Poetry Reading Review

Thursday the 10th – The Quad Walk Gallery – University of Gloucestershire

Recently, I attended and read at a poetry ready done by my fellow course mates and teachers. It was themed around the December 2012 gang rape which took place on a bus in Delhi, India. I’ll be brutally honest, she suffered. A wheel jack hammer was inserted into her, removing a large amount of her intestines and she died in a Singapore hospital a few days later. Reportedly, she wanted to live. She had been an intern in a hospital.

That incident labelled Delhi as the rape capital, and women from Delhi contributed to ‘Drawing the Line’ in a week long workshop to tell visual stories and fight back against the injustice. Students at the university made a cool book, yet oddly shaped, ‘Re-drawing the line’ and I’ll add some snaps. It’s artwork created when they were asked to think of what it would be like to be another gender -including trans/bigender etc.

Due to assignment rules, I cannot post the poem up here until after the work has been marked. However, I read second, two poems: Rape Culture and A (Recent) History of Women. Themed around violence against women – more specifically the Brock Turner case, in form of a police interrogation, and several horrific middle Eastern/Asian rapes dating back to 2006.

The atmosphere was good. I was very nervous. Despite being in my third year I have never done a public reading before. Not a great public speaker, love to stare at my paper and avoid the audience at all costs. I thought I would be grateful for the orchestral (they said! Liars.) band playing in the background, but topped with a microphone that spat out your P’s and K’s, my arse could not have been sweating more. In spite of all that, a lovely older woman came over to me and told me one of my poems had her in tears.

I shall ask one question: can you play the ping pong balls? Is that really an instrument? Swiveling them around in a bowl until, one by one, they spew over the floor, bouncing across the stone in the tiny room in the gallery hallway, the coldest place they could have found on campus, rolling to rest at our feet. I think not.
Not only ping pong balls, I have you know. Plastic tubing swung above his head. Atmospheric but not in a good way. They had earlier admitted, even claimed with pride they were an improvised band. Not one rehearsal. They were supposed to be ‘quiet background music’ but blared above the poetry of two of the readers. Poor saps.
Guy on the oboe looked  like he was jamming.

Still, the free wine made up for that ordeal. Plus my free copy of ‘Re-draw the line’ which is amazing. The students have really upped the game with this one. Challenging gender norms and stereotypes alongside biasness within socialisation, it’s a great visual story.

I’m doubtful on whether I shall read out again. It was a sickening experience and when my audience consists of twenty people and a cameraman, I can’t imagine being in front of more.

Purchase Drawing the Line here – http://zubaanbooks.com/shop/drawing-the-line-indian-women-fight-back/

DTL-FINAL-COVER-LO-RES-440x583.jpg

See more student illustration work here – http://www.pittvillepress.co.uk/ba_ill.htm

draw-the-line

ADVANCED DRAWING AD5507

 

The Windows (The Actual Acts) – Paul Hoover Poetry

The Windows (The Actual Acts)

“A real armchair leaning against a real window” di Chirico

 

The world consists of acts.

 

The actual acts; acts result in worlds.

 

Whatever is, is actual.

 

Hypothetical dog chased by a real cat.

 

Things are possible, then they exist.

 

In what respect is an accident a thing?

 

Accidents occur when acts go astray.

 

If an accident occurs in a sentence, is meaning liable?

 

There’s a distant look on possibility’s face.

 

It will never quite exist or become a fact.

 

Never acting is also an action.

 

Which do you prefer, the thing or its state?

 

What objects lack in time, they make up in space.

 

An object is the actual awaiting further action.

 

It can wait a long time.

 

Time is fresh in objects even when they decay.

 

You can’t give one example of time getting old.

 

Every second, new time is arriving.

 

Still, some of us are bored.

 

All that I can imagine is possible for me.

 

But perhaps not actual.

 

Possibility is a source of amusement.

 

Our toys are laid out.

