To the New Year by W.S. Merwin

A lovely poem to start 2015, by one of America’s greatest living poets:

To the New Year

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible.

W.S. Merwin

Experimentals

I’ve been trying out new things both on a personal level (poetry) and a professional level (teaching); mainly I’ve been looking at creating StoryCube through the excellent Bookleteer site. It’s quite a fun visual way of publishing material & I’d like to start getting children’s stories and poems printed as StoryCubes to display in class. Here’s one I created for my poem ‘X’: X Poem_cube_portrait_1pp_A4

Check it out & have fun!

Dave

Walking Down Roald Dahl’s Garden

I think I’ll take a walk down the garden path
to find myself a shed behind the weeds and grasses
and glowing in the window the light of a paraffin lamp
and crackling in the corner the embers in the old stove.

And in that hut I’ll sit and while away the night sky,
burning the stars in their sockets through to morning,
writing the words that of this mind make a code
and of this night make a new poem, a love poem for you.

Review of ‘Shill’ – Richard Osmond

I first came across Richard Osmond in The Salt Book of Younger Poets and struggled a little with the disjointed, cryptic lines. There was an obvious talent, but I wasn’t sure it was for me and moved on to other poetry.

Then, just the other week, I came across him again in the form of the recent Happenstance pamphlet, Shill. Intriguingly, this is one of two Osmond pamphlets published simultaneously by Happenstance (the other being Variant Air, which ‘revisits the mode and style of Gerard Manley Hopkins’). Even more interesting is that Happenstance has never before published two pamphlets by the same poet at the same time. For a small, independent publisher, that is quite a lot riding on one poet.

The first thing that struck me about Shill was how funny it was – there’s a dry wit to this poetry that is only improved and honed by the new pared-down style that Osmond seems to have adopted since his Salt days. The brevity of the lines make it more readable and allow you to enjoy the, sometimes surreal, associations without getting stuck trying to make links. ‘Aesthetics’ for example, works on different levels, making us first laugh, then reflect:

A poem should be both
the can of Monster Energy™
and the dead mouse,
half-dissolved inside it.

The advice, though bizarre, isn’t half-bad. It’s as good as any when it comes to poetry. Moreover, the little trademark does stop us for a moment. It isn’t accidental (of course) and has something to say about the value of poetry, and what it becomes when you relinquish the rights to the work.

Elsewhere Osmond plays on this relationship between the writer and publisher in ‘If my instructions have been carried out,’ by suggesting that an elaborate hunting scene should have been depicted on the page. There is nothing below but empty paper, a droll reference, perhaps, to the writer’s own impotence when it comes to decisions about publishing and printing.

Of course the joke is not at Happenstance’s expense – an excellent press that produces beautiful editions of top-quality poetry. And once again they have made a sound decision in printing Richard Osmond. I liked almost all the poems in Shill, enjoyed it for its freshness and humour but also for it’s slightly dark and tender moments.

Definitely buy it and maybe get a copy of Variant Air too – I haven’t read that but Happenstance are offering a deal if you get both. His website, which is as sparse and shaped as his poetry, tells us that he is working on his first book. Let’s hope it comes out soon – I’ll be in line waiting to get a copy.

Sounds I

In the noise of everyday things, comes speech
of the kind that tries to talk in repeated motion;
mulch to the grounds of thought, 
the grist and grind of machines on the whir.

They whisper in your dreams and, when you wake,
have cleaned the dishes, washed the clothes,
carried you down past canal boats and cars,
past mechanism, into a digital age.

Where things hum an alien, unknowable language
of binary and buzz.