Saturday, 28 January 2012


  The Boathouse,
Dylan and Caitlin Thomas's home in Laugharne

When I was a windy boy and a bit
And the black spit of the chapel fold,
(Sighed the old ram rod, dying of women),
I tiptoed shy in the gooseberry wood,
The rude owl cried like a tell-tale tit,
I skipped in a blush as the big girls rolled
Nine-pin down on donkey's common,
And on seesaw sunday nights I wooed
Whoever I would with my wicked eyes,
The whole of the moon I could love and leave
All the green leaved little weddings' wives
In the coal black bush and let them grieve.

When I was a gusty man and a half
And the black beast of the beetles' pews
(Sighed the old ram rod, dying of bitches),
Not a boy and a bit in the wick-
Dipping moon and drunk as a new dropped calf,
I whistled all night in the twisted flues,
Midwives grew in the midnight ditches,
And the sizzling sheets of the town cried, Quick!-
Whenever I dove in a breast high shoal,
Wherever I ramped in the clover quilts,
Whatsoever I did in the coal-
Black night, I left my quivering prints.

When I was a man you could call a man
And the black cross of the holy house,
(Sighed the old ram rod, dying of welcome),
Brandy and ripe in my bright, bass prime,
No springtailed tom in the red hot town
With every simmering woman his mouse
But a hillocky bull in the swelter
Of summer come in his great good time
To the sultry, biding herds, I said,
Oh, time enough when the blood runs cold,
And I lie down but to sleep in bed,
For my sulking, skulking, coal black soul!

When I was half the man I was
And serve me right as the preachers warn,
(Sighed the old ram rod, dying of downfall),
No flailing calf or cat in a flame
Or hickory bull in milky grass
But a black sheep with a crumpled horn,
At last the soul from its foul mousehole
Slunk pouting out when the limp time came;
And I gave my soul a blind, slashed eye,
Gristle and rind, and a roarers' life,
And I shoved it into the coal black sky
To find a woman's soul for a wife.

Now I am a man no more no more
And a black reward for a roaring life,
(Sighed the old ram rod, dying of strangers),
Tidy and cursed in my dove cooed room
I lie down thin and hear the good bells jaw--
For, oh, my soul found a sunday wife
In the coal black sky and she bore angels!
Harpies around me out of her womb!
Chastity prays for me, piety sings,
Innocence sweetens my last black breath,
Modesty hides my thighs in her wings,
And all the deadly virtues plague my death!

Dylan Thomas

Niall Griffiths wrote in the Guardian, 1st March 2008:

"Laugharne", Dylan wrote of his adopted town, is a "timeless, mild, beguiling island of a town", which has a "sane disregard for haste", a "generous acceptance of the follies of others, having so many, ripe and piping, of its own", a "legendary lazy little black-magical bedlam by the sea". To his list of the town's attributes - which include seven pubs, a portreeve, a St Bernard (without brandy) and a Rolls-Royce selling fish and chips - can now be added a museum dedicated to himself, several respectable restaurants and, at last, an arts festival, growing rapidly but still young enough to be intimate and intriguing and cocksure and arrogant, all the enviable epithets of the up-and-coming.

Thursday, 26 January 2012


If it be your will
that I speak no more,
and my voice be still
as it was before;
I will speak no more,
I shall abide until
I am spoken for.
if it be your will.

If it be your will
that a voice be true,
from this broken hill
I will sing to you.
From this broken hill
all your praises they shall ring
if it be your will
to let me sing.

If it be your will
if there is a choice,
let the rivers fill 
let the hills rejoice.
Let your mercy spill
on all these burning hearts in hell,
if it be your will
to make us well.

And draw us near
and bind us tight,
all your children here
in their rags of light;
in our rags of light,
all dressed to kill;
and end this night,
if it be your will.

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen is best known as a singer/songwriter; 'If it be your will' is a song from his 1984 album, Various Positions. A Jew who practises Zen Buddhism, Cohen's interest in Judaism was re-awakened in the 1980s and he began using Hebrew prayer in his songs. This song was inspired by the opening lines of the Kol Nidre service on Yom Kippur eve, which begins, 'May it therefore be Your will, Lord our God, and God of our Fathers, to forgive us all our sins . . . .'