 

But, all too often, we’re unable to act.

 

Inaction is a waste of possibility.

 

Action is a waste of impossibility.

 

Things have hinges; they turn both ways.

 

Which is why doors are magic.

 

The priests of the wall.

 

Why do we say thoughts have direction?

 

“I was thinking along that line.”

 

A series of thoughts is like a chase scene.

 

One thought pushes another over some edge.

 

Time’s job is full-time; there’s no time off.

 

Objects serve for a certain period.

 

Eventually, they fade away.

 

They were steady workers in the vineyards of space.

 

You can’t imagine something, unless you saw it before.

 

A pine tree, for instance.

 

If you never saw a boat, how would you describe it?

 

Showing is telling.

 

Seeing something for the first time requires imagination.

 

You’re learning to see how possible it is.

 

Then it becomes actual.

 

A manta ray gliding through shallow water.

 

Frigate birds on a cliff.

 

Do you see what I’m saying?

 

It’s harder to say what you’re seeing.

 

Possible peach on a possible dish.

 

A school of possible fish.

 

Why do we say “temporal object”?

 

Name one object that exists outside of time.

 

I once gave the gift of a dozen temporal roses.

 

Objects famously take up space.

 

Apparently, they also take up time.

 

Two lovers struggle in bed for the same space and time.

 

There is no freedom for objects with names.

 

They’re stuck being themselves.

 

For example, you can’t rename a thing.

 

It would alter the world too much.

 

What would you call “scissors”?

 

The red dress has a history.

 

A world grew up around it, in which the dress was god.

 

To know an object, you have to know its future.

 

Many objects were in our mouths as children.

 

They tasted square or round, hard or soft.

 

We were seeing with our mouths.

 

You can’t know a thing without knowing its name.

 

When the name changes, so does the thing.

 

A new world spreads before it.

 

All those lost words, of agricultural meaning!

 

The dovecote and the ploughshare.

 

Don’t get your “hackles” up!

 

Names make everything real.

 

Even the imaginary.

 

Nobodaddy.  Uncle Sam.

 

Even in public, objects are private.

 

They hide in plain sight.

 

Their private lives, of course, are none of our business.

 

Objects at the window, gazing out at us.

 

Impossible objects, never to be seen.

 

We name a thing when it acts like the thing.

 

It has its own rhythms and systems.

 

Some systems are transparent.

 

Clocks, for instance.

 

Everyone knows what’s going on in there.

 

Transparency is one of the world’s disguises.

 

We can’t know all of anything.

 

Or even a little of everything.

 

The mind can manage only one thing at a time.

 

The beginning, middle, or end.

 

Can you name a fourth childhood friend?

 

We are not infinite beings.

 

Nor are there infinite objects.

 

Infinity is only a concept, to bring the cosmos near.

 

But the cosmos doesn’t care, and scatters its attentions.

 

Memory presents one thing at a time.

 

It wants to linger there, in time and place.

 

That smell of bread near the bakery.

 

Wearing your husband’s shoes.

 

There’s a thin line between nostalgia and nausea.

 

The plunge is sharp, the past too shallow.

 

Possibility is docile.

 

It’s the actual that cares.

 

If one thing exists, the cosmos isn’t empty.

 

Many things do exist.

 

Therefore, the cosmos isn’t empty.

 

It just feels empty.

 

The words we use are strange.

 

Because they’re so familiar.

 

And states of affairs are constantly passing.

 

We haven’t the time to grieve.

 

Space is all places, the contained and the container.

 

Wherever it goes, space is always at home.

 

It’s our local worlds that are distant.

 

Which is why we carry totems.

 

Something on a key ring.

 

Why am I walking here, on this particular road?

 

What do I represent, the state of my own mind?

 

The possible is poetic but only feebly so.

 

Only the impossible leads to great discoveries.

 

Here is an object of one dimension.

 

It has no physical nature, because it’s a mental object.

 

Here’s an object of two dimensions.

