Friday, May 06, 2011

The Beautiful List

I've spoken about and shared list poems a couple of times before but I really don't think we can have too much of a good thing. List poems, done well, sing to us because of their deceptive simplicity: they wear the disguise of an ordinary everyday thing (shopping list, to do list etc) but the poet's choice of form and language lifts them up out of the ordinary and makes them extra-ordinary.

The following poem, by Tim Nolan, (which you can listen to HERE on The Writer's Almanac before you read it), slows our reading down with its short couplets. It asks us to pay the same amount of attention to the 'forgotten'. But this isn't just a poem about a literal change of season. The introduction of the human relationship in the middle of the poem - the flush of your face/ so much - asks me to reconsider the other imagery, the statements at the close of the poem, and the title as metaphor. Here it is and many thanks to Tim for giving his permission:


Long Winter

So much I've forgotten
the grass

the birds
the close insects

the shoot—the drip—
the spray of the sprinkler

freckles—strawberries—
the heat of the Sun

the impossible
humidity

the flush of your face
so much

the high noon
the high grass

the patio ice cubes
the barbeque

the buzz of them—
the insects

the weeds—the dear
weeds—that grow

like alien life forms—
all Dr. Suessy and odd—

here we go again—
we are turning around

again—this will all
happen over again—

and again—it will—

Tim Nolan

If you're in the UK or Europe
then check out the The Book Depository
for Tim's collection, The Sound of It.

What do you take from that penultimate couplet and the final line on its own? Inevitability, acceptance, understanding?

I take comfort from it; repetition in all its guises can be comforting. Although my comfort is tinged by inquietude. I'm not sure I want another long winter, I'm not sure that I want some things to happen over again. But I also know that my experience of life is deepened by living through change.

Poems that make us think, that shift us between different emotions, these are the ones to cherish.

I don't want to be prescriptive with a poetry prompt. Let this poem work on you through several readings then set out on a journey of your own.

Write well.
L
x

10 comments:

Keith Wallis said...

The garden sings -
gospel harmony
birds in full bloom
warbling, wheeping, chiffing
colouring early summer.
The garden sings -
bluebells ringing
primroses shining
and weeds among
the great and good.
The garden sings -
an evening melancholia,
blues to greys,
as the sun dips
beyond factory and house.
Evening crumbs on the lawn,
shadows wait in ambush,
night raises a watchful eye
as curtains draw
and the songs of sunset
segue into dreaming.


I suspect this falls outside of a 'list' but it was an interesting exercise.

Glenn Buttkus said...

Felinius Azteca

Lion dream staring malevolently
from out of rainbow rock,
when did you stalk,
where did you hunt,
why were you worshipped
as an Aztec god?

More than panther
but not quite tiger,
covered with leopard’s spots,
your thick mane radiates
from solid stone like sun rays,
with whiskers in counterpoint,
your crown is decorated
with alien glyphs
and unfamiliar symbols,
some magnificent galaxial cat lord
unearthed, dredged up,
raw yet regal,

with a face divided,
one eye war red, the other sky blue,
with battle, anger, death, and blood
on the right, and waterworld--
great lakes and seas,
waterfalls and tears
on the left;

and room for love,
Christ consciousness,
pet or jester for the gods of the east,
hidden
in some anteroom
in a secret tomb,
in some undiscovered pyramid
in Central America

that perhaps I visited
while out of body,
sucking mushroom mist
or repeating the mantra whelped
from darkness of days upon us,
or yet to come, and I salute you
with a bow of the head,
a bending of the knee,
even though I still see those eyes
with my own closed,
and I can hope you are more
than portent, because I know
we need you desperately,
now more than ever.

Glenn Buttkus

May 2011

Martin Cordrey said...

Why I miss freshwater fishing

Leaving home
before the sun returns from the West.

The walk across fields
of Wildflower, through Bluebell woods.

Mimicking Pigeons, Woodpecker, Cuckoo’s
The cry of a screech owl, a single Fox.

Chasing Rabbits. Meandering with the stream.
Pooh sticks from a stone bridge.

Sitting on a deck chair, in, a still lake,
becoming one with nature –

as a Kingfisher perches on my rod,
Dragon Flies, Bees in flight.

Spawning in the reeds; Golden Tench,
shoals of Crucian Carp, Rudd.

A Water Vole eating ground bait at my feet
Dogs chasing sticks and Ducks.

