Archive for the ‘Tuesday poem’ Category

The glory of the garden

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

I saw this very sweet piece of garden sculpture in Regent’s Park a couple of weeks ago, and it made me think about gardens and gardeners – which led me to Rudyard Kipling’s poem.

Rudyard Kipling

Our England is a garden that is full of stately views,
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye.

For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall,
You will find the tool- and potting-sheds which are the heart of all;
The cold-frames and the hot-houses, the dungpits and the tanks:
The rollers, carts and drain-pipes, with the barrows and the planks.

And there you’ll see the gardeners, the men and ‘prentice boys
Told off to do as they are bid and do it without noise;
For, except when seeds are planted and we shout to scare the birds,
The Glory of the Garden it abideth not in words.

And some can pot begonias and some can bud a rose,
And some are hardly fit to trust with anything that grows;
But they can roll and trim the lawns and sift the sand and loam,
For the Glory of the Garden occupieth all who come.

Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing, “Oh, how beautiful!” and sitting in the shade,
While better men than we go out and start their working lives
At grubbing weeds from gravel-paths with broken dinner-knives.

There’s not a pair of legs so thin, there’s not a head so thick,
There’s not a hand so weak and white, nor yet a heart so sick.
But it can find some needful job that’s crying to be done,
For the Glory of the Garden glorifieth every one.

Then seek your job with thankfulness and work till further orders,
If it’s only netting strawberries or killing slugs on borders;
And when your back stops aching and your hands begin to harden,
You will find yourself a partner in the Glory of the Garden.

Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hands and pray
For the Glory of the Garden, that it may not pass away!
And the Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away!

I particularly like the bit that goes: “…such gardens are not made/by singing ‘Oh how beautiful!’ and sitting in the shade …”

It also led me to celebrate the old-fashioned heavily-scented roses that I buy most Sundays in Marylebone Farmers’ Market – and here’s the latest bunch. (And the last one for a while; we’re off on holiday until mid-September.)

And, so as not to discount flowers of the more random variety, here is a photo of a wild untended corner at our community gardens. Love ‘em all, that’s my motto.

Our veggie garden’s production this year has certainly been affected by the weather: the autumn-planted broad beans were brilliant but all the later crops (apart from the potatoes) haven’t done as well. And speaking of potatoes, this year we planted five different varieties and all of them have cropped well – but one variety (and we don’t know which) produces potatoes that dissolve in the cooking water! If any readers of this blog know which one it might be could you let me know, so that we can avoid that one in future years? The varieties we planted are: Red Duke of York (obviously we know it isn’t that one), Pentland, Julien, Premiere, and Colleen. For some reason my money’s on Colleen as the culprit – maybe because I don’t think we’ve had that one before.

More Tuesday Poems — from the New Zealand, Italy, the UK, the USA and Australia — can be found here.

Two Tuesday dog poems

Monday, July 30th, 2012

John Tranter gave me permission to use this poem of his a while ago, and today seems the right moment for it.

by John Tranter

There you are, your paws on my knees,
your head tilted to one side. You gaze at me
with that puzzled look, your eyes full of
loyalty and complicated queries.
That cat I chased yesterday, where is it?
Who is that stranger? What’s that scent?
Can we go for a walk now, and explore
the paths that wind through the park by the bay?

Wise creature, you know where that bone
is buried, where the rats hide in their burrow
by the water, why the cat fears you.
You know many subtle facts, old friend,
except for one sad particular: how
brief a time we have left together.

And then I remembered a Billy Collins dog poem, which seems to rhyme rather well with John Tranter’s.

by Billy Collins

As young as I look,
I am growing older faster than he,
seven to one
is the ratio they tend to say.
Whatever the number,
I will pass him one day
and take the lead
the way I do on our walks in the woods.
And if this ever manages
to cross his mind,
it would be the sweetest
shadow I have ever cast on snow or grass.

I came across a good quote from Billy Collins when I was looking for a photo of him with his dog (couldn’t find one). Here’s the quote: “Putting a dog into a poem is always a good idea. It’s an instant connection that people are drawn to. Who doesn’t like the occasional dog running on to the scene just as things were getting a little too serious?”

More Tuesday Poems — from the U.K., New Zealand, Italy and Australia — can be found here.

Tuesday Poem: Margaret Mahy

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

I wanted to mark the sad news of Margaret Mahy’s death in some way, and chose this lovely poem of hers to do exactly that. She had an extraordinary range, from funny picture books to gritty young adult novels, and all of it displaying an astoundingly rich and original talent. Children, child-centred adults, readers young and old – we’ll all miss her. I’m glad I met her, and I’m very glad to have known her work, which will long remain. But now the writer herself has, to quote her poem, gone “out in the moony dark”.

by Margaret Mahy

Mother, mother, what was that?
Hush my darling! Only the cat.
(Fighty-bitey, ever-so-mighty)
Out in the moony dark.

Mother, mother, what was that?
Hush my darling! Only the cat.
(Prowly-yowly, sleepy-creepy
Fighty-bitey, ever-so-mighty)
Out in the moony dark.