 

It is called a picture.

 

Its trees seem almost real.

 

But we can’t go behind them.

 

Is darkness deeper than light?

 

They seem to go equally far.

 

Infinity means:  farther than we can see.

 

What an awesome concept.

 

But we can only think as far as we can see.

 

An object always has some degree of thickness.

 

This sheet of paper, for instance.

 

Ideas have no dimension, until you write them down.

 

Natural objects are deeply unfamiliar.

 

Water, rocks, and trees.

 

They border on the uncanny.

 

We feel more at home with things we have made.

 

Sofa on the lawn, flat screen TV.

 

Ideas shrink at the thought of an object.

 

At the first distraction, they slip out of being.

 

We have to give them “weight.”

 

No idea comes to us completely.

 

Its second shoe never quite lands.

 

Ideas can take a thousand years to pop into our heads.

 

They come a long way, down through history.

 

But they are soon forgotten.

 

Objects contain their own situation.

 

They’re always showing how possible they are.

 

How do you know the world is round?

 

Because someone has pictured it for you.

 

The less fully drawn, the more beautiful the picture.

 

A single curved line can do the whole job.

 

When an object disappears, its shape remains in place.

 

An apple, for instance.

 

Apples look different in French.

 

They also sound different, when they hit the ground.

 

Even when collapsed, a box remains a box.

 

To what extent is water an object?

 

It runs to find its shape.

 

Then we call it a “body” of water.

 

What object is eternal?

 

Even granite wears down.

 

Fire is not an object.

 

It’s some kind of process, or being.

 

A picture of the sea is something like the sea.

 

No picture is perfect, no object either.

 

Everything is “almost” or “nearly.”

 

Imperfect picture of an imperfect object.

 

The sea is being as authentic as it can.

 

On certain days, the sea is not itself.

 

That is, not as we had imagined.

 

A painting’s first depiction is of itself.

 

Therefore, it can never depart from reality.

 

Are curved lines too passionate?

 

Too personal somehow?

 

No such thing as two identical pictures.

 

Breathtaking difference between two silk-screened Jackies.

 

No such thing as a logical picture.

 

There are no false pictures.

 

There are just pictures.

 

A chair remains true to its image.

 

Some hint of the chair in a nest of abstract lines.

 

Because you were thinking chair.

 

A tree portrays the wind.

 

Cold air portrays warm breath.

 

There’s evidence everywhere.

 

When I say mind, I hear mined.

 

But I know what I’m thinking.

 

What would be unthinkable?

 

An object of no shape is unthinkable.

 

What proof would we have of an imageless world?

 

No logic to the world, just traditional practice.

 

Logic is our invention, like haircuts and dating.

 

First the town, then the sheriff.

 

There are no logical pears.

 

The days of creation must have been a madhouse!

 

But things settled down.

 

How much of my world remains unknown by me?

 

How much of the language?

 

Is my point of view leaking?

 

Also, many things lie hidden.

 

The unprocessed world is the cliff edge of perception.

 

All that is possible is not thinkable.

 

All that is thinkable is not possible.

 

The possible suffers the actual.

 

Then it becomes a fact.

 

I’m pointed to what I think.

 

Then I’m alone with my thinking.

 

Which of my thoughts are yours?

 

And which are mine alone?

 

Can you point to the beginning?

 

From what direction does the end arrive?

 

Thoughts have no past or future.

 

They’re always “right now.”

 

Reckless thoughts are the first to be heeded.

 

Thinking is shaped by speaking.

 

And writing holds it fast.

 

The world doesn’t care about thinking.

 

It goes on being the world.

 

Meanwhile, the future is changing.

 

Name one thing that remains to be named.

 

First writing, then speech, then thinking , then perception.

 

Last of all, the things worth perceiving.

 

The “shake” of a thought is part of its meaning.

 

The part that slips past understanding.

 

Of which we are most fond.

