Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Slim volume of poetry in Sussex pub

Hei Skelven,

I was in a pub in Chiddingly recently where they were selling a poetry collection at the bar to raise funds for the local church. Didn't sound promising, but we had a look and liked it. The poet is called Michael Bridger and his collection "Wardo Mescro". Here's a poem of his about bluebells:

Bluebell wood

I ran,
Hard blue bells whipping my legs
But I ran
Through a lake of azure flatness
Concealing rotten stumps shaded by mighty Beech.
This wood, unspoilt at that time, I truly loved.
I was sure its existence was known
Only to my family.
When hampers were packed on blistering Saturdays
Excitement would course through my veins
Spreading to my brothers like a welcomed virus.
The short car journey always lasted forever.
Released from that wheeled oven
We'd break out the arsenal of plastic guns
And chase the dog in pursuit of butterflies.
My eldest brother was the Captain;
His order of the day always clear and the same;
Build a log bridge across the stream
And not forgetting of course to fall in that stream
Along with the dog, spraying black mud.
One day we stopped going.
When my Father stopped loving my trusting Mother.
I returned here myself years later
Only to have my dreams smashed
And my heart broken.
The wood. Our wood, had been destroyed.
The great storm had spared nothing
And I knew in that instant that like the wood
My childhood had finished.
The first of many dreams to be killed
While my back was turned.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

The Introduction - Louis MacNeice

The Introduction

They were introduced in a grave glade
And she frightened him because she was young
And thus too late. Crawly crawly
Went the twigs above their heads and beneath
The grass beneath their feet the larvae
Split themselves laughing. Crawly crawly
Went the cloud above the treetops reaching
For a sun that lacked the nerve to set
And he frightened her because he was old
And thus too early. Crawly crawly
Went the string quartet that was tuning up
In the back of the mind. You two should have met
Long since, he said, or else not now.
The string quartet in the back of the mind
Was all tuned up with nowhere to go.
They were introduced in a green grave.

Louis MacNeice

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

I search for feedback on this poem as I feel it needs it:

Berlin Alexanderplatz

a name to savour
like Currywurst or Sauerkraut

tangy in the mouth, salty
dark and sweet, you think of blackness
silk strong dark beer

it's blue-black on the Alex
you stop
dead drink in the sounds
the texture the shape the hard
squareness, the orange tiled

of a word a name
silver blue red

every colour

wrapped in grey wool you are a fragment
fluttering a curled
wisp of burning bright paper

slender and tiny
laughing grasping the kaleidoscope

this is where:
this is where:

you lie down and the television tower
rears above you

east west east

blue like the sky

you are alone on the Alex
the S-Bahn is a smudge of white light
the Berlinohaus and Alexanderhaus fold back
like wings you climb on
to the fountain

and fly

In Absentia

Oh dear. Well, without further comment we'll fix the gap that was Mr Thomas.

on a clear day
unfasten the gate
and take the path
over the machair
through the orchids
down to the sea


before the day begins
or when the business of the day
is over there are intervals
densities of blue or grey
when you stand on the brink
of a different possibility
a stillness that opens
out into clarity or
a subtlety that folds
back into stillness again
you might almost touch it
an occasion in the air
as steady as a great tree
branching into delicate life


Thomas A Clark.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

From Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth
Adrienne Rich writes:


I found you by design or
was it your design
or: we were drawn, we drew

Midway in this delicate
negotiation telephone rings
(Don't stop!...they'll call again...)

Offstage the fabulous creature scrapes and shuffles
we breathe its heavy dander
I don't care how, if it dies this is not the myth

No ex/interior: compressed
between my throat
and yours, hilarious oxygen

And, for the record, each did sign
our true names on the register
at the mouth of this hotel

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Ess Pee Ell


The SPL is sanctuary
supplied in simple spells
which loop round longing people
where the sloping silence dwells.

The SPL has specialty,
pools happiness in space;
supple nights which offer briefest
lustful assonance embrace.

Our lips appeal to pierce the walls
we place around all pleasure -
the SPL's the glimpse inside
high thoughts we often censure.

The library lives in all who love
for I suppose we've found
a safe, persistent lodging
for the splash of psalm in sound.

Thursday, 21 February 2008


Well, the Skelf had a one-off extraskelf last night: Gosia Mamica, who is leaving Scotland to return to Poland on Saturday, introduced us to Wislawa Szmborska. I'll post some soon, when I have my Polish head on. Anyroad, I need to post this, so that I will stop looking for it in a sheaf of electronic fullscap.

Mushrooms, by Sylvia Plath

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold of the loam
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible.

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth
Our foot's in the door.

Apologies for any clericals, the blog doesn't take a pasting so I type. Which in itself is a positive discipline, to learn her words. 

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Because she's amazing

Good to see the skelfies (is that our collective noun - apologies if not) that made it along to the SLP Round Table on Monday. We had a wee bit of Sylvia Plath, among other things, which inspired me to take her down from my shelf and read a little more. I think this is amazing:


I know the bottom, she says.
I know it with my great tap root;
It is what you fear.

