Poem of the Day: Ted Hughes – “Pike”

Pike, three inches long, perfect
Pike in all parts, green tigering the gold.
Killers from the egg: the malevolent aged grin.
They dance on the surface among the flies.

Or move, stunned by their own grandeur,
Over a bed of emerald, silhouette
Of submarine delicacy and horror.
A hundred feet long in their world.

In ponds, under the heat-struck lily pads-
Gloom of their stillness:
Logged on last year’s black leaves, watching upwards.
Or hung in an amber cavern of weeds

The jaws’ hooked clamp and fangs
Not to be changed at this date:
A life subdued to its instrument;
The gills kneading quietly, and the pectorals.

Three we kept behind glass,
Jungled in weed: three inches, four,
And four and a half: red fry to them-
Suddenly there were two. Finally one

With a sag belly and the grin it was born with.
And indeed they spare nobody.
Two, six pounds each, over two feet long
High and dry and dead in the willow-herb-

One jammed past its gills down the other’s gullet:
The outside eye stared: as a vice locks-
The same iron in this eye
Though its film shrank in death.

A pond I fished, fifty yards across,
Whose lilies and muscular tench
Had outlasted every visible stone
Of the monastery that planted them-

Stilled legendary depth:
It was as deep as England. It held
Pike too immense to stir, so immense and old
That past nightfall I dared not cast

But silently cast and fished
With the hair frozen on my head
For what might move, for what eye might move.
The still splashes on the dark pond,

Owls hushing the floating woods
Frail on my ear against the dream
Darkness beneath night’s darkness had freed,
That rose slowly toward me, watching.


Filed under: Books, Culture, Poetry, ,

Carol Ann Duffy’s World Cup poem

In a couple of previous posts, I’ve not been very complimentary about Carol Ann Duffy’s latest work as Poet Laureate, but her new poem “The Shirt,” written in response to England’s poor performance at the World Cup, is a definite improvement. It feels, to me anyway, a lot less stilted and forced. Part of me thinks the alliteration and assonance is somewhat overdone, but it doesn’t grate and I do actually think it fits.

If she writes more like this, I could get on board. If she offers up dollops of shite like “Achilles,” that’s another matter.

Afterwards, I found him alone at the bar and asked him what went wrong. It’s the shirt, he said. When I pull it on it hangs on my back like a shroud, or a poisoned jerkin from Grimm seeping its curse on to my skin, the worst tattoo.

I shower and shave before I shrug on the shirt, smell like a dream; but the shirt sours my scent with the sweat and stink of fear. It’s got my number.

I poured him another shot. Speak on, my son. He did.

I’ve wanted to sport the shirt since I was a kid, but now when I do it makes me sick, weak, paranoid.

All night above the team hotel, the moon is the ball in a penalty kick. Tens of thousands of fierce stars are booing me. A screech owl is the referee.

The wind’s a crowd, forty years long, bawling a filthy song about my Wag. It’s the bloody shirt! He started to blub like a big girl’s blouse and I felt a fleeting pity.

Don’t cry, I said, at the end of the day you’ll be back on 100K a week and playing for City.

Filed under: Books, Culture, Poetry, , , ,

Carol Ann Duffy strikes again with election poem

Another crock of shit from the pen of the Poet Laureate. An election poem entitled “Democracy”:

Here’s a boat that cannot float.

Here’s a queue that cannot vote.

Here’s a line you cannot quote.

Here’s a deal you cannot note …

and here’s a sacrificial goat,

here’s a cut, here’s a throat,

here’s a drawbridge, here’s a moat …

What’s your hurry? Here’s your coat.

Believe me, I get that she’s writing about popular events. I don’t mind this. Whether it’s the election fiasco or the state of David Beckham’s feet, I’m all for her, well, doing her job as Poet Laureate. But come on, this is not good poetry. It’s not abysmal poetry, and there are some things to enjoy about it, but overall I find it insipid, weak, and at its worst predictable and annoying. Which is not the standard I expect from a Poet Laureate.

Filed under: Art, Books, Culture, Poetry, , , , ,

Poem of the Day: “Metrical Feet” (Coleridge)

Metrical Feet

TROCHEE trips from long to short;
From long to long in solemn sort
Slow Spondee stalks, strong foot!, yet ill able
Ever to come up with Dactyl’s trisyllable.
Iambics march from short to long.
With a leap and a bound the swift Anapests throng.
One syllable long, with one short at each side,
Amphibrachys hastes with a stately stride —
First and last being long, middle short, Amphimacer
Strikes his thundering hoofs like a proud high-bred Racer.
If Derwent be innocent, steady, and wise,
And delight in the things of earth, water, and skies;
Tender warmth at his heart, with these meters to show it,
WIth sound sense in his brains, may make Derwent a poet —
May crown him with fame, and must win him the love
Of his father on earth and his father above.
My dear, dear child!
Could you stand upon Skiddaw, you would not from its whole ridge
See a man who so loves you as your fond S.T. Colerige.

