Poem of the month: May

Disassembled watch

From “Free Dirt”

by Henri Cole

I like invisibleness,
except in the moon’s strong,
broad rays. Some nights,
I ask her paleness, Will I be okay?
I am weak and fruitless at night,

like a piece of meat with eyes,
but in the morning optimistic again,
like a snowflake that has traveled
many miles and many years
to be admired on the kitchen pane.

—Paris Review, issue 205, Summer 2013: http://tpr.ly/16Dva6s.

Image: Todd McLellan, Disassembled Russian Vostok watch from the 90s. Number of parts: 130. Copyright: Todd McLellan/Thames & Hudson.

Poem of the month: April

Vermeer

At Last the Secret is Out

by W. H. Auden

At last the secret is out, as it always must come in the end,
The delicious story is ripe to tell to the intimate friend;
Over the tea-cups and in the square the tongue has its
desire;
Still waters run deep, my dear, there’s never smoke
without fire.

Behind the corpse in the reservoir, behind the ghost on
the links,
Behind the lady who dances and the man who madly
drinks,
Under the look of fatigue, the attack of migraine and the
sigh
There is always another story, there is more than meets
the eye.

For the clear voice suddenly singing, high up in the
convent wall,
The scent of the elder bushes, the sporting prints in the
hall,
The croquet matches in summer, the handshake, the
cough, the kiss,
There is always a wicked secret, a private reason for this.

 

Image: Johannes Vermeer, Woman Writing a Letter with her Maid, c. 1670-71. Oil on canvas. 72.2 x 59.5 cm. National Gallery of Ireland.

Poem of the month: March

Rachel Whiteread STAIR SPACE III

Tea
by Carol Ann Duffy

I like pouring your tea, lifting
the heavy pot, and tipping it up,
so the fragrant liquid streams in your china cup.

Or when you’re away, or at work,
I like to think of your cupped hands as you sip,
as you sip, of the faint half-smile of your lips.

I like the questions – sugar? – milk? –
and the answers I don’t know by heart, yet,
for I see your soul in your eyes, and I forget.

Jasmine, Gunpowder, Assam, Earl Grey, Ceylon,
I love tea’s names. Which tea would you like? I say
but it’s any tea for you, please, any time of day,

as the women harvest the slopes
for the sweetest leaves, on Mount Wu-Yi,
and I am your lover, smitten, straining your tea.

 

Image: Rachel Whiteread, Stair Space III, 1995. Resin, ink and correction fluid on paper. Tate London.

Poem (Excerpt) of the month: January

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Each year we send a ship to Africa —
sparing neither lives nor money — to seek
answers to the questions: Who are you?
What are your laws? What language do
you speak? They, however, never send a
ship to us.

Herodotus

 

Excerpt source: http://www.new-books-in-german.com/english/1047/335/335/129002/design1.html

Photo: The Lunar Craters Aristarchus and Herodotus by Birt, W. R.
Astronomical register, vol. 8, pp.271-272, 1870. Harvard Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics.

Poem of the month: December

Soyuz TMA-05M beginning to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere

Sonnets from the Portuguese

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I

I thought once how Theocritus had sung
Of the sweet years, the dear and wished-for years,
Who each one in a gracious hand appears
To bear a gift for mortals, old or young:
And, as I mused it in his antique tongue,
I saw, in gradual vision through my tears,
The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years,
Those of my own life, who by turns had flung
A shadow across me. Straightaway I was ‘ware,
So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move
Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair;
And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,
Guess now who holds thee?” – “Death,” I said, But, there,
The silver answer rang, — “Not Death, but Love.”

 

 

Photo: NASA. Soyuz TMA-05M leaves a plasma trail as it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere on 19 November (18 November US time). The craft was carrying Commander Sunita Williams of Nasa and Flight Engineers Akihiko Hoshide of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos (Russian Federal Space Agency). They were returning from a four-month stint on the International Space Stattion. Source: The Guardian.

 

Poem of the month: October

Male marble statue 2nd century BC The Acropolis Museum Petros Gainnakouris Associated Press

Once

by Jonathan Gallasi

The train has left the
the station you can’t take it.
Once the promise has been
broke you can’t unbreak it.

If the letter has been sent
you can’t rewrite it.
If the cigarette’s been smoked
you can’t not light it.

Now the candle’s snuffed
you can’t see by it.
Once the seat’s been sold
no one can buy it.

The phone is disconnected:
don’t talk to it.
The window’s painted black;
you won’t see through it.

The Scotch tape end is lost,
you can’t unwind it.
The earring’s in the lake;
you’ll never find it.

And now the money’s squandered—
you can’t give it
back. And time is short;
you have to live it.

 

Photo: Male marble statue 2nd century BC, The Acropolis Museum, Petros Gainnakouris Associated Press.

Poem of the month: September

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September 1, 1939

by W. H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
‘I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,’
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

From Another Time by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1940 W. H. Auden, renewed by The Estate of W. H. Auden. Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

Photo credit: W.H. Auden (1907-73) and Christopher Isherwood (1904-86) in 1938 about to leave for China, English Photographer / Private Collection / The Bridgeman Art Library.

Poem of the month: August

Untitled, 2010

The Rabbit Catcher

by Sylvia Plath

It was a place of force—
The wind gagging my mouth with my own blown hair,
Tearing off my voice, and the sea
Blinding me with its lights, the lives of the dead
Unreeling in it, spreading like oil.

I tasted the malignity of the gorse,
Its black spikes,
The extreme unction of its yellow candle-flowers.
They had an efficiency, a great beauty,
And were extravagant, like torture.

There was only one place to get to.
Simmering, perfumed,
The paths narrowed into the hollow.
And the snares almost effaced themselves—
Zeros, shutting on nothing,

Set close, like birth pangs.
The absence of shrieks
Made a hole in the hot day, a vacancy.
The glassy light was a clear wall,
The thickets quiet.

I felt a still busyness, an intent.
I felt hands round a tea mug, dull, blunt,
Ringing the white china.
How they awaited him, those little deaths!
They waited like sweethearts. They excited him.

And we, too, had a relationship—
Tight wires between us,
Pegs too deep to uproot, and a mind like a ring
Sliding shut on some quick thing,
The constriction killing me also.

 

Faber and Faber, London, 1971.

Photograph: John Stezaker, Untitled, 2010. Courtesy of the artist and the Approach, London.

Poem of the month: July

Olafur Eliason The Weather Project, Tate Modern
Summer

by Carlo Betocchi

And it grows, the vain
summer,
even for us with our
bright green sins:

behold the dry guest,
the wind,
as it stirs up quarrels
among magnolia boughs

and plays its serene
tune on
the prows of all the leaves—
and then is gone,

leaving the leaves
still there,
the tree still green, but breaking
the heart of the air.

 

Carlo Betocchi, Tutte le poesie, © Garzanti Editore spa, 1996.
Translated by Geoffrey Brock.

Image: Olafur Eliasson, The Weather Project, Tate Modern.