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Carry a Poem

As part of the Carry a Poem campaign, taking place this month through the City of Literature, I’ll be along at the Poets for Haiti gig at the Queen’s Hall on the 28th. Have a look at my article for the The Journal here.

Many thanks to Tom Pow for agreeing to appear in this video.  Looking forward to his dying villages expo at the SPL in April.

I thought, however, that I should probably say what poem I carry with me;  just to get into the spirit of things. Now it’s not an easy thing really, and while I would like to say the first thing into my head isn’t Burns; It is.

I can remember learning this at school to recite for a Burns day. I think from as along as I can remember knowing what it was about, it has fascinated me. Somehow too I think it inoculated me against all that Poe-as-Jesus stuff that hits most kids when they start fixating on ravens at an early age. So here it is:

‘The Twa Corbies’ – Robert Burns

As I was walking all alane,
I heard twa corbies making a mane;
The tane unto the t’other say,
‘Where sall we gang and dine to-day?’

‘In behint yon auld fail dyke,
I wot there lies a new slain knight;
And naebody kens that he lies there,
But his hawk, his hound, and lady fair.

‘His hound is to the hunting gane,
His hawk to fetch the wild-fowl hame,
His lady’s ta’en another mate,
So we may mak our dinner sweet.

‘Ye’ll sit on his white hause-bane,
And I’ll pike out his bonny blue een;
Wi ae lock o his gowden hair
We’ll, theek our nest when it grows bare.

‘Mony a one for him makes mane,
But nane sall ken where he is gane;
Oer his white banes, when they we bare,
The wind sall blaw for evermair.’

The adults get competitive

The other poem, and I think this one is perhaps all the more special, is one I discovered myself rather recently. This one really just speaks for itself. It’s by Robert Lowell  and I heard it first at the NLS reading room where Angus MacInnes (Probably best known as Gold Leader in Star Wars) was reading along with a jazz trio including the exceptional  saxophonist Keith Edwards. It rattles around in there now, and I couldn’t help, the first time I heard it, wondering just how he had conjured these words.  I spent a time pouring over the stanzas for answers, while I only found more questions. Eventually I concluded that I should just allow myself to be awed.

‘Man and Wife’ – Robert Lowell

Tamed by Miltown, we lie on Mother's bed;the rising sun in war paint dyes us red;in broad daylight her gilded bed-posts shine,abandoned, almost Dionysian.At last the trees are green on Marlborough Street,blossoms on our magnolia ignitethe morning with their murderous five days' white.All night I've held your hand,as if you hada fourth time faced the kingdom of the mad--its hackneyed speech, its homicidal eye--and dragged me home alive. . . .Oh my Petite,clearest of all God's creatures, still all air and nerve:you were in our twenties, and I,once hand on glassand heart in mouth,outdrank the Rahvs in the heatof Greenwich Village, fainting at your feet--too boiled and shyand poker-faced to make a pass,while the shrill verveof your invective scorched the traditional South.

Now twelve years later, you turn your back.Sleepless, you holdyour pillow to your hollows like a child;your old-fashioned tirade--loving, rapid, merciless--breaks like the Atlantic Ocean on my head.
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Categories: Film, Literature
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