Mother, mother, what was that?
Hush my darling! Only the cat.
(Sneeky-peeky, cosy-dozy,
Prowly-yowly, sleepy-creepy
Fighty-bitey, ever-so-mighty)
Out in the moony dark.

Mother, mother, what was that?
Hush my darling! Only the cat.
(Patchy-scratchy, furry-purry,
Sneeky-peeky, cosy-dozy,
Prowly-yowly, sleepy-creepy
Fighty-bitey, ever-so-mighty)
Out in the moony dark.

For more Tuesday poems go to the main hub site, where a main poem is posted each week. Further poems can be found on the blogs of the Tuesday poet members in the sidebar.

Tuesday poem: Someone you trusted

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

by William Stafford

Someone you trusted has treated you bad.
Someone has used you to vent their ill temper.
Did you expect anything different?
Your work – better than some others’ – has languished
Neglected. Or a job you tried was too hard
And you failed. Maybe weather or bad luck
Spoiled what you did. That grudge, held against you
For years after you patched up, has flared
And you’ve lost a friend for a time. Things
At home aren’t so good; on the job your spirits
Have sunk. But just when the worst bears down
You find a pretty bubble in your soup at noon
And outside at work, a bird says, “Hi!”
Slowly the sun creeps along the floor,
It is coming your way. It touches your shoe.

William Stafford (1914 – 1993) was a poet’s poet, in that he was named more often than any other in 1986 when his peers were asked to identify America’s ten major living poets. He was also one of the most prolific: there are, it seems, about a thousand of his poems in print. I don’t know his work at all well but I have loved this example of it for years: it’s so precise and also so apparently relaxed about creating its effects, and I love the juxtaposition of images such as the bubble in the soup and your work being neglected, and the comforts of the physical world being so apparently simple and accessible.

The poem also reminds me of this Edward Hopper painting. It’s called “Sunlight in an Empty Room” and it’s a mesmerising encounter (I saw it in the Hopper retrospective in London a few years ago).

For more Tuesday poems go to the main hub site, where a poem is posted each week. Further poems can be found on the blogs of the Tuesday poet members in the sidebar.

Tuesday poem: Happiness

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012


by Jane Kenyon

There’s just no accounting for happiness,

or the way it turns up like a prodigal

who comes back to the dust at your feet

having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?

You make a feast in honor of what

was lost, and take from its place the finest

garment, which you saved for an occasion

you could not imagine, and you weep night and day

to know that you were not abandoned,

that happiness saved its most extreme form

for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never

knew about, who flies a single-engine plane

onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes

into town, and inquires at every door

until he finds you asleep midafternoon

as you so often are during the unmerciful

hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.

It comes to the woman sweeping the street

with a birch broom, to the child

whose mother has passed out from drink.

It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing

a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,

and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots

in the night.

It even comes to the boulder

in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,

to rain falling on the open sea,

to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

Tuesday Poem: song of the weather

Monday, May 21st, 2012

A Song of the Weather

January brings the snow,
Makes your feet and fingers glow.

February’s ice and sleet
Freeze the toes right off your feet.

Welcome March with wintry wind
Would thou wert not so unkind!

April brings the sweet spring showers,
On and on for hours and hours.

Farmers fear unkindly May
Frost by night and hail by day.

June just rains and never stops
Thirty days and spoils the crops.

In July the sun is hot.
Is it shining? No, it’s not.

August’s cold and dank and wet,
Brings more rain than any yet.

Bleak September’s mist and mud
Is enough to chill the blood.

Then October adds a gale,
Wind and slush and rain and hail.

Dark November brings the fog
Should not do it to a dog.

Freezing wet December, then
Bloody January again!

January brings the snow …

I know it’s not Tuesday. I even know this isn’t a poem. But it’s a wonderfully funny song, and a wonderfully apposite sing-along for the present weather in Britain. (In fact some bits of Britain, I hear, are getting very good weather – and some parts of northern Europe have weather as bad as ours. I have even heard that this week the weather is set to improve. None of these so-called facts is at all comforting.)

Here are the late, great, Flanders & Swann singing their song. My parents adored their work and we often used to listen to their records when I was growing up. My own favourite is ‘The Slow Train’ because it’s spot-on nostalgic about something that mattered, but this one about the weather makes me laugh every time.

Tuesday poem: Nothing

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

by Rachel Rooney

Red; it’s overrated. See that token
red on a single stem, that
redness of me waiting like a pillar box.
Red’s too easy.

Blue is foolish.
Blueness; I can dive right into it. Yes,
blue’s an invite; it’s the touch of tiles in a pool.
Blue. Don’t do it.

Yellow’s hell. Avoid it.
Yellowness is madness.
Yellow. Break it down and it’s the sound it makes.
Yellow. I won’t enter it.

Greenness; it isn’t me.
Green is somebody else’s smell and
green’s their home, fingers, mould.
Green grows. Best keep away from it.

White? Now, that’s more like it.
White’s an absence. It’s nothing and all I ever wanted.
Whiteness, pure and sweet as a fantasy.
White. I can almost taste it.

