THE ANSWERS!

“In theory they were sound on Expectation

Had there been situations to be in.

Unluckily, they were their situation”

CLUE: A Yorkshireman in America?

W.H. AUDEN – “THE QUEST”. Auden was a Yorkshireman who moved to the States.

Wiry and white-fiery and whirlwind swivelled snow

Spins to the widow-making unchilding unfathering deeps

CLUE: Socialising with Jesus?

GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS SJ (Society of Jesus) – “THE WRECK OF THE DEUTSCHLAND”.

With beaded bubbles winking at the brim

And purple-stained mouth

CLUE: Suffering from a kind of Thrush?

JOHN KEATS, “ODE TO A NIGHTINGALE” – the poem is about joy and suffering among other things and a Nightingale is a member of the thrush family. The quote is a reference to people in the South of France drinking wine.

The earth of shells and friends is covered in flowers

CLUE: Money is the source of some evil.

OK, I sort of cheated. This is one of mine – so SIMON BANKS (Moneybanks?), “Estuary Shore”.

Far, far around shall those dark clustered trees

Fledge the wild-ridged mountains steep by steep

CLUE: Hyperion to a satyr!

Which is a quote from “Hamlet”, but that’s a red herring. the poet is JOHN KEATS again, “Ode to Psyche”. Keats wrote, but never finished, the epic poem “Hyperion” and he wrote a lot about elements of classical Greek mythology such as Hyperion, satyrs and Psyche.

though now it seems

As if some marvellous empty sea-shell flung

Out of the obscure dark of the rich streams

And not a fountain, were the symbol which

Shadows the inherited glory of the rich

CLUE: Bill Gates?

W.B. YEATS, “Meditations in Time of Civil War”. If I could remember just one short passage of poetry, this would be it. The W is for William (informal form Bill) and Yeats and Gates are variants of the same word, what we now call a gate.

Neither the magical smith nor the carver

Of mythical fish on soft stones will answer a call

CLUE: The first pope?

Cheating again – another of mine slipped in. SIMON BANKS, “Callanish – Winter Solstice”. Allegedly the first pope was Peter (Simon Peter, Simon the Rock).

But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make

Of beaten gold and gold enamelling

CLUE: An Irishman in Istanbul

W.B. YEATS again – “Sailing to Byzantium”. Yeats was Irish and Istanbul used to be Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium.

Cold blows the wind on my true love

And a few small drops of rain

I never knew but one true love

And in greenwood he was slain

CLUE: What about Franz Fanon?

Rhymes with ANON. This is an anonymous late medieval ballad, quite a well-known one.

It came to me on the Nile my passport lied,

Calling me dark who am grey

CLUE: MacUncle?

No, MacNeice. LOUIS MacNEICE – “Beni Hassan”.

I saw Willie Mackintosh burn Auchendoon:

CLUE: Perhaps the most prolific of all poets.

ANON again, obviously – an anonymous 16th century Scottish ballad. It’s an example of a line that needs context to be effective: Willie and the Mackintosh clan are seeking to avenge the murder of the Earl of Moray in Mary, Queen of Scots’ time and in the ballad are repeatedly warned not to raid and burn the house of the man responsible. We know the raiding party will be caught on the way back and nearly wiped out. This is the last line: Willie ignores the warnings and goes to his death.

Remember me to God

And tell him that our politicians swear

They won’t give in till Priussia’s rule’s been trod

Under the heel of England – are you there?

Oh, and the war won’t end for at least two years,

But we’ve got bags of men

CLUE: Mad Jack

Which was the nickname in the First World War of Second Lieutenant Siegfried Sassoon (on the British side despite his first name). So – SIEGFRIED SASSOON, TO ANY DEAD OFFICER”.

Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass

Stains the white radiance of eternity

Until death shatters it to fragments

CLUE: Related to Frankenstein by marriage.

That should have been an easy one – P.B. SHELLEY (whose wife wrote FRANKENSTEIN): “ADONAIS”.

Oh, and one I meant to include but forgot:

She drove in the dark to leeward

She struck not a reef or a rock

But the coombs of a smother of sand. Night drew her

Dead to the Kentish Knock.

CLUE: A manly poem.

GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS again – and again that tremendous long poem, “THE WRECK OF THE DEUTSCHLAND”.

I was just a bit disappointed no-one actually had a go at this as a quiz, even for some of the questions, but this has been fun, so I think I’ll include single mystery quotes in future posts, some at least. That could give me a chance to redress one big imbalance, since all these poets were male. I think this is a historical thing: poetry until the mid-twentieth-century was much more male-dominated than novel-writing, for example. If I was picking out four or five of the best contemporary British poets and following personal taste, Julia Copus and Kim Moore would be in there; but they’re not yet well enough known to have been fair quiz questions. Earlier? Personally I’m not a Sylvia Plath fan, unpopular though that position is, and Emily Dickinson interests rather than excites me, though I need to test that more. I want to go back and look at Christina Rossetti’s stuff more, though.

