The Special Relationship

“A phrase often used to describe the exceptionally close political, diplomatic, cultural and historical relations between the United States and the United Kingdom.”

In everything but poetry?

I’ve been comparing the frequency and level of engagement in the responses in this forum to those in this one

And at least this UK discussion board has a forum for US (& other) poetry. I’m not aware of any US discussion board which gives a specific reciprocal place to UK (& other) poetry.

The US and UK poetry seem, from here, to be two separate universes, two distinct planets, with only the occasional pond-straddling pioneer (Rob Mackenzie and just a handful of others come to mind) at the ‘working’ level, where most of us operate.  (At the mega-poet level – where there are mega-poets – all things become much more equal, don’t they?)

Is this an accurate picture? If so, is such working-level separateness good or bad for Poetry?

And that’s just the US-UK divide. There’s also the huge and important rest of the English-speaking poetry blogosphere.  Is there more or less connectedness there?

Should people who care about Poetry be trying to do anything about any of this?

Or should we just be all Candide and il faut cultiver son jardin?

‘polyphonic prose’

The Taxi

When I go away from you
The world beats dead
Like a slackened drum.
I call out for you against the jutted stars
And shout into the ridges of the wind.
Streets coming fast,
One after the other,
Wedge you away from me,
And the lamps of the city prick my eyes
So that I can no longer see your face.
Why should I leave you,
To wound myself upon the sharp edges of the night?

Amy Lowell

You tell me that the peonies need spraying,
That the columbines have overrun all bounds,
That the pyrus japonica should be cut back and rounded.
You tell me these things.
But I look at you, heart of silver,
White heart-flame of polished silver,
Burning beneath the blue steeples of the larkspur.
And I long to kneel instantly at your feet,
While all about us peal the loud, sweet Te Deums of the Canterbury bells.

from Madonna of the Evening Flowers, Amy Lowell

I am Minerva, the village poetess

Hooted at, jeered at by the Yahoos of the street
For my heavy body, cock-eye, and rolling walk,
And all the more when “Butch” Weldy
Captured me after a brutal hunt.
He left me to my fate with Doctor Meyers;
And I sank into death, growing numb from the feet up,
Like one stepping deeper and deeper into a stream of ice.
Will some one go to the village newspaper,
And gather into a book the verses I wrote?–
I thirsted so for love
I hungered so for life!

– Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology (Minerva Jones)

If, like me, you’ve never read Edgar Lee Master’s Spoon River Anthology, here’s a good place to get a taste of it.

Very handy digital version – lets you cross-refer in several different ways, including links to those who talk about and are talked about by the character whose poem you are reading.

Digital content does have its advantages, doesn’t it?

opals and feathers

In Mind

There’s in my mind a woman
of innocence, unadorned but

fair-featured and smelling of
apples or grass. She wears

a utopian smock or shift, her hair
is light brown and smooth, and she

is kind and very clean without

but she has
no imagination

And there’s a
turbulent moon-ridden girl

or old woman, or both,
dressed in opals and rags, feathers

and torn taffeta,
who knows strange songs

but she is not kind.

Denise Levertov

dead Brits – Byron

last of the Big Six, is getting short shrift, I’m afraid. I’ve maundered on about Cain before, but I can’t, just can’t, make myself even begin to read Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and/or Don Juan.  I mean, hooray for She Walks in Beauty and So We’ll Go No More A-Roving, but at the moment my brain just scrunches up and starts going mwah-mwah-mwah-mwah when it sees this kind of thing:

Oh, thou! in Hellas deem’d of heavenly birth,
Muse! form’d or fabled at the minstrel’s will!
Since shamed full oft by later lyres on earth,
Mine dares not call thee from thy sacred hill:
Yet there I’ve wander’d by thy vaunted rill;
Yes! sigh’d o’er Delphi’s long deserted shrine,
Where, save that feeble fountain, all is still;
Nor mote my shell awake the weary Nine
To grace so plain a tale — this lowly lay of mine.

I may have overdone the Romantic thing just a tad…..

And not getting on with Byron is stopping me from getting on with the next thing.

So: very sorry George Gordon Byron, later Noel, 6th Baron Byron FRS (12 January 1787– 19 April 1824)!

Catch you later.  Maybe.

What I want to focus on now, I think, are Dead Americans (or actually, anyone who doesn’t say O thou all the time and go on and on about Helen and Troy and Delphi and the topless towers of Ilium, yes ok that was Marlowe but you get my point).

Moving right along here!

hearts are clouds

who only know it’s raining when they burst, are monsoons and torrents, never meant to flood your house I never meant to flood your house but now that I know your inner rooms how can I ever fall asleep, in this cold line, with my wooden heart shaped bowl, waiting, for a little food, some water, and a smile of sun that made me wish I was father to your many dreams that run barefoot and naked on wooden or tiled floors mumbling the nothings of first word attempts, I will learn to plait their hair, I will wake by night to calm fevers and rub their feet with oil and whisper prayers to my God to keep them safe, and I will watch you by day and by night, and any hand that lay on you would have to seek membership again, but I am daydreaming, here, in this line with my wooden heart shaped bowl


That is the part I very much like. You can read the full text here, at Tongues of the Ocean.

“My soul is ten thousand miles wide

and extremely invisibly deep. It is the same size as the sea, it is bigger than the sea, it holds the sea. and you cannot, you cannot cram it into beer cans and fingernails and stake it out in lots and own it. It will drown you all and never even notice.”

That’s a character in Ursula K. LeGuin’s Searoad, a collection of stories about a small Oregon beach community. I’m reading it in a rather plodding obedient manner. I love the passage above but unfortunately it’s pretty much the only one of its kind so far and I’m about halfway through. I’m probably spoilt by Earthsea and her off-planet fiction. She writes very differently there.