“Out of the vortex, rifling the air it came…” – In Parenthesis

The final paras of Part 2 of In Parenthesis by David Jones. Private Ball, the protagonist of this Modernist Great War poem, experiences for the first time the blast of a shell close by.

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“Where the English wilderness is”: a poem. #poems #poets #poetry

Cliff Lane

where the English wilderness is
in the interstices
along the margins
here at the roadside
deep in grasses, poppies,
mallows and escaped hypericum
wherever the wind bears the seed
wherever the buzzard has moved in
new territory of field, wood and air
not asking for our opinion
us, who are
wilderness in wilderness

(Poem 105: 29/06/08 from the poem-a-day project, 2008 – 2012, Michael Blackburn).

Brian Higgins and the iniquity of his oblivion.

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“THE INIQUITY OF OBLIVION blindly scattereth her poppy, and deals with the memory of men without distinction to merit of perpetuity.” So wrote Sir Thomas Browne, a writer who has not had the full weight of said iniquity fall upon him and managed to remain partly in the light of literary remembrance. Those of us stricken with the vanity that we may be remembered after our death for our poems, novels, plays, paintings, songs or whatever, never find out, of course, though we know the odds are in favour of the poppy.

Such was the case with Brian Higgins (1930 – 1965), poet, mathematician, teacher, rugby player, freelance journalist and dole wallah. Higgins published three (hardback) collections, two of them during his very short life (The Only Need and Notes While Travelling), and one posthumously (The Northern Fiddler). His poems had appeared in reputable magazines and anthologies, including The Faber Book of Twentieth Century Verse, so he was not exactly an obscure scribbler while alive. His portrait was painted by Patrick Swift, one of the leading Irish artists of the day, and he knew many of the more successful writers of the period. This included George Barker, himself a permanently half-remembered poet, who wrote a foreword to The Northern Fiddler.

Read on at The Fortnightly Review.

Being interviewed by the RLF on poetry and the writer’s life.

‘After a while most of us find we’re doing the same stuff; I tried new things.’

selfRLF

What has it been like being a poet and publisher the past couple of decades? These are some of the things I talk about in this interview with poet, Geoff Hattersley, for the Royal Literary Fund.

Listen to the whole podcast.

 

Dowson’s Cynara poem – a microlecture.

Another microlecture, this time on Ernest Dowson’s “Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae”.

“Paradise”, a poem for National Poetry Day. #nationalpoetryday #poems #poets #poetry

PARADISE

Paradise is various and has no ghosts;
in it there is nothing to remember.

Only children can live there, unknowing,
part-time, between ordinary terrors.

Perhaps it is one great garden, rampant
with green, with fruit that force themselves

through blossom that’s still on the branch.
There must be water – a stream, a beck, a river.

It could be a street, the tap of a raindrop
releasing the spirit of warm paving stone,

the angle of shadow across bright red brick,
the smell of a warm car parked in a market place.

Fruit and flower still force themselves in,
through cracks in brick and kerbstone,

in guttering and old ledges, high up.
The animals, too, they walk, fly and crawl

as if they had never been away, flies
in the kitchen, black clouds of starlings

that turn between buildings, cat in the hedge,
woodlouse and spider in corners overlooked.

All built flimsy on earth, its deep miles
of rock and lava, its delicate blue membrane of air

all of a piece as we hurtle as debris away
from the lost beginning of the universe.

To be there would be to remember nothing,
to walk in the weaponless fields

before the clock had started. Now it’s only
sensed – in the movement of limbs into water,

in the whirr of a sparrow’s wings, perhaps,
or a sudden scent of dogrose, or something that

slowly develops, like the face of a friend
to a patient doused in amnesia, after a crash.

For someone it’s happening now, for the first time;
like that boy and his dog who tumble and run

down a sloping field of wheat, leaving dark trails
the wind cannot smooth away as evening come on

and motorway drivers flick on their lights,
eager for static destinations –

all of them moving through the in-between hours
when the glancing traveller catches

figures on forecourts like golden statues.
And when the boy who has cake for the asking

becomes the man who must struggle for his bread
he’ll think he lived in Eden once or twice

in a time when he could roam between stream and street
and everything lay before him like a sloping field of wheat.

 

Michael Blackburn. Published in The Ascending Boy, Flambard Press, 1999.

Albion Days: “a landscape of language disturbed, it yields close and intimate scents”.

My latest poetry title, Albion Days, is now available on Amazon:

Albion Days-small

Michael Blackburn’s Albion Days activates a mannered 19th-century prose work by arranging it in parts. Like a landscape of language disturbed, it yields close and intimate scents – She was/frankness /itself/her bees and/her flowers/the/farmyard. Not far from Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman”, is it? – with her fog, her amphetamine and her pearls. Mary Russell Mitford, meet Edie Sedgwick. – Michael Coffey

A recreation of an Old England that endures but is simultaneously always on the verge of disappearing.

An unusual, large format book (120 pages):

Albion Days1

One for your collection, from Amazon: £6.99.