Come on – have a go!

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Those lines

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OK, no-one has stuck their neck out to suggest names for those mystery poetry lines, though several poets follow this blog. There has, though, been a request for clues.

So here goes.

“In theory they were sound on Expectation

Had there been situations to be in.

Unluckily, they were their situation”

CLUE: A Yorkshireman in America?

Wiry and white-fiery and whirlwind swivelled snow

Spins to the widow-making unchilding unfathering deeps

CLUE: Socialising with Jesus?

With beaded bubbles winking at the brim

And purple-stained mouth

CLUE: Suffering from a kind of Thrush?

The earth of shells and friends is covered in flowers

CLUE: Money is the source of some evil.

Far, far around shall those dark clustered trees

Fledge the wild-ridged mountains steep by steep

CLUE: Hyperion to a satyr!

though now it seems

As if some marvellous empty sea-shell flung

Out of the obscure dark of the rich streams

And not a fountain, were the symbol which

Shadows the inherited glory of the rich

CLUE: Bill Gates?

Neither the magical smith nor the carver

Of mythical fish on soft stones will answer a call

CLUE: The first pope?

But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make

Of beaten gold and gold enamelling

CLUE: An Irishman in Istanbul

Cold blows the wind on my true love

And a few small drops of rain

I never knew but one true love

And in greenwood he was slain

CLUE: What about Franz Fanon?

It came to me on the NIle my passport lied,

Callign me dark who am grey

CLUE: MacUncle?

I saw Willie Mackintosh burn Auchendoon:

CLUE: Perhaps the most prolific of all poets.

Remember me to God

And tell him that our politicians swear

They won’t give in till Priussia’s rule’s been trod

Under the heel of England – are you there?

Oh, and the war won’t end for at least two years,

But we’ve got bags of men

CLUE: Mad Jack

Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass

Stains the white radiance of eternity

Until death shatters it to fragments

CLUE: Related to Frankenstein by marriage.

Oh, and one I meant to include but forgot:

She drove in the dark to leeward

She struck not a reef or a rock

But the coombs of a smother of sand. Night drew her

Dead to the Kentish Knock.

CLUE: A manly poem.

Come on – have a go!

Great lines!

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Don’t quite know why I chose that photo for this post. It looks good. It looks mysterious. Good poetry is sometimes mysterious. A false syllogism is lurking here somewhere.

It’s a picture of a blue moon. Good poetry comes once in a blue moon? Anyway.

I thought I’d post a few of the lines of poetry I most admire and love, that excite me most. Not precisely one line each, because natural snippets may be less than a whole line or as much as five-and-a-half lines. I’ll not give the name of the poet right away and see if you can get any of the names right (by sure knowledge or guess) WITHOUT GOOGLING THE QUOTE, AND THAT MEANS YOU, SIMPKINS! Then we can return to them and maybe discuss why they’re so good or why they’re not good. So here goes.

1: In theory they were sound on Expectation

Had there been situations to be in.

Unluckily, they were their situation.

2: Wiry and white-fiery and whirlwind swivelled snow

Spins to the widow-making, unchilding unfathering deeps.

3: With beaded bubbles winking at the brim

And purple-stained mouth

4: The earth of shells and friends is covered in flowers.

5: Far, far around shall those dark-clustered trees

Fledge the wild-ridged mountains steep by steep

6: though now it seems

As if some marvellous empty sea-shell flung

Out of the obscure dark of the rich streams

And not a fountain, were the symbol which

Shadows the inherited glory of the rich.

7: Neither the magical smith nor the carver

Of mythical fish on soft stones will answer a call.

8: But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make

Of beaten gold and gold enamelling

9: Cold blows the wind on my true love

And a few small drops of rain

I never knew but one true love

And in greenwood he was slain.

10: It came to me on the Nile my passport lied,

Calling me dark who am grey

11: I saw Willie Mackintosh burn Auchendoon.

12: Remember me to God

And tell him that our politicians swear

They won’t give in till Prussia’s rule’s been trod

Under the heel of England…are you there?

Oh, and the war won’t end for at least two years,

But we’ve got bags of men.

12: Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass

Stains the white radiance of eternity

Until death shatters it to fragments

OK – comments are welcome.

Suggest who the poets are and maybe even name the poems

Give us some of your own favourite lines

Say something about the lines I’ve chosen!

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More Snape

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First, an official announcement. If you got an email notification about my post yesterday, but on clicking couldn’t find it, there is a reason. I’d edited it and either failed to click on PUBLISH or the PUBLISH hadn’t worked (which is my story). Anyway, it’s back now. Please look at it as this post won’t make a lot of sense without it. On the other hand, that may be how you like things. Are you by any chance a poet?

Now one or two things I didn’t mention yesterday.

