that I know have looked with more kindness and tenderness on the people they live and work with – well it will have been worthwhile.

I have so many good things in my head – and the mark of so many journeys in my body I suspect – dodgy hips and knees, bad feet, hurt shoulders may have their beginnings in some of those incredible journeys that I have been given the grace and happiness to make, the lungs still a bit heavy with pollution and desert dust. The roads winding by rivers through mountains the high peaks, snow in the crevasses, searching the broken clefts of high mountain as we flew in the helicopter to see if grazing animals, snow leopards, people, Osmana bin Laden were there. And not so wrong too about him – right next to where we stayed in the military camp with Iffat and Aamir and the children one time long ago. The way in which those high walls not only protect the women from the gaze of the passer-by but also the way they hide deeds and people who want to be hidden.

How strange that more familiar to me than my own home and country were the roads leading to places in Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka. Anticipating meeting among so many others Mehr Dad, Iffat, long ago the poet faced educator , Buchi and Shanta, Doctor Rao. The prospect of meals too hot to eat but eaten with joy among friends. The new places that were so exciting to go to – my phrase that occurs so often in my writing – engaging with the eyes of women, strong women with work worn hands and wrinkled faces, breaking bread with them and trying to hear and understand their stories.

Maybe the problem is that my life has been so rich and different and articulated in so many different ways, that it isn’t possible to write it out simply and with grace and honesty. And how to honour and acknowledge the friends that I have collected and treasure, even now after many years, and the closest ones that I dread to lose and who I can share my heart with.

Here I am in this small bungalow on the top of the highest part of the ridge in rural Normandy– from a distance the wind turbines turn above the pines around the house. Frustrated by a failing body and occasionally failing mind – forgetting names and places mostly. I want to be able to walk without thinking about it under trees and through forests but I think that what I am left with is the memory of such things – forest, trees, rivers, hills, busy cities, slums, markets and walled houses and towns – so many places that resonate in my head and now is the time to try and put some of them down so that my family and others might be able to read at least about some of things and people I have seen and been part of.  Then, again, the thought that this is very self-indulgent  and what is it for? OK – think of it as Dumbledore’s cauldron of memories where you could draw out a thread and the film unspools of the event and happening in the past. It seems that this is what there is to do. I wish I could be more sure about how to do it!

‘Then I might know like water how to balance

the weight of hope against the light of patience

……which is the story of the falling rain

that raises to the light and falls again.’

Alice Oswald: Falling Awake 2016

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‘Leaf-fall hides the summer’s rot
reducing from the whole to part.

Leaf-shed: taking us all apart.’

Perhaps I am feeling as if I have been taken apart over the last few months, now, at last, I begin to feel more mellow, more as if I can remember, interrogate and even integrate the world.

So first to Porcelain. I have just finished reading ‘The White Road: A Journey into Obsession’ by Edmund de Waal. He is a potter whose love of white, of porcelain and of the means of displaying, opening up and inviting in the audience brings the reader deep into the heart of the history, the extraordinary obsession and the heart- breaking anomalies of white ceramic pottery. It is a wonderful book. It opens the eyes of the heart to the wonder of white. He quotes Wallace Stevens ‘Here being visible is being white/Is being of the solid of white, the accomplishment/ Of an extremist in an exercise…’ and I go back to The Auroras of Autumn and find such energy, such infolding into meaning under words. And here we are, Autumn Equinox and the colours fading, blending, the white of winter on the horizon. Reading a very, very good book changes me at some root level – as if I have been given a window into understanding.