I posted a poem by Rachel last June: ‘The Language of Cat’ from her collection of poetry for children with the same name. This poem, ‘Nothing’, has been selected for an anthology of poems for adults: ‘Languages of Colour’, published next month by the Frogmore Press. So it turns out that Rachel is fluent in colour as well as cat.

And while we’re talking poetry, why don’t you look at what the other Tuesday Poets are offering: if one of the posts on the sidebar mentions a Tuesday Poem you can be sure there’s a poem in there somewhere. The Tuesday Poets have just celebrated their second anniversary in cyberspace by writing another ‘group’ poem. Each member of the group added a line every 12 hours or so, for about 14 days. You can still see the terrific result at the Hub by scrolling down the main section. (Oh go on, have a look: we’re very proud of it!)

Tuesday Poem: homage to Anne Tyler

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Anne Tyler is presently – and unusually – in England; as far as I know she seldom travels far from Baltimore. She gave a talk at the Oxford Literary Festival yesterday and that’s utterly unusual; almost unknown. Anne Tyler never attends conferences or festivals. She never gives talks. As far as I know she’s given only two interviews in her entire working life. In the second, given recently to National Public Radio in America, she said: “I did do one [a face to face broadcast interview] about 35 years ago. I don’t have that much to say, so I figure about every 35 years will do, right?”

Well, Ms Tyler, I wouldn’t say ‘right’ but I would say, ‘better than nothing’. I couldn’t go to the Oxford Festival to hear her speak but a dear friend went and promises to give me a complete, in-depth and definitive account including hand gestures and a note about handbags, if any: meantime he says this: “You simply have to know, right here and now, that Anne Tyler has two poems on the walls of her study: ‘Walking To Sleep’ by Richard Wilbur. And an Updike poem about writing a novel.”

If anyone reading this loves Anne Tyler’s work as much as I do, and is waiting as impatiently for the release of her new novel (‘The Beginner’s Goodbye’, published in the UK tomorrow) then you might be interested in the NPR interview.

And those poems on her study wall? Well, I can’t give you the whole of Richard Wilbur’s poem because I haven’t had time to seek his permission, but it’s a magnificent poem and especially wonderful for a writer’s wall. So here are the first few lines, and a link to the rest of it on the web.

Walking to Sleep
by Richard Wilbur

As a queen sits down, knowing that a chair will be there,
Or a general raises his hand and is given the
Step off assuredly into the blank of your mind.
Something will come to you. Although at first
You nod through nothing like a fogbound prow,
Gravel will breed in the margins of your gaze,
Perhaps with tussocks or a dusty flower,
And, humped like dolphins playing in the bow-wave,
Hills will suggest themselves. All such suggestions
Are yours to take or leave, but hear this warning:
Let them not be too velvet green, the fields
Which the deft needle of your eye appoints,
Nor the old farm past which you make your way
Too shady-linteled, too instinct with home.

And the John Updike poem? I have, I think, all his published poetry, so unless he wrote it privately for Ms Tyler, and nothing would surprise me there, I ought to be able to track it down. That rustling noise you can hear is me skimming the pages of John Updike’s poetry collections. Watch this space.

And while you’re waiting you might like to check out the rest of the Tuesday Poems this week (lots of them will be up already – it’s run from New Zealand where it’s already been Tuesday for five hours). And the Tuesday Poem community are embarking on another communal poem to celebrate the site’s second birthday, and members have been assigned rostered lines to write and post – roughly one every 12 hours. You can watch it grow!

Not so much a Tuesday Poem; more of a Friday one

Friday, March 30th, 2012

What Kind of Times Are These
by Adrienne Rich

There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass
grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled
this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.

And the painting is David Hockney’s, from the life-enhancingly joyous exhibition presently on at the Royal Academy.

Tuesday Poem: Sea Fever

Monday, February 13th, 2012

I woke early this morning with this poem scrolling out in my head. I have no idea why that happened but I expect it’s not unrelated to nostalgia for leaving Waiheke Island, where visions of the sea inhabit my mind and heart in an appropriately feverish way. I also had no idea that the whole of the poem was stored somewhere in my brain: complete, unabridged, perfect. It must have been pleased to get an airing; I don’t believe I’ve tried to remember it since I was in Year Eight at school.

Masefield turns out, with the help of Wikipedia, to be a very interesting person – and unsurprisingly he worked as a sailor, including on one of the last of the commercial windjammers. ‘Sea Fever’ was published when he was 24.

by John Masefield

(1878-1967; English Poet Laureate 1930-1967.)

I must down to the seas again, to the
lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star
to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song
and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face,
and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call
of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume,
and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the
vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way
where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from
a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream
when the long trick’s over.

And here’s a link to the late great Thomas Allen singing the version set to music. (Maybe 2012 is the year in which I finally learn how to embed YouTube links?) And while I’m talking poetry why don’t you look at what the other Tuesday Poets are offering: if one of the posts on the sidebar mentions a Tuesday Poem you can be sure there’s a poem in there somewhere.