There was a long and interesting panel discussion about poetry and beauty. What is beauty? What is poetry? What is and? Poets from the 17th to the early 20th century often used the word “beauty” but it’s now almost a dirty word. It’s vague, of course, and saying something is beautiful doesn’t help much to describe it. We’re also clear now that there’s no obligation for poetry to concentrate on beautiful things, or what would we make of war poetry?

It seems to me we still write sometimes about beautiful things, but often with a kind of reservation, and we don’t use the B word. I don’t either – and the things I find most beautiful aren’t often the subject of poems, though they often appear as images within poems. The exception, for some reason, is dragonflies. Twice in the same long poem (“Dark Lady”), I apply the B word to them (one beauty, one beautiful) though in each case the dragonfly is an image suggesting something else.

Now the other thing. As last year, the poetry readings were a revelation (and only occasionally, a revelation that I didn’t think much of that poet), but I found some of the introductions jarred. These were sometimes very obviously read word for word from a book or script. We hear that this poet shows “startling humanity” or something like that, and very rarely does it give those who don’t know his/her work any idea what it’s like. Does it matter (s)he’s published six collections or seven? Why not just get on with the poetry? If (s)he wasn’t well rated, (s)he wouldn’t be at Snape about to read to us.

Oh, and the Macedonian poet Madzirov is great fun.

Snape Poetry Festival

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I’ve just come back from the annual Poetry Festival at Snape Maltings, Suffolk. This was the 25th such, but formerly they were held a few miles away in the small town of Aldeburgh by the sea, a fishing settlement turned to tourism and music. Snape Maltings is a site by a river and reedbeds, consisting of beautiful industrial buildings turned to use mainly for music events.

Last year I made my first visit, staying just for the one day. I don’t live so far away that a day trip is problematic. But it did mean I’d have been unwise to stay for the poetry open mic, which finishes just before midnight. This time I booked into events from Friday evening to Sunday morning and had a go at the open mic. I stayed in a very friendly and convenient bed and breakfast on the main road at Stratford St Andrew, about a twelve-minute drive away.

This could be a very long blog, but it won’t be. Here’s just a few impressions.

At the start, it can be a bit intimidating. It’s a big venue and a big event. I found myself thinking it was a bit like arriving at secondary school aged eleven and having to cope with an alien organisation, a confusing multiplicity of rooms and a tight timetable. It didn’t help that it was raining heavily and dark. Moving from place to place withing the site involves going outside and in places the lighting is minimal. That helps deliver marvellous starscapes when it isn’t raining or cloudy, but also helps deliver you into potholes and puddles.

People were all friendly. That wasn’t always so the previous year when the “ushers” at the doors for the events were some of them rather forbidding. I met a lot of people including some of the featured poets. I bought poetry books by two of those, Kim Moore and Robin Robertson. I’ll blog about them when I’ve finished reading their books. There was much thought-provoking discussion and lecturing: the only pity was that this never involved the audience. I suppose that becomes difficult when so many people are present and the timetable is packed – difficult, but not impossible.

It seems to me that much contemporary poetry is thoughtful, compassionate and rational. It’s also in its main thrust quite different from the main thrust of what I write. I use common words and images of common objects, but I’m rarely chatty in poems. I use mystery more and observation of characters less. No problem: I learnt long ago in poetry to do my thing, not someone else’s.

One thing that does bother me a bit, taking in both Snape and recent browsing through a lot of poetry magazines (what I could find on-line) is that some poets seem to think their main task is to think up unusual ways of describing things, and then if they string together a few such descriptions with some light twine such as “Mother used to” or “In Manchester”, there’s the poem. I can see the inspiration this comes from, to see mundane things anew as Craig Raine said, but it can become a sort of competition exercise: “Find a new way of describing an ATM/someone drinking coffee/a bus stop/a poodle”, or “cram as many unusual metaphors and similes into the poem as possible”. Such ingenuity is fine, but if it’s valued too much, it becomes confetti without a wedding or even a wind to make it swirl.

The open mic was fun. I read “Death and the Magician” and “Night Vision”. One young female poet read a piece about refusing intimate shaving and it was very, very funny.

More soon.

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Eyes

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Looking for an image of an eye on the internet, I found they were either medical or female. Is no-one other than optometrists interested in men’s eyes?

Anyway, this poem was sparked by remembering an old photo of me when I was in my early 20s. It’s a poem about appearances – then and now. I’d never claim to be a sage!

EYES

When I was young, my eyes were wide like Blake’s,

Pools for some fabulous sea-snake,

But wind and sun and dust and age

Have narrowed them; suspicious sage,

I look out through these guarded slits

With ready, oiled, assembled wits.

PR

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I learnt a wonderful thing yesterday. A retired doctor was amused when someone said he was good at PR. We pressed him for the reason.

In the medical world, PR means “per rectum”.

So here’s a poem:

PR

“Above all else we need to be

Better at PR.” The doctor guffawed.

“Per Rectum”? But he did not question

The Chief Executive’s rectitude.