Then Penelope Shuttle writes ‘and stamped on the sands/in white wheels and patches/salt unfurling/in shapes like ghost sails’ Bardsea Sands – more white and I am pulled along in another rhythm as I read ‘Four portions of everything on the menu for M’sieur Monet’, Penny’s new pamphlet (Indigo Dreams). The title poem inspires – celebrating an artistic life in which everything has meaning, everything is needed and contributes to the whole. Both obscuring and defining Monet ‘…unlike Turner /does not resort to the trick/ of making the world taller, buildings,/ mountains, waterfalls, / but like Turner and Whistler / he offers us / (and so will Dufy) / a world (a Thames) of radiant precision.’ The ‘radiant precision’ in this poem and others in this book of poems of place and ‘Heath’ the collaboration of Penelope Shuttle and John Greening across Hounslow Heath re-starts my own writing again. I am starting to write longer poems, series of poems about places, people, my life abroad (a word that has ambiguous meaning – both spreading out and being within the new) and starting to link my own internal experience with the places where I was changed, where life took turns. What is difficult is keeping both the exuberance and the confidence. I have four pamphlet length sets of poems at the moment. One I am still working on and it is what is filling my head with images and emotions. The other three I am going to send off on some literary journeys and hope that they might end up in some place where people will read and enjoy/re-act to them. At the same time I am working on sending out poems to magazines. It requires a different kind of discipline to revising, re-working, new writing and thinking. It is a discipline I need to revive from the time when deadlines, accuracy, presentation and timing were important. The problem with the reading and re-reading of poetry magazines is the over-load of new images, ideas and clever inclinations in words that rush, teeter and spill across the page. It seems important to keep reading the new but at another level it is a bit dis-spiriting to see how much there is in print, in performance and interaction and how removed I am from these ‘happenings’.

I have had to go back to raison d’etre – to ask myself why am I in the unpolluted light of rural Normandy, in my room filled with books and facing the orchard that changes through the day, through the month and the seasons? It is about finding ‘radiant precision’, opening up the eyes to both Nature and its roots and to seeing detail in flowers, birds and trees. Something about the particular defining the sweep of past experiences of countries and people, something about the spreading rhizome of words that connect and interact.

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Mirrors and Trepidations

I’m reading a lot because my legs don’t want to walk, because my easel stands with an empty canvas waiting for paint and colour, because Knox has been folded away and I find it hard to find where my poems are, where they should be going.

I just read a short story by Frances Bellerby which seems to encompass these feelings – meeting up with the blanks, the way in which something which is strange, curtain-like, empty and yet very full comes across consciousness and delivers a sense of both epiphany and impotence.

I feel as if I am standing on the edge. As if I am on one of those roads in the Kalash Valley where the rock bends down overhead, where the road is under the shoulder of the mountain and the view is momentarily obscured but I know that it is there ahead in all its enormity and significance, its open ended-ness.

All this is about the reluctance that I am feeling about going back into the hospital situation and then  the ‘troisieme etage’ for two weeks after. This is the  operation to replace my last hip joint that is grinding and grumbling and giving me a sense of helpless and elderly feebleness. It is an outward condition that is annoying, sometimes painful and that stops me walking and moving easily. It is not however, as I seem to have transposed it, a condition that stops my mind from moving, words from coming. If anything it should be a situation that allows me to open up my mind because it is giving me a lot of time when I can only sit, or rest or think about things.

One of the things I think about, when I put my mind to it, is the work I should be doing with writing. The filing cabinet drawers that contain prose, novels, poems that are the signposts of years gone by and experiences that I can now only recover in the imagining and dreams that I have. These dreams or memories come back to me with increasing intensity. I want to grasp the threads and follow them back.

When I find it difficult to move forward then maybe it is the time to gather in, like a harvest, the significant or important things that have been given by the life that I have led. I love to tell the stories of where I have been, of happenings and I think and dream often of the people I have known and of mountains, beaches, palm trees and the movement of elephant through the bush. Where are these things all going? Do they have meaning outside the drifted imaginings of an old woman sitting in an armchair at the top of a hill in rural Normandy?

We know ourselves maybe, partly by the work we are doing, by the places and people that these ‘happenings’ put us in touch with. When all of that active stuff stops what is there left to do?

I just read Philip Gross’s Spiegel im Spiegel sequence of poems in Scintilla 21 magazine they are about mirrors. What comes back to us, the double us, and how fallible is the mirror in its distortions and reflections? Well it got me out of the armchair and sat at the computer!

In my journal I write down the losses in my early life that are maybe at the root of this sense of unease and fear that I feel at leaving behind the familiarity of home, partner, garden and sky. I copy out quotations about moving forward, blame and a sense of loss. I am suddenly moving forward on the road – the road that is my life, as it is, its happening that is the path that is opening in front of me.

I am so lucky that I have in my head all the scenarios of mountain, rock and pathways that might be the way in which I can go forward towards some kind of marker, some movement in stillness, which is where I sit in my fear at the moment. Maybe this is the first of a new kind of blog, more honest and self-searching that will reach out into my community of friends and poets.

Fare forward traveller. Maybe this is the first step forward.


IMG_9653        Garden coming    IMG_9633     Willow weeping

IMG_9644   Cherry cheering!


Some pictures to lighten the mood!