 

“When” and “what” are of the world.

 

“If” goes in all directions.

 

Truth is as close as our senses.

 

“I could smell him before he arrived.”

 

When you die,  your truths go with you.

 

Wreckage of knowledge, science, mind.

 

What exactly is meant by an “empty sign”?

 

We call them empty when they’re too full.

 

“A horse is a horse” is the zenith of thinking.

 

You can’t go any further, as regards the horse.

 

The horse can go as far as it wishes.

 

But not beyond its name.

 

Beauty isn’t a matter of strangeness.

 

It comes when perception deepens the familiar.

 

The peach is more peach than ever before.

 

Too much perception can dull even a stone.

 

What’s the “base note” of a mirror?

 

How deeply it doubles the world?

 

All, always, infinite, eternal, and never.

 

Why should we trust these words?

 

What if I should say, “The sky is never dark”?

 

Would you try to believe me?

 

Some light is always present.

 

Stars and distant neon.

 

The glow from a swamp.

 

A shrug has meaning in any language.

 

It passes in silence and says the right thing.

 

What if Nietzsche had shrugged?

 

Would the world be any different?

 

Infinity is smaller than it used to be.

 

It’s down to just an “infinitive series.”

 

Poetry never thinks things through.

 

It seizes directly what it needs.

 

Philosophy thinks too much.

 

But has very little to say.

 

Poetry never has to say it’s sorry.

 

All it does is sing and gesture.

 

That’s its wisdom.

 

The wise fool of the arts.

 

Sign language is beautiful in its lack of sound.

 

But pathetic in the size of its effort.

 

Poetry is beautiful for its sound.

 

But pathetic in its pathos.

 

In poetry and music, beauty is in the passing.

 

But its having been played still resonates in the room.

 

A word can’t be false; it’s just doing its job.

 

Here comes that word, simpático, again.

 

A handsome word in its way.

 

Simpatia also.

 

To love such words, do I have to understand them?

 

Each time a word is “played,” it has a new truth.

 

Even in the same situation.

 

The viewer walks with his candle.

 

Darkness behind, darkness ahead.

 

Knowledge faces a dimly lit stage.

 

It seems that the play is ending.

 

It can tell from the tone and rhythm.

 

There are patterns to these things.

 

An engine flares wildly as it runs out of gas.

 

We even have to intuit what we know for certain.

 

What is not murky?

 

Practical knowledge is not murky.

 

How to sharpen a knife is transparent to me.

 

Also the fact that knives need to sharpened.

 

Dull or sharp, a knife couldn’t be clearer.

 

Philosophy, however, requires murky conditions.

 

That’s the whole point.

 

It’s how you play the game.

 

Not how much smoke you clear.

 

The philosophy of fire uses metaphors of water.

 

Can you wrap your mind around that?

 

While time and space are wrapped around you?

 

Which is smarter, quartz or stone?

 

What’s the meaning of this sentence?

 

Philosophy sets no limits on what can be thought.

 

But personal experience does.

 

Thought demands a staging place.

 

Here, there, before, and after.

 

You can’t think your way inside a thing.

 

You can only think near it.

 

Thinking is contained by its world.

 

We are world through and through.

 

What can be shown has already been said.

 

What can be shown need not be said.

 

The told has been shown.

 

What is false is true in its commitment to falseness.

 

What is true is true in its commitment to truth.

 

Therefore, truth conditions rule.

 

No philosophy can proceed without a concept of truth.

 

Just a little eschatology gets it through the day.

 

If the many didn’t exist, would there still be the one?

 

Why isn’t zero an instance of one?

 

One zero plus one zero should be two zeros.

 

Zero is something, and nothing is something.

 

Contradiction is part of the world’s agreement.

 

But you wouldn’t drink black milk.

 

Or put out a fire with your hair.

 

We are as close to truth as a painting of the truth.

 

That is, at a refractory distance.

 

The limits of my language will have to do.

