The Berkshire Downs, not open country but deep woodland scaling the hillside. Just after rain, wandering through the heavy feast of rain soaked boughs, green shadows dripping all around me, festering silence, rich but a little sinister. Solitary dog walkers loom out of the stillness, a black labrador bounds up, then disappears into the resiny gloom beyond the gravel ride. There are adolescent Wellington firs, splayed at the base like rainforest trees, large ferns and parties of very young firs clustered at the edge of glades, eager for their share of the light. I lose myself in the rich resiny silence, an hour’s walk seems like a lifetime of tramping, the wood goes on spreading upwards, there are freaks of golden light beyond the thickest trees in the distance, but this suggests the top of the hill not the end of the wood. There is no discernible end. Like Buddha saying that there is no discernible end to time or matter, so long as one continues to believe in them.
gate half open
the gold eaves of the wood
beckon inwards Continue reading
Geoffrey Hill’s valedictory lecture as Oxford Professor of Poetry is powerful final plea to maintain standards in literature. His hectoring, pungently oratorical style has to be heard to be believed. He is irreplaceable. Listen to it here: Oxford lecture Continue reading
The Solitude of Small Doors, Ananda (Stephen Parr)
Wolf at the Door, Bristol 2015, £11.52, pb, 250 pp
(To order go to Lulu.com and search for Stephen Parr
Reviewed by Ratnagarbha
Ananda’s major new collection, The Solitude of Small Doors has a distilled reflectiveness about it. We get the feeling that this is the fruit of a lifetime of reflection, observation and wrangling with the intractibles of this precious, confusing all to brief event we call human life. But human life, in Ananda’s universe, is always reflected and refracted through things, things vividly alive that speak to the poet, each in its own idiosyncratic voice. The kind of things you find in dank back yards:
ropes that parted like rotting
asparagus at the lightest touch.
(‘Sudden Pianos’) Continue reading
A Fascinating article by Henry Gould about a new group of American poets to call themselves the new gnostics. It appeared in Coldfront magazine in May 2014.
The New Gnosticism
Deacon Hill, at the east end of the Chilterns
It was spring and I wanted to climb a hill, but not too far away. Too much driving, surely, equals alienation. Best to stay within a day’s journey on horse or camel back. Let the crabbed soul come along for the ride. No more than one hour’s drive then. I would give in to contour lust, follow Ruskin, worshipper of the Alps, in my own humble quest for ascent. Continue reading
Francesco Petrarca (July 20, 1304 – July 19, 1374), commonly written in English as Petrarch, was one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch’s rediscovery of Cicero‘s letters is often credited with initiating the 14th-century Renaissance. His love sonnets were admired and imitated throughout Europe during the Renaissance and became a model for lyrical poetry. They were all written to express his love for a mysterious highborn lady called Laura, who certainly never returned his affection and may not even have existed. Nevertheless his anguished sonnets to her set the standard for lyrical love poetry up until the present day. Not so well known and celebrated as Dante in the English-speaking lands, his story is fascinating and his emotions are as fresh now as they were hundreds of years ago. Here is my attempt to translate his first sonnet to Laura, in its original rhyming scheme.
All you who’ve heard in wandering scraps of rhyme
The sighs on which I fed my foolish heart
When in youth’s confusion I felt the dart
Of love – I was not then what I’ve become –
Who mark the reasoned sorrows that are found
Throughout my songs, of hope and fear bred,
I pray, if ever for love your heart has bled,
Then may your pity be with pardon crowned.
But now too well I see how my good name
Has been embroiled in long lived public scorn.
Myself I must convict of foolish schemes,
And the fruit of all my foolishness is shame
With deep repentance of the knowledge born
That life’s sweet joys are merely fleeting dreams.
Edward Thomas has been much celebrated in recent years for the short lived but vital output of his poetry before he headed for the Western front and into memory. The influence of his prose writing – nature writing and literary reviews has been downplayed. This is regrettable. Continue reading