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Looking for a lovely discipline

‘…..No more those lovely disciplines
we reassure ourselves it’s human to pursue
and no more those sweet acts of will
we briefly treasure or take for granted…..’
from The Lovely Disciplines by Martin Crucefix

Coming to the end of turmoil and desolation I received two lovely and unexpected gifts. They have both taken me back into writing again. The Lovely Disciplines, poems about the ordinary made extraordinary, is full of positive thoughts and words. The title poem takes us into the sad, lost world of those who ‘turn hardly more than a leaf turns/ in being blown to the gutter’. I love Martin Crucefix’s translations of Rilke and this gift of his latest poems was just perfect at a time when I felt rather like the ‘leaf turning’ myself. I had forgotten how one is surrounded by the ‘lovely disciplines’ and how precious they are when they seem as if they are going to be lost. One of the problems with moving house is that the chaos and disturbance can be overwhelming and all the daily miracles of life are forgotten.

So Penny’s gift came just at the right time along with another ‘house warming gift’ from Caroline. That is an old map of Taprobana. Although the actual place is debated to me it is certainly Sri Lanka/Ceylon. William Knox, on his return to England, included a map of Ceylon in his 1681 Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon and it is so similar to the Taprobana map that is now on my study wall I am certainly convinced they are one and the same place. Sometimes Ceylon is also called Serendib. Now Knox has been packed away for too long – I had to search for my notes, and the poems that I have to work on are neatly filed but it took me a long time to find them. The excitement of the map has focused me on what I now need and want to do.

We are well settled – almost three months into the move to Les Ecasseries. The huge cattle barn is now nearly empty of our furniture, black bags are unpacked. Our little bungalow has a small kitchen, a living room and two bedrooms. One of these is now my study and Phil has built in book shelves and a fitted wardrobe in the bedroom so that we can ‘fit in’ too.

The bungalow – called a pavilion in French – has a sous sol – a kind of basement. It is the exact copy of the rooms above and was once a double garage and storage space. It already had a sink in what is now a utility room and storage for dried food, freezers, overflow of books, years of poetry magazines and anything else there was no room for elsewhere. The garage now has patio doors leading to the outside and is a wood floored, spacious and bright office and treatment room for Phil. Behind it is a double guest room ready for occupation – everything carpeted and walled and ceilinged, the small window letting in light and it looks very good – actually substantially bigger then the bedroom above! There is a small box room with bunk beds and a linen cupboard and cupboard for the water heater. We have managed to get most of our furniture and ‘stuff’ in – and now we are waiting for guests to come too. It has been an amazing transformation. Outside a new fosse septique has been put down in the back meadow by the lovely and well named David Joyeux – who also removed a lot of hedging with his huge digger and the weeping willow tree now stands at the front of the house in a stretch of open grass.

There is still lots to do including setting up a garden and making workshops and clearing things in the barns but everything we need at the moment is done – it has all been painted and looks like a completely different house. Now I have to try and keep it all tidy – that is the lovely discipline of a small house. I hope that this gives a feel of the place to everyone so you can imagine us here and thriving.

I have had time to do quite a lot of reading but not the focus or energy to write much. I hope to now be more regular in writing proper blogs – but I felt this one needed to be more descriptive. Last week I entered three competitions – one a pamphlet one, one a taster for a pamphlet and one a single poem. I also sent off five poems – this week. I want to set up another lovely discipline and make sure that poems that have been sitting in files and drawers are sent out into the world – Ezra Pound described this as being like sending out babies into the cold. I understand the reluctance to expose them in their weakness to the harsh wind of other people’s reality.

Moving because it is the sensible thing to do as we get older has been hard. The old house was lovely and we were in the midst of such beautiful, remote countryside but it was becoming too hard and expensive to keep up the large house and the land. I am so glad that we had it for six years and the memories, and the writing that has come out of the place, will last for a long time to come. Here we are up on a hill, with a long, long view across a valleys to a far ridge. We are close to the motor way and only two kilometers from small shops. I can stand in the middle of the hallway and vacuum all the rooms without changing plug sockets. In the kitchen we can reach everything while sitting at the table!

There are new and lovely disciplines to learn and to be grateful for. We are thankful for the support and care of all our friends and families and look forward to sharing our new house with them.

Some rather dark photos!




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Now I am old



‘Now I am old, all I want to do is try;

But when I was young, if it wasn’t easy I let it lie,

Learning through my pores instead……

I see more now than then…..