 

The ark inside quark.

 

That strange word, “enfeebled.”

 

I am what I can glean.

 

There are thousands of things we’ve never observed.

 

A new species of clam being eaten by a new species of bird.

 

And there’s no new man to record it.

 

To imagine a world is to clean it.

 

Hard to conceive of a dirty new world.

 

Our imaginary worlds are aging along with our real ones.

 

The limits of the world are new every day.

 

Because the world is shrinking.

 

Poetry exceeds the limits of language.

 

The unknown world is happy about that fact.

 

The syntax of life is birth, life, and death.

 

Life is the verb.

 

Some guesses are educated.

 

But even the educated are guessing.

 

Poetry works by a zero-sum method.

 

Equal pressures of emergence and distance.

 

Attention and  movement, turns when there are turns.

 

Banality is the poetry of no movement at all.

 

It won’t quite die and refuses to give birth.

 

To model consciousness, you have to draw a picture.

 

Yeats’ intersecting, counter-rotating gyres.

 

The rhizomes of Jung and Deleuze.

 

The poetry of chaos has no intersecting lines.

 

The world falls through.

 

Metaphor’s knot may hold too fast.

 

In the logic of poetry, surprises are required.

 

Things powerfully don’t quite fit.

 

The rose itself may be of interest.

 

But poetry is the shadows in its folds.

 

Anomalies hold little interest.

 

They sing a note of weary invention.

 

Not the strange hand but the strangeness of hands.

 

The result should be a surprise to the process.

 

Natural objects aren’t logical.

 

They’re not illogical, either.

 

They’re simply what is given.

 

Nature used to make all the noise.

 

Now it makes what we call silence.

 

If logic is transcendental, our thoughts must be, too.

 

Therefore, logic is not transcendental.

 

On which dirty wings should we fly?

 

A problem in math is stated as a sentence.

 

There’s a syntax and a grammar.

 

Its beauty lies in zero.

 

The dark star of the system.

 

A tape loop models infinity.

 

Renewal and boredom to the nth degree.

 

What’s the word for “nth” in German?

 

Poetry requires a speechless speaker.

 

It speaks from a groundless ground.

 

From the past-future to the future-present.

 

Its pulse is nothing / song.

 

Is logic too emotional to be considered math?

 

They both involve proofs.

 

But not proofs of existence.

 

Existence is proof of itself.

 

You can’t go below rain on a stone.

 

You can’t go above it, either.

 

How would we know if time changed its way of being?

 

What we call time is actually fictive time.

 

We perceive and remember islands of experience.

 

The rest falls away.

 

Time is the stage, memory the actor.

 

Pain comes of a certain coherence.

 

For no visible reason, a person weeps in the street.

 

Especially, for some reason, in New York City.

 

Real time is confined to baseball games.

 

No drama, no coherence.

 

Experience is whatever interest decides it is.

 

And that becomes the story.

 

That business with Charybdis.

 

Not to mention Calypso and Circe.

 

Poetry’s business is to trade in attention.

 

Maximum pleasure from maximum pain.

 

Pain can be funny, when it occurs in others.

 

Pleasure has the tensile strength and wave rhythm of water.

 

There’s a ripple of thought in the spine.

 

Pleasure is the final value.

 

No truth, no pleasure.

 

By the world, we mean the All.

 

Where even the vacancies are present.

 

Nothing less would ever make sense.

 

Perception lends extra value to the world.

 

Poetry lends even more.

 

The tax on it is public inattention.

 

The world’s intentions are pure, because it has none.

 

But there are certain patterns.

 

If a buffalo falls through the ice, nothing can save it.

 

It’s impossible to look behind the given.

 

You’re in no position to judge.

 

But you can speak from behind it, by means of fiction.

 

The wind knots some strings hanging from a clothesline.

 

Did it happen by chance or divine intervention?

 

Tautology is when all the knots are tied.

 

Meaning returns to itself, from all sides of its world.

