POETRY RETURNS

7 May 2009

I have a real passion for poetry — and I always have.  Poetry is something that comforted me as a child, and that grew along with me into adulthood.  I have written and read screeds of poems throughout my life, and I even studied it at university level, which made me too much of a critic for too long.

The poems that earned me money, the great many that were actually published over the years, were not, in my opinion, my best work.  Very far from it. In fact, I developed a bit of a chip on my shoulder about what I had done, and I began a long period of trying to distance myself from “all that”! I used to spend hours on-line, quarrelling with people about their poetry, conjuring up my daemonic “Rhyme-Rage” on occasion!

But I have since changed my stance, I have softened, perhaps worn down by time. I have recently allowed myself to accept myself in this respect, and to accept what other people are doing; poetry ought to be maintained, encouraged and relished once more.

Those of you reading this may remember my original web site had a great deal of poetry, and since that site died, I have been trying to transfer everything over to this site (including the comments).  So far (according to my tag cloud), Poetry is my biggest category here — and that’s quite right, for what is dave devine without poetry?  Everyone who knows me, knows how important poetry and language is and has been to me.  Here’s a list of what I have available on site right now:

Sadly, that is all I have managed to do since starting this new site back in November 2008.  There is so much still to do, and I promise that I will do as much as my busy life will allow.  Please be patient, and keep checking back from time to time — remember RSS feeds probably won’t work, and neither will search engines like Google — because I am deliberately trying to date each one according to the old site’s structure.

Anyway, having explained all that, we can now turn to the subject of this post — POETRY IS BACK.

Poetry Season is an initiative to bring poetry to the forefront for a while, and the BBC (and celebs) are behind it.  The season climaxes on National Poetry Day in October, and (according to the BBC’s press release)  it all begins next Monday — 18 May 2009.  Please check out the website: bbc.co.uk/poetryseason.

On top of that, history was made recently — Ms.Carol Ann Duffy OBE has become the first female Poet Laureate in the post’s 341-year history.  She’s the latest in a line of poets which began with John Dryden and has included such famous poets as William Wordsworth, Alfred Lord Tennyson and John Betjeman. It used to be a job for life, but new rules mean that it has a ten-year tenure: Andrew Motion was Poet laureate from 1999 – 2009.

Not only is she the first female, but the 53-year old, was raised as a Roman Catholic in Glasgow.

This is an outstanding achievement in so many ways, a woman was unthinkable for so many years, let alone a Scot, but a Roman Catholic is a revolution (the last Roman Catholic was Dryden, and he was sacked as a result) — and it is simply because she is so good; she is a poetry superstar!

So to celebrate, here’s my favourite Duffy…

Mrs Lazarus

I had grieved. I had wept for a night and a day
over my loss, ripped the cloth I was married in
from my breasts, howled, shrieked, clawed
at the burial stones until my hands bled, retched
his name over and over again, dead, dead.

Gone home. Gutted the place. Slept in a single cot,
widow, one empty glove, white femur
in the dust, half. Stuffed dark suits
into black bags, shuffled in a dead man’s shoes,
noosed the double knot of a tie around my bare neck,

gaunt nun in the mirror, touching herself. I learnt
the Stations of Bereavement, the icon of my face
in each bleak frame; but all those months
he was going away from me, dwindling
to the shrunk size of a snapshot, going,

going. Till his name was no longer a certain spell
for his face. The last hair on his head
floated out from a book. His scent went from the house.
The will was read. See, he was vanishing
to the small zero held by the gold of my ring.

Then he was gone. Then he was legend, language;
my arm on the arm of the schoolteacher-the shock
of a man’s strength under the sleeve of his coat-
along the hedgerows. But I was faithful
for as long as it took. Until he was memory.

So I could stand that evening in the field
in a shawl of fine air, healed, able
to watch the edge of the moon occur to the sky
and a hare thump from a hedge; then notice
the village men running towards me, shouting,

behind them the women and children, barking dogs,
and I knew. I knew by the sly light
on the blacksmith’s face, the shrill eyes
of the barmaid, the sudden hands bearing me
into the hot tang of the crowd parting before me.

He lived. I saw the horror on his face.
I heard his mother’s crazy song. I breathed
his stench; my bridegroom in his rotting shroud,
moist and dishevelled from the grave’s slack chew,
croaking his cuckold name, disinherited, out of his time.

The new Poet Laureate has her own website: www.carolannduffy.co.uk, please visit and support her. She is not restricted to poetry, and is well known as a children’s author, playwright and lyricist!

Who knows, maybe the new Poet laureate and this year’s Poetry Season will create something really special.  I do hope so.

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