I see it perfectly, except the beast

Fumbles and falters, until the others wince.

Everything shimmers and glitters and shakes with unbearable longing.

The dancers who cannot sleep, and the sleepers who cannot dance.’

 Ruth Stone in In Person: World Poets.  Bloodaxe2017

Hannah, my granddaughter, and her boys visiting for the day on their way to holiday in Bergerac says, ‘Your room looks like a writer’s block!’  And so it does.  Now it is totally empty and I am writing on a table in the corner of the living room which contains a sofa, two armchairs and Phil’s treatment couch.  Most of the house is full of beautifully wrapped and labelled boxes that belong to the people who are moving into our house in thirteen days.  We have had six different moving dates, this one actually has times for signing so it looks as if it is for real.  It’s hard to envisage cats in their travelling boxes, beds finally unmade and ready to go, the last minute cleaning and putting in place.  Most of our furniture and possessions, including all my books, not neatly wrapped and unlabelled, are in the large barn at the back of our new house.  They have been there for several weeks now as we moved them in anticipation of a moving date nearly a month ago.  The plants from the garden, cuttings from the greenhouse, precious bits of bushes and shrubs are all lined up behind the barn just like a garden centre on the last leg of a sale.

It is so curiously disorientating this moving business.  I am finding it hard to read, to settle to any kind of writing, even the donkey writing that needs doing before we leave. I have the list of magazine emails, competition entry forms on my computer but dates pass and nothing is sent off or done.  It’s as if there is a real block sitting in the front of my head.  Sometimes I can almost feel it, want to shift it bodily with my hand.

This is several weeks of nothing much happening apart from cleaning and making meals – there are no long term domestic tasks, no garden produce to pick and freeze or make into jam or sauces, pickles or puddings. It is the kind of ‘free’ time that I usually long for when I can read, write and think without interruption.  Except that I can’t.  Something in the loop in my head, going round and round over the trivial and unnecessary, uses up all the creative energy.  I am so tired I fall asleep in front of the telly, then I go to bed and later creep down here to try and do something and to escape the weird memory fall that cascades into my empty brain.  It is an anxious, feeling memory game.  Guilt and regret about things left undone, words unsaid, unkind and thoughtless actions that must have hurt and disturbed people in the past.

I am remembering clearly names and details of things from long ago – it’s a bit worrying as I think about how old people, losing their grip on the everyday and immediate, retreat into old memories and early parts of their lives.  I am very aware of my age in a way that I have never been before.

I felt today as if I was too old to start again, as if I had left everything too late.  Then something lovely happened.  Kay left me her new Bloodaxe Anthology ‘In Person: World Poets’, that has a DVD accompanying it.  There are interviews and readings from different poets from all over the world.  So my empty sitting room today has entertained Robert Adamson, Tomas Transtromer, Jack Mapanje and, most wonderfully, 94 year old Ruth Stone talking about her life from her house in the Vermont hills.  Nearly blind at the time of the interview she says her poems by heart and her voice as she speaks is so strong and moving.  And there she is, old as the hills, with a smile on her face, and a wonderfully engaging way of communicating.  Tomas Transtromer, whose poetry I had not read a lot of, with his gentle face and loving wife supporting him, wrote two volumes of poetry and a memoir after suffering a stroke that left him without us of his right hand and unable to speak.

Where is the end?  It’s in our own heads and hearts.  It is in the refusal to attend to the immediate moment, to allow the spool to unspool and to spoil as it weaves in and out of reality, boredom and the past.

So here I am, in the small hours, sitting in this echoey room, at the unfamiliar table, starting to marshal the thoughts, to string together words, to regret the waste of time, to know that there are many times ahead of positive, happy and productive life.  A new house, small and undemanding will be a good place to write.  Like my earlier writing pod  I made in my Park home in Falmouth there will be less Adlerian demands from the domestic front.  There is a small garden with a wall on two sides, trees with red candles of flowers and a hedge around it – it seems to be the perfect retreat for writing in, on my green round table and a garden chair.

I am looking forward, I am writing about it, I feel the need to communicate again.  I have my most important books with me.  Robert Knox seems pertinent in his own dislocation and need to make a new home in an unfamiliar place.  I will start working on the Knox poems again tomorrow.  Now I will go quietly to bed, unwoven, relaxed, feeling whole again and thankful to my friends who are my imagined audience.