Slivering Grass Snakes yards away.
Moorhens nesting. Silence.

A flock of Canadian Geese taking off
forming a V in the sky?

Watching a storm approach, large rain drops
beating a march across the horizon.

The change in light, in temperature
as the sun rises, the sun falls.

Lu said...

Tomb-Sweeping Day

So much I’ve missed
the incense

the joss paper
for burning

the incessant rain
sad like tears

the deep pools of your eyes
impossible to see through

the oblation - the rice wine
sprinkled before the grave

the thick smell of
swirling smokes

palms together with prayers
spring after spring

my polluted heart is
cleansed, then

rejuvenated
again.

martin cordrey said...

Anaesthetic
(after reading ‘of love & hope)

I’m looking
across the valley

from this sterile room,
before

going under the knife:
Then they

ask me to count down
from 50-1

as a needle pierces
my skin;

only I’d rather recall
various hues

of woodland trees
from olive

through to aqua, pea,

emerald, sage,
on to verdigris,

or walnut, cocoa,
burnt copper -

By the time I surrender
to clouded yellow

dappled
in morning sunlight

I’ve flown
from this world.

martin cordrey said...

Dam should read
...
of woodland trees
from olive to aqua, pea,

emerald, sage,
through to verdigris...

Geoff said...

Indian Heat

wraps round me like a winding-sheet, it’s lizards testing each
scorching stone with uplifted feet; birdwing butterflies supping long draughts from hibiscus flowers, buffaloes wallowing
under a skin of muddy water - snorting plumes of brown
breath, it’s glugs of coconut milk; nerves taut
as tablas, my palms sweating spices, tongues lolling on tight lips, rice stubble crackling under coolies’ feet, pi-dogs worrying tics
and scabby genitals, methane fizzing in open sewers, it’s beggars
staunching suppurating sores, banana leaves wilting like maypole
ribbons; it’s flesh unpeeled from vinyl seats, scorpions
stealing into the darkness of shoes, peacocks shivering
punka tails; it’s a row of kohl-lined squinting eyes; cow-dung
crusted in whorled cones, barefoot pilgrims salving crazed feet, it’s a rotting carcass alive with flies dizzy and drunk; jalopies nursing shattered diesel pumps, my jaundiced open book, gangs of crows
cresting neem trees, cawing their omnipotence.

It’s awaiting the monsoon.

Dark clouds rest their weight on the hillside.
Thorn trees lose battles with a mad wind,
roots staring at the sky.
The brainfever bird shrills across the valley-
Rain’s coming Rain’s coming Rain’s coming.
Fat drops bubblewrap the lake, wriggle into palm tree thatch.
The village gods are garlanded.

Anonymous said...

Remember Autumn

the time you vanished
in the last of the neck high grasses by the river -
moisture in the air like a muffler,
voices in the gardens
the volume turned down?
Remember that glimpse of a woman with a cello?
Remember that secret, a conker in your pocket?
Someone drew their curtains,
someone put the clocks back.
You took a photo, hoping to keep it.

Anonymous said...

Or maybe I prefer it like this:

Remember Autumn

the time you vanished
in the last of the neck high grasses by the river -
moisture in the air like a muffler,
voices in the gardens
the volume turned down?
Remember browns that sang like cellos?
That secret, a conker in your pocket?
Someone closed their curtains,
someone put the clocks back.
You took a photo, folding it all away.


- not sure:)

Lynne Rees said...

Hi Keith - you have lists within the poem... and anyway I always think people should only follow a prompt as far as their own writing wants to go. My favourite lines here:
.. the sun dips
beyond factory and house.
Evening crumbs on the lawn,

They're so simple but simple concrete language can be so evocative.

@ Glen - I like the direction this poem takes, from the ancient to the contemporaty world.

@ Martin - great title. And the closure is lovely too. The world keeps turning.

@ Lu - this is an imagination grabbing title too. I like 'the oblation' sitting in the middle of the poem.

@ Geoff - wonderfully vivid imagery. I love: 'banana leaves wilting like maypole/ ribbons', how it brings two worlds together.

@ Anonymous - I prefer the forst version of 'Remember Autumn'. I like the repetition of 'Remember' in the middle and I think the images are more accessible to the reader in the more expanded form you first had. Lovely poem.

June's prompt will be up soon. Thanks, everyone, for sharing your poems.