Sunday, 13 November 2011

Poetry Workshop Sunday 20th November: Study Material

Below are some examples of contemporary poems. I hope you enjoy them.

Take your time reading them and if you could consider,

  • what you think the poet was hoping to achieve with the poem,
  • how you as the reader have interpreted its meaning,
  • the nature and inter-relatedness of the key images employed,
  • the structure and form,
  • the style, language and voice.
  • any interesting voltas, dramatic modes, metaphors and analogies, subtext.

Having considered the above I invite you to step away from your poem and apply the same critique. It might help if you jot down some notes in response to the questions above. Do you feel that the poem represents your intentions for meaning? Are the images relevant and consistent as a set? Could the poem be better represented constrained (or liberated) in a different architecture? Is the style, language and voice of the poem consistent with the subject matter?

I hope you find this approach useful as both readers and writers of poetry and I look forward to meeting you all on Sunday.


Louis MacNeice, Soap Suds, The Burning Perch

This brand of soap has the same smell as once in the big

House he visited when he was eight: the walls of the bathroom open
To reveal a lawn where a great yellow ball rolls back through a hoop
To rest at the head of a mallet held in the hands of a child.

And these were the joys of that house: a tower with a telescope;
Two great faded globes, one of the earth, one of the stars;
A stuffed black dog in the hall; a walled garden with bees;
A rabbit warren; a rockery; a vine under glass; the sea.
To which he has now returned. The day of course is fine
And a grown-up voice cries Play! The mallet slowly swings,
Then crack, a great gong booms from the dog-dark hall and the ball
Skims forward through the hoop and then through the next and then

Through hoops where no hoops were and each dissolves in turn
And the grass has grown head-high and an angry voice cries Play!
But the ball is lost and the mallet slipped long since from the hands
Under the running tap that are not the hands of a child.

Christopher Reid: A Scattering, A Scattering

I expect you've seen the footage: elephants,
finding the bones of one of their own kind
dropped by the wayside, picked clean by scavengers
and the sun, then untidily left there,
decide to do something about it.

But what, exactly? They can't, of course,
reassemble the old elephant magnificence;
they can't even make a tidier heap. But they can
hook up bones with their trunks and chuck them
this way and that way. So they do.

And their scattering has an air
of deliberate ritual, ancient and necessary.
Their great size, too, makes them the very
embodiment of grief, while the play of their trunks
lends sprezzatura.

Elephants puzzling out
the anagram of their own anatomy,
elephants at their abstracted lamentations -
may their spirit guide me as I place
my own sad thoughts in new, hopeful arrangements.

Don Paterson, Walking With Russell, Landing Light

Whatever the difference is, it all began

the day we woke up face-to-face like lovers
and his four-day-old smile dawned on him again,
possessed him, till it would not fall or waver;
and I pitched back not my old hard-pressed grin
but his own smile, or one I'd rediscovered.
Dear son, I was mezzo del cammin
and the true path was as lost to me as ever
when you cut in front and lit it as you ran.
See how the true gift never leaves the giver:
returned and redelivered, it rolled on
until the smile poured through us like a river.
How fine, I thought, this waking amongst men!
I kissed your mouth and pledged myself forever.

Philip Gross, Fantasia on a Theme from IKEA, The Water Table

We could see ourselves in one, these half-a-rooms
of  dolls'-house lifestyle, life-sized (the books on the shelves
in Swedish). We order by numbers; down in catacombs
a forklift whirrs down the racks of available shelves.
We follow the way-marked route at a shuffling shunt
round each turn, like the Ghost Train in a seaside fair -
for miles, then stumble out into... astonishment
to see, after all, it's just a shed. Take a square
box, corrugated over girders; blue and yellow paint;
a brown-field site, a name... And it has become
a world, born of economies of scale, ground rent,
need and desire: the product of the sum
of (as real and recurrent as mist from the stream
the car park buried) us - the human dream.

Jo Shapcott, Of Mutability, Deft

It's as easy to make an antibubble in your own kitchen
as it is to open up a crease in language

and reveal what you couldn't say yesterday.
Just a matter of squirting water onto water

without snapping the surface tension until liquid
surrounds a skin of air, surrounding liquid. My body's

a drop of water. Maybe the imperfections, the proliferating cells
help it refract the full spectrum. These last breaths,

air, water bubbling at my lips. The soap film is my skin:
permeable-for-some-things, membrane, separating-other-things,

this and that, the moving point between, the unsettled
limit, stretching and contracting under the breath

that comes and goes: I am this one, I am that one,
I breathe in and become everything I see.

Eilean Ni Chuilleanain, Family, Selected Poems

Water has no memory
And you drown in it like a kind of absence.
It falls apart
In a continual death
A hundred-gallon tank as
Innocent as outer-space.

Earth remembers
Facts about your relations;
Wood passes on patristic
Bone and feather,
Charcoal remembering
And every stone recalls its quarry and its axe.


Even if you hate some of the above poems, let me leave you with the follow quotes:

'Talent borrows, genius steals" (or something to that effect)

"Don't hate, imitate!"
Mc Friggin' (The Friggin' Hell Mixtape)


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