I do not fear it:
I have been there.
Is it the sea you hear in me,

Its dissatisfactions?
Or the voice of nothing,
that was you madness?

Love is a shadow.
How you lie and cry after it
Listen: these are its hooves: it has gone off, like a horse.

All night I shall gallup thus, impetuously,
Till your head is a stone, your pillow a little turf,
Echoing, echoing.

Or shall I bring you the sound of poisons?
This is rain now, the big hush.
And this is the fruit of it: tin white, like arsenic.

I have suffered the atrocity of sunsets.
Scorched to the root
My red filaments burn and stand,a hand of wires.

Now I break up in pieces that fly about like clubs.
A wind of such violence
Will tolerate no bystanding: I must shriek.

The moon, also, is merciless: she would drag me
Cruelly, being barren.
Her radiance scathes me.

Or perhaps I have caught her.
I let her go. I let her go
Diminished and flat, as after radical surgery.

How your bad dreams possess and endow me.
I am inhabited by a cry.
Nightly it flaps out

Looking, with its hooks, for something to love.

I am terrified by this dark thing
That sleeps in me;
All day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity.

Clouds pass and disperse.
Are those the faces of love, those pale irretrievables?
Is it for such I agitate my heart?

I am incapable of more knowledge.
What is this, this face
So murderous in its strangle of branches?--

Its snaky acids kiss.
It petrifies the will. These are the isolate, slow faults
That kill, that kill, that kill.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Ariel's love song

Right, it's taken me far too long to actually post this, but you might remember the Auden poem I brought along to the last skelf at Lorraine's? Here it is for those of you wishing to take a bit more time over it...


(Ariel to Caliban, Echo by the Prompter)

Weep no more but pity me,
Fleet persistent shadow cast
By your lameness,
caught at last,
Helplessly in love with you,
Elegance, art, fascination,
Fascinated by
Drab mortality;
Spare me a humiliation,
To your faults be true:
I can sing as you reply

Wish for nothing lest you mar
The perfection in these eyes
Whose entire devotion lies
At the mercy of your will;
Tempt not your sworn comrade, - only
As I am can I love you as you are -
or my company be lonely
For my health be ill:
I will sing if you will cry

Never hope to say farewell,
For our lethargy is such
Heaven's kindness cannot touch
Nor earth's frankly brutal drum;
This was long ago decided,
Both of us know why,
Can, alas, foretell,
When our falsehoods are divided,
What we shall become,
One evaporating sigh

- W.H. Auden

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Sappho Assignment - Fragment 31


Please feel free to tell me to cut the homework - but, as you can see, I am becoming increasingly hooked on skelf. I love having a poem to play with, ticking round in my brain through a busy week.

So here is another assignment - to interpret a fragment by Sappho. There is a direct translation of her poem from the Greek below- followed by various beautiful interpretations by other poets (my favourite is the one by John Hollander). Then, if you feel inspired, write your own.

Fragment 31

That man seems to me to be like a god, to
Sit so close to you and to hear your sweet voice
And your charming laughter - and all this, truly,
Makes my heart tremble;

For I only, briefly, need to glance at you to
Find my voice has gone and my tongue is broken,
And a flame has stolen beneath my skin, my
Eyes can no longer

See, my ears are ringing, while drops of sweat run
Down my trembling body, and I've turned paler
Than a wisp of straw and it seems to be I'm
Not far off dying.

(Translation by Robert Chandler)


Peer of the Gods

Peer of the gods is that man, who
face to face, sits listening
to your sweet speech and lovely

It is this that rouses a tumult
in my breast. At mere sight of you
my voice falters, my tongue
is broken.

Straightway, a delicate fire runs in
my limbs; my eyes
are blinded and my ears

Sweat pours out: a trembling hunts
me down. I grow paler
than dry grass and lack little
of dying.


After an Old Text

His head is in the heavens, who across the
Narrow canyon of pillow from yours harkens
With gazing hand and hearing knees through darkness,
Looking and listening

To the sweet quietude of terminating
Conversation, the gentle brief wake for the
Long-dead day, the keening of his shortened
Breath on your shoulder:

This revision of you sucks out the sound of
Words from my mouth, my tongue collapses, my legs
Flag, my ears roar, my eyes are blind with flame; my
Head is in hell then.



Maik O the Gods He Seems to Me

Maik o the gods he seems to me,
thon man that sits in front o ye,
and hears your talkan couthilie near,
sae saftlie and clear,

your luvelie lauchan. My hert stounds
rowsan i ma breist when your lauch sounds
and gif I glent at ye sittan there
I canna speak mair.

Ma tung freezes i ma mou, a nesh
lowe rins chitteran throu ma flesh;
nae sicht i ma een; wi thier nain thunner
ma lugs dunner.

Swyte reems doun me; frae heid to fuit
a trummlan grups me, sae's I sit
greener nor gress, in sic a dwalm
I kenna wha I am.

maik= peer
couthilie=cosily, comfortably
stounds=is stunned
glent=if I glance
lowe=glow, fire
dunnner=my ears resound
swyte reems=sweat pours