 

A mouse is finally the mouse it started out to be.

 

Even the mystics would cease their chatter.

 

Many in silence have no special wisdom.

 

They simply have nothing to say.

 

No silence, no song;  no noise, no world.

 

No such thing as a treacherous object.

 

Innocent blood, innocent ax.

 

The world takes up all the room inside a camera.

 

A lot more world spills outside the frame.

 

No world is made of thought alone.

 

Or music alone or painting.

 

No thought is made of world alone.

 

The navigators didn’t invent the new land.

 

They sensed that it was there.

 

Have you ever gazed from a window to see if everything’s still there?

 

And seen your own face in the glass, superimposed on  the view?

 

Consciousness rests among its objects.

 

Which makes the objects restless.

 

It is possible to say, “I no longer recognize the mirror in me.”

 

Or, “The author is the product of the work he produces.”

 

The more illogical it is, the more it’s of interest.

 

Truth is of interest, but it’s hard to explain.

 

You can’t locate its beginning or end.

 

Then the middle goes missing.

 

Truisms come readymade, everything in its place.

 

Not the test of time but the taste of it.

 

Not the taste of good liquor but the cost of it.

 

People who think this much ought to be placed in prison.

 

They’re a danger to themselves and to our soldiers at war.

 

Where’s a speechless speaker for the unspoken world?

 

The Bartleby of our day, to stand in the file room dreaming?

 

When nothing is ordinary, nothing is of interest.

 

Thought is metaphysical when its motive is distance.

 

The everyday brings us closer to existence.

 

The easy gazers are living in a dream.

 

The thinker’s becoming real.

 

Is irony too sentimental?

 

Is its faith in our era waning?

 

Two new words are needed, “enworlded” and “beselved.”

 

To be enworlded is to be beselved.

 

To be beside yourself is to be fully conscious.

 

By the seaside, the beautiful sea.

 

Is it possible then that I’ve misunderstood the question?

Dangerous Driving – Charlotte Appleby

9:42 A.M. Seriously?
Just out of bed
Gotta cuppa tea
Down the road
By fifteen feet
A red fiat slips
Off the street
Don’t ask me how
I’m as clueless as you
Friday morning so
Can’t have been drinking
But they crash through
A garden wall and smash
Into the little town house
The window shatters
No surprise there
Driver falls out
Head all a mess
Cheek’s all pale
And he sways
On his feet
As the owners run out
With dressing gowns on
The sirens sound
And the coppers come
In for a right laugh
A right waste of time

Writing prompts

30 Writing Prompts for National Poetry Month

1. Grab the closest book. Go to page 29. Write down 10 words that catch your eye. Use 7 of words in a poem. For extra credit, have 4 of them appear at the end of a line.

2. Write about a poem about a superhero coming to your house and confronting you about something. Somewhere in the poem, you have to state what your superpower is.

3. Write a poem that is really a love letter to an old flame. To make sure it’s doesn’t slip into sappy, make sure one or more of these words are in the poem: dung beetle, politician, nuclear, exoskeleton, oceanography, pompadour, toilet.

4. Make a list of seven words that have the same vowel sounds (like bee, treat, pepperoni, eagle) and use them in a repetitive way throughout a poem.

5. Write a poem about a weird fact or several odd facts that you know.

6. Write a poem in two sections about two completely different things. Have the title link both items today in a surprising way.

7. Find a favorite recipe. Now write a poem inspired or in the style of that recipe about a family secret—yours or someone else’s.

8. Turn your paper so that it’s in the landscape position. Write a poem about God or the universe or the horizon of the ocean with longer lines and see what happens.

9. Write a poem to your favorite letter of the alphabet.

10. Write a seven-line poem about one of the 7 Sins that only contains seven words in each of the lines.

11. Write a poem that begins with the last thing you can remember someone saying to you today or yesterday. See if you can use that line two or three times.