From Poems For The Day   - Two  -

Monday, 23 January 2012


How many paltry foolish painted things,
That now in coaches trouble every street,
Shall be forgotten, whom no poet sings,
Ere they be well wrapped in their winding-sheet!
Where I to thee eternity shall give,
When nothing else remaineth of these days,
And queens hereafter shall be glad to live
Upon the alms of thy superfluous praise.
Virgins and matrons, reading these my rhymes,
Shall be so much delighted with thy story
That they shall grieve they lived not in these times,
To have seen thee, their sex's only glory:
So shalt thou fly above the vulgar throng,
Still to survive in my immortal song.

Michael Drayton's birthplace in Hartshill,
Michael Drayton

Tomorrow our poetry group meets and the subject is 'Sonnets'.
Michael Drayton is one of my favourite Elizabethan poets.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


if you were
a beetle, and a soft wind

and a certain allowance of time
had summoned you
out of your wrapping,
and there you were,

so many legs
maybe even
more than one pair of eyes

and the whole world
in front of you?
And what if you had wings
and flew

into the garden,
then fell
into the up-tipped

of a white flower,
and what if you had
a sort of mouth,
a lip

to place close
to the skim
of honey
that kept offering itself

what would you think then
of the world
as, night and day,
you were kept there -

oh happy prisoner -
sighing, humming,
that deep cup?

Mary Oliver

Monday, 16 January 2012


Abend am Niederrhein

I have abandoned the dream kitchens for a low fire
and a prescriptive literature of the spirit;
a storm snores on the desolate sea.
The nearest shop is four miles away -
when I walk there through the shambles
of the morning for tea and firelighters
the mountain paces me in a snow-lit silence.
My days are spent in conversaiton
with deer and blackbirds;
at night fox and badger gather at my door.
I have stood for hours
watching a salmon doze in the tea-gold dark,
for months listening to the sob story
of a stone in the road, the best,
most monotonous sob story I have ever heard.

I am an expert on frost crystals
and the silence of crickets, a confidant
of the stinking shore, the stars in the mud -
there is an immanence in these things
which drives me, despite my scepticism,
almost to the point of speech,
like sunlight cleaving the lake mist at morning
or when tepid water
runs cold at last from the tap.

I have been working for years
on a four-line poem
about the life of a leaf;
I think it might come out right this winter.

Derek Mahon

Wednesday, 11 January 2012


What if this road, that has held no surprises
these many years, decided not to go
home after all; what if it could turn
left or right with no more ado
than a kite-tail? What if its tarry skin
were like a long, subtle bolt of cloth,
that is shaken and rolled out, and takes
a new shape from the contours beneath?
And if it chose to lay itself down
in a new way; around a blind corner,
across hills you must climb without knowing
what's on the other side; who would not hanker
to be going, at all risks? Who wants to know
a story's end, or where a road will go?

Sheenagh Pugh

Saturday, 7 January 2012


all the food critics hate iceberg lettuce.
you'd think romaine was descended from
Orpheus's laurel wreath;
you'd think raw spinach had all the nutritional
benefits attributed to it by Popeye,
not to mention aesthetic subtleties worthy of
Verlaine and Debussy.
they'll even salivate over chopped red cabbage
just to disparage poor old  Mr. iceberg lettuce.

I guess the problem is
it's just too common for them.
it doesn't matter that it tastes good,
has a satisfying crunchy texture,
holds its freshness,
and has crevices for the dressing,
whereas the darker leafier varieties
are often bitter, gritty and flat.
it just isn't different enough, and
it's too goddam American.

of course a critic has to criticise;
a critic has to have something to say.
perhaps that's why literary critics
purport to find interesting
so much contemporary poetry
that just bores the shit out of me.

at any rate, I really enjoy a salad
with plenty of chunky iceberg lettuce,
the more the merrier,
drenched in an Italian or Roquefort dressing,
and the poems I enjoy are those I don't have
to pretend that I'm enjoying.

Gerald Locklin

Wednesday, 4 January 2012


Photo by Navesh Chitrakar (on Pixdaus.com)

What's it like to be human
the bird asked

I myself don't know
it's being held prisoner by your skin
while reaching infinity
being a captive of your scrap of time
while touching eternity
being hopelessly uncertain
and helplessly hopeful
being a needle of frost
and a handful of heat
breathing in the air
and choking wordlessly
it's being on fire
with a nest made of ashes
eating bread
while filling up on hunger
it's dying without love
it's loving through death

That's funny said the bird
and flew effortlessly up into the air.

Anna Kamienska

translated from the Polish by
Stanislav Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh