Tuesday, 26 August 2008


I am the stalk.
My roots go down
to the depths of the world,
through earth dry with brick,
and damp earth,
through veins of lead and silver.

I am all fibre.
All tremors shake me,
and the weight of the earth
is pressed to my ribs.
Up here my eyes are green leaves,

I am a boy in grey flannels
with a belt fastened by a brass snake up here.
Down there my eyes are the lidless eyes
of a stone figure in a desert by the Nile.
I see women passing with red pitchers to the river;
I see camels swaying and men in turbans.
I hear tramplings, tremblings, stirrings round me.

But let me be unseen.
I am green as a yew tree
in the shade of the hedge.
My hair is made of leaves.
I am rooted
to the middle of the earth.
My body is a stalk.

I press the stalk.
A drop oozes
from the hole at the mouth
and slowly, thickly,
grows larger and larger.
Now something pink
passes the eyehole.
Now an eye-beam
is slid through the chink.

Its beam strikes me.
I am a boy in a grey flannel suit.
She has found me.
I am struck on the nape of the neck.
She has kissed me.

All is shattered.

virginia woolf

the waves

The sun had not yet risen. The sea was indistinguishable from the sky, except that the sea was slightly creased as if a cloth had wrinkles in it. Gradually as the sky whitened a dark line lay on the horizon dividing the sea from the sky and the grey cloth became barred with thick strokes moving, one after another, beneath the surface, following each other, pursuing each other, perpetually.

As they neared the shore each bar rose, heaped itself, broke and swept a thin veil of white water across the sand. The wave paused, and then drew out again, sighing like a sleeper whose breath comes and goes unconsciously. Gradually the dark bar on the horizon became clear as if the sediment in an old wine-bottle had sunk and left the glass green. Behind it, too, the sky cleared as if the white sediment there had sunk, or as if the arm of a woman couched beneath the horizon had raised a lamp and flat bars of white, green and yellow spread across the sky like the blades of a fan. Then she raised her lamp higher and the air seemed to become fibrous and to tear away from the green surface flickering and flaming in red and yellow fibres like the smoky fire that roars from a bonfire. Gradually the fibres of the burning bonfire were fused into one haze, one incandescence which lifted the weight of the woollen grey sky on top of it and turned it to a million atoms of soft blue. The surface of the sea slowly became transparent and lay rippling and sparkling until the dark stripes were almost rubbed out. Slowly the arm that held the lamp raised it higher and then higher until a broad flame became visible; an arc of fire burnt on the rim of the horizon, and all round it the sea blazed gold.

The light struck upon the trees in the garden, making one leaf transparent and then another. One bird chirped high up; there was a pause; another chirped lower down. The sun sharpened the walls of the house, and rested like the tip of a fan upon a white blind and made a blue finger-print of shadow under the leaf by the bedroom window. The blind stirred slightly, but all within was dim and unsubstantial. The birds sang their blank melody outside.

virginia woolf

Friday, 22 August 2008

anne sexton

The Truth the Dead Know

For my Mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
and my Father, born February 1900, died June 1959

Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the Cape. I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch. In another country people die.

My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one's alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
in the stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.

paul celan

You enquire into language, into thinking, into poetry. You put your question succintly. Allow me to be as succint in my answer.

I do not believe there is such a thing as bilingual poetry. Double-talk, yes, this you may find among our various contemporary arts and acrobatics of the word, especially those which manage to establish themselves in blissful harmony with each fashion of consumer culture, being as polyglot as they are polychrome.

Poetry is by necessity a unique instance of language. Hence never - forgive the truism, but poetry, like truth, goes all to often to the dogs - hence never what is double.

Reply to a Questionnaire from the Flinker Bookstore, Paris, 1961

The subject of the study was 'The Problem of the Bilingual'

trans rosemarie waldrop

Thursday, 14 August 2008

backing up those files

because you know it makes sense. except somehow you're always meaning to do it and you don't quite get around to it. i remember this when i get home and find that t has discovered a virus on the computer. a virus that means we'll have to wipe the whole thing.


oh yes, that'll be me losing all the poetry i've written in the last three months. there was a time when i'd have been deeply angry about this. but refreshingly i find that while i'm mildly annoyed i'm not really that bothered. there are more important things in life and i can always write more

i'll be backing up those files in future tho!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

ono no kamachi

Sad -
the end that waits me -
To think at last
I'll be a mere haze
pale green over the fields.

trans by burton watson

; )

Friday, 8 August 2008

w. b yeats

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evenings full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear the lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

george eliot

trapped in the house by rain, had enough of fixing bikes, waiting for paint to dry i'm thinking to myself that i've reached that nineteenth century time of the year again, time to read a zola or a dickens, then as if by magic i come across an excerpt from middlemarch on the radio...

Certainly those determining acts of her life were not ideally beautiful. They were the mixed result of young and noble impulse struggling amidst the conditions of an imperfect social state, in which great feelings will often take the aspect of error, and great faith the aspect of illusion. For there is no creature whose inward being is so strong that it is not greatly determined by what lies outside it. A new Theresa will hardly have the opportunity of reforming a conventual life, any more than a new Antigone will spend her heroic piety in daring all for the sake of a brother's burial: the medium in which their ardent deeds took shape is forever gone. But we insignificant people with our daily words and acts are preparing the lives of many Dorotheas, some of which may present a far sadder sacrifice than that of the Dorothea whose story we know.

Her finely touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

i couldn't have read it when i was younger, didn't have the patience, didn't have the insight but, something like dickens (though i prefer eliot), i did realise that i probably would do later in life and it'd be worth the wait which, of course it was. i hear there arethose who haven't read it, who consider it long winded, boring etc. in the words of that great lost critic mr t - i pity the fool!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008


Come Back

Come back and take hold of me,
sensation that I love, come back and take hold of me -
when the body's memory revives
and an old longing again passes throught the blood,
when lips and skin remember
and hands feel as though they touch again.

Come back often, take hold of me in the night
when lips and skin remember...

trans unknown

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

where i went racing

it's true that racing has lost some of its gloss recently but at least i get to go to places like this....

Monday, 4 August 2008

ana blandiana

Churches Don't have Roofs

Churches don't have roofs,
But shingle wings
Shrivelledon their bodies,
And a time will come
When they will open them
And rise
Slowly, as if grudgingly,
Carry their beings
Of gold and smoke
Higher and higher into the air,
Flying with a huge roar, like
A flock of heavy birds
Towards sunset,
While the hysterical mountains,
Mixed with the sea
Gushing towards them,
Would tumble -
A beautiful end for the world
Under the live blue sky
Swarming with huge live churches.

trans by peter jay and anca cristofovici