12. Turn on the radio to any channel. Write a poem inspired by the first thing you hear (lyrics to a song, a commercial, etc.)

13. Run around your house and grab 5 items that all begin with the same letter. Write a poem as an ode to one of these items or that includes these items.

14. Think of the nicest thing someone ever said to you. Write a poem about a rainy day and something flooding. End the poem with the good thing someone said.

15. Write a poem that describes the wallpaper on your computer or the image on the last postcard you received.

16. Make a list of ten images of things you have seen in the last 24 hours. Use all of them in a poem.

17. Write a poem that includes these words: bamboozled, bloodlust, bibliography. Have the title include one of these words: contradiction, constellation, cranberry.

18. Write a poem about something small that is only 5 lines long.

19. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. If the sounds are peaceful, write a poem with a violent word as the title. If the sounds are loud, write a poem with a kind word as the title.

20. Remove your shoes. Write a poem that celebrates your feet.

21. Write a poem with the opposite hand that you write with or if you type your poems on the computer, use only one hand to type.

22. Write a poem that only had five syllables in each line. Give the poem a long title.

23. Write a poem where the last word of the first line begins with the first letter of your name, and the last word of the second line begins with the second letter of your name until you have spelled out your first and/or your last name.

24. Write a poem that has the word “love” hidden in it somewhere. You cannot use the word “love” by itself, it must be hidden (such as in the word “glove” or in two words like “halo venom”).

25. Write a poem where a literary figure shows up and tells you something and/or gives you something.

26. Write a poem to your future self, but do not say it is to your future self, address the poem to a president or rockstar.

27. Write a poem made of ten metaphors.

28. Make a list of your favorite words today. Write a poem that uses 90% of the words you wrote down.

29. Write a poem about a skyscraper. Now, rewrite the poem with the last line being your first.

30. Write a poem giving thanks to a poet or to writing a poem a day. Use a line from one of the poems you wrote this month to either begin or end it.

Writing Prompts by Kelli Russell Agodon – http://www.agodon.com

Poetry by C.S. Lewis

After Prayers, Lie Cold by C. S. Lewis
Arise my body, my small body, we have striven
Enough, and He is merciful; we are forgiven.
Arise small body, puppet-like and pale, and go,
White as the bed-clothes into bed, and cold as snow,
Undress with small, cold fingers and put out the light,
And be alone, hush’d mortal, in the sacred night,
-A meadow whipt flat with the rain, a cup
Emptied and clean, a garment washed and folded up,
Faded in colour, thinned almost to raggedness
By dirt and by the washing of that dirtiness.
Be not too quickly warm again. Lie cold; consent
To weariness’ and pardon’s watery element.
Drink up the bitter water, breathe the chilly death;
Soon enough comes the riot of our blood and breath.
Evolutionary Hymn by C. S. Lewis
Lead us, Evolution, lead us
Up the future’s endless stair;
Chop us, change us, prod us, weed us.
For stagnation is despair:
Groping, guessing, yet progressing,
Lead us nobody knows where.

Wrong or justice, joy or sorrow,
In the present what are they
while there’s always jam-tomorrow,
While we tread the onward way?
Never knowing where we’re going,
We can never go astray.

To whatever variation
Our posterity may turn
Hairy, squashy, or crustacean,
Bulbous-eyed or square of stern,
Tusked or toothless, mild or ruthless,
Towards that unknown god we yearn.

Ask not if it’s god or devil,
Brethren, lest your words imply
Static norms of good and evil
(As in Plato) throned on high;
Such scholastic, inelastic,
Abstract yardsticks we deny.

Far too long have sages vainly
Glossed great Nature’s simple text;
He who runs can read it plainly,
‘Goodness = what comes next.’
By evolving, Life is solving
All the questions we perplexed.

Oh then! Value means survival-
Value. If our progeny
Spreads and spawns and licks each rival,
That will prove its deity
(Far from pleasant, by our present,
Standards, though it may well be).