Filed under: Books, Culture, Literature, Poetry, , ,

Poem of the Day: “I Am of Ireland” (WB Yeats)

A 1933-published poem by William Butler Yeats

I Am of Ireland

‘I am of Ireland,
And the Holy Land of Ireland,
And time runs on,’ cried she.
‘Come out of charity,
Come dance with me in Ireland.’

One man, one man alone
In that outlandish gear,
One solitary man
Of all that rambled there
Had turned his stately head.
That is a long way off,
And time runs on,’ he said,
‘And the night grows rough.’

‘I am of Ireland,
And the Holy Land of Ireland,
And time runs on,’ cried she.
‘Come out of charity
And dance with me in Ireland.’

‘The fiddlers are all thumbs,
Or the fiddle-string accursed,
The drums and the kettledrums
And the trumpets all are burst,
And the trombone,’ cried he,
‘The trumpet and trombone,’
And cocked a malicious eye,
‘But time runs on, runs on.’

I am of Ireland,
And the Holy Land of Ireland,
And time runs on,’ cried she.
“Come out of charity
And dance with me in Ireland.’

Filed under: Books, Culture, Literature, Poetry, , , ,

Carol Ann Duffy’s Beckham poem = NO.

I’ve never particularly liked Carol Ann Duffy’s work, finding it exceedingly banal, lacking in skill and technique, and often disconcertingly amateurish. I say amateurish with particular pointedness considering she has recently been appointed Poet Laureate.

But now it appears she is plumbing new depths of absurdity with her Beckham-inspired poem “Achilles.” Oh look! Beckham injured his Achilles tendon! I know – let’s equate that with the Greek myth because the Achilles tendon and the mythological figure Achilles… wow they’re linked! That’s never been done before! I could get over the mind-numbing simplicity of such a link were it not for clumsy, ugly lines like “And it was sport, not war, his charmed foot on the ball.”

Given that Beckham’s injury only took place two days ago, it’s evident that this was a quick affair. But maybe the Poet Laureate ought to have spent a few more hours on polishing up this particular turd.

Filed under: Books, Culture, Literature, Poetry, , , , , , ,

Poem of the Day: “White Heliotrope” (Symons)

White Heliotrope by Arthur Symons (1895)

The feverish room and that white bed,
The tumbled skirts upon a chair,
The novel flung half-open, where
Hat, hair-pins, puffs, and paints are spread;

The mirror that has sucked your face
Into its secret deep of deeps,
And there mysteriously keeps
Forgotten memories of grace;

And you half dressed and half awake,
Your slant eyes strangely watching me,
And I, who watch you drowsily,
With eyes that, having slept not, ache;

This (need one dread? nay, dare one hope?)
Will rise, a ghost of memory, if
Ever again my handkerchief
Is scented with White Heliotrope.

Filed under: Books, Culture, Literature, Poetry, , , , ,

Poem of the Day: “Dublinesque” (Larkin)


Down stucco sidestreets,
Where light is pewter
And afternoon mist
Brings lights on in shops
Above race-guides and rosaries,
A funeral passes.

The hearse is ahead,
But after there follows
A troop of streetwalkers
In wide flowered hats,
Leg-of-mutton sleeves,
And ankle-length dresses.

There is an air of great friendliness,
As if they were honouring
One they were fond of;
Some caper a few steps,
Skirts held skilfully
(Someone claps time),

And of great sadness also.
As they wend away
A voice is heard singing
Of Kitty, or Katy,
As if the name meant once
All love, all beauty.

Filed under: Books, Culture, Literature, Poetry, , , ,

Poem of the Day: “Cats” (Charles Baudelaire)

From the Everyman’s Poetry translation by Laurence Lerner


Lovers and scholars, the ardent and the prim,

As they grow older, ripen: and love cats,

Those gentle household gods, those powerful pets,

Afraid of draughts, and sedentary, like them.

If only one could break their pride, how well

These voluptuary lovers of the dark

Who seek out silent corners where fears lurk

Would serve to draw the chariots of Hell.

Look at them dreaming: how that attitude

Suggests the Sphinx, which also dreams, and lies

Stretched out upon the sands in solitude.

Their fecund loins house magic powers; and see!

Like grains of sand that glint elusively,

The specks of gold inhabiting their eyes.

Filed under: Books, Poetry, , , , ,