Friday, 29 March 2013


In such a night, when every louder wind
Is to its distant cavern safe confined;
And only gentle Zephyr fans his wings,
And lonely Philomel, still waking, sings;
Or from some tree, famed for the owl’s delight,
She, hollowing clear, directs the wand’rer right:
In such a night, when passing clouds give place,
Or thinly veil the heav’ns’ mysterious face;
When in some river, overhung with green,
The waving moon and the trembling leaves are seen;
When freshened grass now bears itself upright,
And makes cool banks to pleasing rest invite,
Whence springs the woodbind, and the bramble-rose,
And where the sleepy cowslip sheltered grows;
Whilst now a paler hue the foxglove takes,
Yet checquers still with red the dusky brakes
When scatter’d glow-worms, but in twilight fine,
Shew trivial beauties, watch their hour to shine;
Whilst Salisb’ry stands the test of every light,
In perfect charms, and perfect virtue bright:
When odours, which declined repelling day,
Through temp’rate air uninterrupted stray;
When darkened groves their softest shadows wear,
And falling waters we distinctly hear;
When through the gloom more venerable shows
Some ancient fabric, awful in repose,
While sunburnt hills their swarthy looks conceal,
And swelling haycocks thicken up the vale:
When the loosed horse now, as his pasture leads,
Comes slowly grazing through th’ adjoining meads,
Whose stealing pace, and lengthened shade we fear,
Till torn-up forage in his teeth we hear:
When nibbling sheep at large pursue their food,
And unmolested kine rechew the cud;
When curlews cry beneath the village walls,
And to her straggling brood the partridge calls;
Their shortlived jubilee the creatures keep,
Which but endures, whilst tyrant man does sleep;
When a sedate content the spirit feels,
And no fierce light disturbs, whilst it reveals;
But silent musings urge the mind to seek
Something, too high for syllables to speak;
Till the free soul to a composedness charmed,
Finding the elements of rage disarmed,
O’er all below a solemn quiet grown,
Joys in th’ inferior world, and thinks it like her own:
In such a night let me abroad remain,
Till morning breaks, and all’s confused again;
Our cares, our toils, our clamors are renewed,
Or pleasures, seldom reached, again pursued.

Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea

Born near Southampton, she became a maid of honour to mary of Modena, duchess of York. She married in 1684 Heneage Finch, later fifth Earl of Winchilsea, and published during her lifetime a poem,  'The Spleen’ (1701) and a volume of poems (1713).

(The Penguin Book of Women Poets 1978)

Wednesday, 27 March 2013


I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.

Anne Sexton

‘Her Kind’ is from Sexton’s collection ‘To Bedlam and Part Way Back’. In July 1959, whilst looking for a keynote poem for the first section of the book, Sexton revisited an old, previously unpublished poem “Night Voice on a Broomstick’. One week and 19 pages of drafts later ‘Her Kind’ was born. From this point on, ‘Her Kind’ became her signature poem, the one with which Sexton began all her alcohol-fuelled poetry readings. (From Poem For The Day Two - Chatto and Windus, London 2005)

From ‘The Selected Poems of Anne Sexton’, Virago Press, reprinted 1993

Monday, 18 March 2013

Don’t Give Me The Whole Truth

Don’t give me the whole truth,
don’t give me the sea for my thirst,
don’t give me the sky when I ask for light,
but give me a glint, a dewy wisp, a mote
as the birds bear water-drops from their bathing
and the wind a grain of salt.

Olav H Hauge
lived all his life in Ulvik, a village in the west of Norway on the Hardangerfjord. He translated many English and American writers into Norwegian.

‘Don’t Give Me The Whole Truth’ was translated from the Norwegian by Robin Fulton

from the anthology ‘Being Human’,
the companion anthology to ‘Being Alive’ and ‘Staying Alive’
edited by Neil Astley
Bloodaxe Books

Monday, 11 March 2013

Pre-Breakfast Rant

Andrew Greig

Dull, dull hungry cloth-head dullard! Each day
I’m dull, even this ache is dull (though fatal). Each night
I climb on my lover and we ride
nowhere we haven’t been before.
Dull the knife, dull the mirror,
dull each pane of glass around us.
Nothing here is sharp, clear or dangerous,
and even you, my blood’s sugar,
have plummeted, disgusted, out of focus.
Let me stand at the window once more and stare
till the world’s no longer out there.

True world, where are you hiding? Whose crime
makes you hide so? Is it the light yet murderous
force of habit, settling like grime on the mirror,
that lets you slip away? Yes,
the world is hid behind itself, smirking slightly,
as though we’re in a murder mystery
where the killer and the clue are right in this room
and we’re looking (for God’s sake, they can be nowhere else!)
and we can see nothing, so well is everything hidden
as itself. The way I looked at you last night on the floor
and could not see what I saw before…

Open up, true world! I’m banging on
your pane that you might part
or shower down daggers to cut me to ribbons.
I can bear anything but this dull that I am,
unburnished, non-reflective, stupefied, numb!
This cloth I’ve somehow spread over the world —
when I turn back from the kettle,
may it be whipped away: reveal again
the morning laid out like a shining breakfast table
with as many places as there are appetites
for this day about to — truly — begin.

Andrew Greig

(born September 23, 1951 in Bannockburn) is a Scottish writer. He studied philosophy at the University of Edinburgh and is a former Glasgow University Writing Fellow and Scottish Arts Council Scottish/Canadian Exchange Fellow. He lives in Orkney and Edinburgh and is married to author Lesley Glaister.

From the anthology Being Alive
the sequel to Staying Alive,
edited by Neil Astley
Bloodaxe Books

Saturday, 2 March 2013


I couldn’t tell one song from another,
which bird said what or to whom or for what reason.

The oak tree seemed to be writing something using very few words.
I couldn’t decide which door to open - they looked the same, or what

would happen when I did reach and turn a knob. I thought I was
safe, standing there
but my death remembered its date:

only so many summer nights still stood before me, full moon, waning
moon, October mornings: what to make of them? which door?

I couldn’t tell which stars were which or how far away any of them
was, or which were still burning or not - their light moving through
space like a long

late train - and I’ve lived on the earth so long - 50 winters, 50 springs
and summers,
and all this time stars in the sky - in daylight

when I couldn’t see them, and at night when, most nights I didn’t look.

Marie Howe

from ‘Being Human’, the companion anthology to
‘Staying Alive’ and ‘Being Alive’, edited by Neil Astley