Cliche Came Out of its Cage by C. S. Lewis
1

You said ‘The world is going back to Paganism’.
Oh bright Vision! I saw our dynasty in the bar of the House
Spill from their tumblers a libation to the Erinyes,
And Leavis with Lord Russell wreathed in flowers, heralded with flutes,
Leading white bulls to the cathedral of the solemn Muses
To pay where due the glory of their latest theorem.
Hestia’s fire in every flat, rekindled, burned before
The Lardergods. Unmarried daughters with obedient hands
Tended it By the hearth the white-armd venerable mother
Domum servabat, lanam faciebat. at the hour
Of sacrifice their brothers came, silent, corrected, grave
Before their elders; on their downy cheeks easily the blush
Arose (it is the mark of freemen’s children) as they trooped,
Gleaming with oil, demurely home from the palaestra or the dance.
Walk carefully, do not wake the envy of the happy gods,
Shun Hubris. The middle of the road, the middle sort of men,
Are best. Aidos surpasses gold. Reverence for the aged
Is wholesome as seasonable rain, and for a man to die
Defending the city in battle is a harmonious thing.
Thus with magistral hand the Puritan Sophrosune
Cooled and schooled and tempered our uneasy motions;
Heathendom came again, the circumspection and the holy fears …
You said it. Did you mean it? Oh inordinate liar, stop.

2

Or did you mean another kind of heathenry?
Think, then, that under heaven-roof the little disc of the earth,
Fortified Midgard, lies encircled by the ravening Worm.
Over its icy bastions faces of giant and troll
Look in, ready to invade it. The Wolf, admittedly, is bound;
But the bond wil1 break, the Beast run free. The weary gods,
Scarred with old wounds the one-eyed Odin, Tyr who has lost a hand,
Will limp to their stations for the Last defence. Make it your hope
To be counted worthy on that day to stand beside them;
For the end of man is to partake of their defeat and die
His second, final death in good company. The stupid, strong
Unteachable monsters are certain to be victorious at last,
And every man of decent blood is on the losing side.
Take as your model the tall women with yellow hair in plaits
Who walked back into burning houses to die with men,
Or him who as the death spear entered into his vitals
Made critical comments on its workmanship and aim.
Are these the Pagans you spoke of? Know your betters and crouch, dogs;
You that have Vichy water in your veins and worship the event
Your goddess History (whom your fathers called the strumpet Fortune).

Poetry by Jackie Kay

From Life Mask – Poetry Book Society Recommendation

Late love

How they strut about, people in love
how tall they grow, pleased with themselves,
their hair, glossy, their skin shining.
They don’t remember who they have been.

How filmic they are just for this time
How important they’ve become – secret, above
the order of things, the dreary mundane.
Every church bell ringing, a fresh sign.

How dull the lot that are not in love.
Their clothes shabby, their skin lustreless;
how clueless they are, hair a mess; how they trudge
up and down the streets in the rain,

remembering one kiss in a dark alley,
a touch in a changing-room, if lucky, a lovely wait
for the phone to ring, maybe, baby.
The past with its rush of velvet, its secret hush.

already miles away, dimming now, in the late day.

 

Glen Strathfarrar

I don’t know if I can go with you to Glen Strathfarrar
Where time has stopped for over a hundred years
And the proud red deer looks down on our fears

Where you loved me once and had me drink fresh steam water
From your delicate cupped hands, if I can bear
The stock-still beauty after all these years.

 

Skyscraper

Where there is love, love is never wasted.
Wasted love like wasted food feeds nobody.

It groans down a chute; lands in the gutter
hear the last words of wasted love mutter

Dar pump sweet kin heart ling,
a mush of sweet singing, baby, baby, baby.

The last much, slobber, screech, scrunch.
The last whine, whinge, yobby gob shine.

But oh when love is not wasted, love deep-down
crawls towards the moors under a neep moon.