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‘Tell us Preacher! Tell us who is we!’

from ‘ The Wine of Astonishment’ by Earl Lovelace quoted by Kei Miller in Manifestos: Poetry Review Spring 20017

Poetry Review has a new section, Manifestos, where poets state what their poetic purpose and meaning is. In other words ‘who is we?’. Kei Miller lifts this into the context of responsibility and asks what is the purpose of the poet today when the bodies stack up on the shore, women’s bodies become weapons of war, the barriers go up.

It does feel as if the world as we know it is disintegrating – or should we say, that in a real way, other worlds are coming to our shores, into our purview. What he is saying articulates my own thinking and feeling. Words have actually gone away because I couldn’t make them encompass the world that I feel, that hurts, that takes the breath away.

The world of poetry seems unreal and hard to engage with. Submissions and competitions, views and critiques, tensions and cliques. If, like me, it is a world you can only know through reading magazines, internet and social media it seems almost wholly composed of people circling round from workshop to workshop, course to course, reading to reading. There is so much to know about but what does it all mean and what is my place in it?

I am not educated for poetry – no degree in literature, no prior knowledge of poets or significant others. I have not read the classic poets very much and I feel my way into what I read through reviews, friends’ recommendations, the sharing of poets like Kei Miller. Sometimes it is overwhelming, I think I can never have enough time to dig it all out, to discover the etching on the bone, to take the scalpel to experience and so to responsibility.

I am going to try an exercise in remembering some of my own poems, very few of which have emerged into the public world- which does raise the question of who, or what, I am writing for. What significant lines of poems come to mind when I reflect on what I have written?:

‘When snow stands
knee steep these tree-ed shelves
mark the pathway.
This is the incidental mapping made by women
working against the pall of sky,
the faint whisper of ice.’
from Reading Elizabeth Bishop in the Himalayas.

‘It’s a mystery when you look at your hands
in the silence after –
a brush still mingling hairs
an unused tea bag
a pink purse unzipped and empty.’
from Earthquake

‘..children buried with their books
a mother mouth stuffed with dirt,
holding a baby against her breast.’
from I ride the Karakoram Highway

‘at such crossings I am suddenly alone.
Crowds shuffle behind.
We are all stripped.
Some lose country, face, the game.
For the rest a cold wind chills near the heart.’
from Crossing the Border.

‘Sitting on the stone steps, washing my feet
everything settles. I reach a balance here
in this drought prone, unlovely plain;
where a picked flower dies in an instant in the hand.’
from Being on the Mountain

‘There are many ways to die.
Our driver hedges bets;
at each tin box or smooth clay purse
rupees dropping through his wet palms.’
from Understanding Peacocks 2

‘Nightmares, earthquakes
the baby floating down the river,
the body caught from the tide by rocks.

The night turns in its jacket.
I am waiting for the split,’
from In the Night

More than enough quotes – if you are still with me what does it all mean? Why is there this need, this passion to nail down the experience and to see the particular in the universal – maybe one more!

At 3 a.m.

opening the back door
and there’s the moon
gleaming orange
in the bare branches
of an oak tree behind the barn
never seen so clear before.
Drifts of blue cloud in the moon beams
give distance to the stars.
At first only one or two,
nearly a morning star
and others late to leave
and then I see
they’re all strung up
high as a human eye can see.

This icy morning
stamped with the particular.
This moon, these stars, this barn.

‘Stamped with the particular’ maybe manifests a bit. The urge to scalpel experience to find the particular within and to see how it resonates with the universal. When you are in the middle of writing, or living, it is hard to see the patterns, to understand what is happening. My last two long series of poems – ‘Bringing Home the Himalayas’ – about the experience abroad and the particular at home, though still in the country as a stranger, and a long poem I am working on about Robert Knox’s Historical Relation of the Island of Ceylon and my own experience of life in Sri Lanka I think are trying to marry these two things. If it is to be worthwhile, to be shared, to be responsible or in any way useful then poetry has to live its life in the common world, to find a way of articulating human emotions and the existence of hope in the mundane and the destroyed.

My own sense of loss relates at the moment to leaving this house but brings in on its tail all the losses of the world. In my journal I write ‘The hinterlands of waiting, these intimations of loss.’ Have I made a manifesto for why I write, why I call myself ‘poet’? I am not sure but the exercise of writing this has been a way of looking at my poetry in a different way and by this reflective sifting I am also looking back at my life from a different perspective.

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