Tuesday, 27 July 2010


Two elderly orphans 
who inherited it
when they were nineteen,
nineteen years ago.

Nuns in washed-out aprons,
walled in by leaden chests
of drawers,
tacks and adjusting screws
between their lips.

Their rosy devotion,
their greying eagerness
under the naked lightbulb,
the grey smell of grease,
of rubber, metal and putty.

Enormous wrenches, breast drills
in unloved hands.
The moist tongue
longing for another mouth
while the bill is made out.

Is this what you dreamt of,
Primal Soup? Weltgeist,
did you have your wits about you?
Was that all you had in mind,
Divine Providence?

Two elderly sisters
imprisoned for life
in an ironmonger's shop?

Their rosy eagerness,
their grey devotion
to the emery paper?

Hans Magnus Enzensberger

Translated from the German by the Author

The photograph is of the shopfront
of Bunner's Hardware Store in 
Montgomery, Powys, which has been
trading since 1892. Bunner's is still family-run 
and largely unchanged.

Saturday, 24 July 2010


You're wondering if I'm lonely:
OK then, yes, I'm lonely
as a plane rides lonely and level
on its radio beam, aiming
across the Rockies
for the blue-strung aisles
of an airfield on the ocean

You want to ask, am I lonely?
well, of course, lonely
as a woman driving across country
day after day, leaving behind
mile after mile
little towns she might have stopped
and lived and died in, lonely

If I'm lonely, it must be the loneliness
of waking first, of breathing
dawn's first cold breath on the city
of being the one awake
in a house wrapped in sleep

If I'm lonely
it's with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
in the last red light of the year
that knows what it is, that knows it's neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning.

Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich was born in Baltimore and graduated from Radcliffe College in 1951.
Her first book of poems, A Change of World, was published the same year.
She travelled to Holland where she learned Dutch to translate Dutch poetry. in 1966 she
moved to New York City and has taught poetry workshops at Columbia University and the
City College of NY.
She won the 1974 National Book Award for poetry for her book Diving into the Wreck.

Monday, 19 July 2010


Act II Scene vii


All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his prime plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel,
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
in fair round belly with good capon lin'd,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose well sav'd, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

William Shakespeare 

The 19th century critic and prose writer. William Hazlitt, remarked: "Jaques is the only contemplative character in Shakespeare. he thinks and does nothing."

The photograph is a still from the 1936 Paul Czinner film  'As You like It', an early example of a Shakespeare 'talkie'.  In his first filmed performance in a Shakespeare play Laurence Olivier is a dashing, virile Orlando, with Elizabeth Bergner as Rosalind.

Leon Quartermaine delivers this famous monologue perfectly.

(The film is available on DVD)

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


To know a poem 
by heart
is to know
in the biblical sense

making love
as more than an intercourse of bodies -
to enter the mind of the poet
is an intercourse of souls

to know a poem
by heart
is to slow down
to the heart's time

to recite a poem 
from the heart
is to be the poet
to pay homage to intensity
to enter eternity
to find solace for sorrows
spurs for endeavour
serotonin for blues
endorphins for bliss

learning a poem every day
is the stations of the cross
a throng of sub-personalities
a throb of sympathy
for every mood

a poem at your side
through the valley and the shadows
in the day, in the night
a polymorphic, polygamous, orgiastic
communion of poetry.

Nicholas Albery

Saturday, 10 July 2010


Papago Indian Woman

In The Blue Night

How shall I begin my song
In the blue night that is settling?
I will sit here and begin my song.

In The Dark I Enter

I can not make out what I see.
In the dark I enter.
I can not make out what I see.

I See Spirit-Tufts Of White Feathers

Ahead of me some owl feathers are lying,
I hear something running toward me,
They pass by me, and farther ahead
I see spirit-tufts of downy white feathers.

In The Great Night

In the great night my heart will go out,
Toward me the darkness comes rattling,
In the great night my heart will go out.

I Am Going To See The Land

I am going far to see the land,
I am running far to see the land,
While back in my house the songs are intermingling.

The Dawn Approaches

I am afraid it will be daylight before I reach the place to see.
I feel that the rays of the sun are striking me.

The Owl Feather Is Looking 
For The Dawn

The Owl feather is likely to find the daylight.
He is looking for it.
He is looking to see the dawn shine red in the east.

The Morning Star

The morning star is up.
I cross the mountains into the light of the sea.

translated from Papago by Frances Densmore

Owl Woman (1880?), also known by the Spanish name Juana Manwell, was a medicine woman of the Papago Indians. A number of her medicine songs were collected by Frances Densmore in 1920. These songs were taught Owl Woman by spirits of the dead, and in the thirty or forty years prior to 1920 she received hundreds of songs.

These are part of a longer sequence to be sung over a sick person at four intervals throughout the night. 

Wednesday, 7 July 2010


Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

Mary Oliver

Monday, 5 July 2010


Dear neighbour God, if often I disturb you
in the long nights with my knocking, I do so because 
I seldom hear you breathing;
and I know that you are all alone in your great room,
and should you need something, there's no one there
to hold a drink out to your groping hand.
I'm always listening. Give me just a sign.
I am quite near.

There's only a thin wall between us,
by merest chance, and it would take
no more than a sound of your voice or of mine
to break it down.
Its fall would make no noise at all.
That wall is built of images of you.

Those pictures of you mask you like names,
and when for once the light in me flares up
by which I know you in my deepest self,
the light is squandered on mere picture-frames.

And then my senses, which grow quickly lame,
being severed from you, are without a home.

Rainer Maria Rilke
translated from the German by J.M. Cohen

Friday, 2 July 2010


Thomas Cole

Then sprang up first the golden age, which of itself maintained
The truth and right of everything, unforced and unconstrained.

There was no fear of punishment, there was no threatening law
In brazen tables nail-ed up to keep the folk in awe.

There was no man would crouch or creep to Judge, with cap in hand:
They liv-ed safe without a Judge in every realm and land.

The lofty pine tree was not hewn from mountains where it stood,
In seeking strange and foreign lands, to rove upon the flood.

Men knew no other countries yet than where themselves did keep,
There was no town enclos-ed yet, with walls and ditches deep.

No horn nor trumpet was in use, no sword or helmet worn:
The world was such that soldiers' help might easily be forborn.

The fertile earth as yet was free, untouched of spade or plough,
And yet it yielded of itself of everything enough.

And men themselves, contented well with plain and simple food,
That on the earth of nature's gift, without their travail stood,

Did live by raspis, hips and haws, by cornels, plums and cherries,
By sloes and apples, nuts and pears, and loathsome bramble berries,

And by the acorns dropped on ground from Jove's broad tree in field.
The springtime lasted all the year, and Zephyr with his mild

And gentle blast did cherish things that grew of own accord,
The ground untilled, all kinds of fruit did plenteously afford.

No muck nor tillage was disposed on lean and barren land,
To make the crops of better head, and ranker for to stand.

Then streams ran milk, then streams ran wine, and yellow honey flowed
From each green tree whereon the rays of fiery Phoebus glowed.

43 BCE-17 or 18 CE

Translated by Arthur Golding