Poem for Friday: Politics – Carol Ann Duffy

A change of tone this week.  The rage contained in this, the first contribution of the Poet Laureate to national debate, is palpable.  But evidence suggests that it is righteous anger.


How it makes of your face a stone

that aches to weep, of your heart a fist,

clenched or thumping, sweating blood, of your tongue

an iron latch with no door. How it makes of your right hand

a gauntlet, a glove-puppet of the left, of your laugh

a dry leaf blowing in the wind, of your desert island discs

hiss hiss hiss, makes of the words on your lips dice

that can throw no six. How it takes the breath

away, the piss, makes of your kiss a dropped pound coin,

makes of your promises latin, gibberish, feedback, static,

of your hair a wig, of your gait a plankwalk. How it says this –

politics – to your education education education; shouts this –

Politics! – to your health and wealth; how it roars, to your

conscience moral compass truth, POLITICS POLITICS POLITICS.

A Poem for Friday: Micheal O’Siadhail – Delight

It will come as no surprise that O'Siadhail is a poet who is closely connected with a number of theologians, notably the late Dan Hardy and David Ford.  This is about as good a poem about the sacramental dimensions of eating together as I know.


Let the meal be simple. A big plate
of mussels, warm bread with garlic,
and enough mulled wine to celebrate

Being here. I open a hinged mussel
pincering a balloon of plump meat
from the blue angel wings of a shell.

A table's rising decibels of fun.
Such gossip. A story caps a story.
Banter. Then, another pun on a pun.

Iced yoghurt snipes at my temples.
My tongue matches a strawberry's heart
with its rough skin of goose-pimples.

Conversations fragment. Tête-à-tête,
a confidence passes between two guests.
A munch of oatcake thickens my palate.

Juicy fumes of a mango on my breath.
(A poem with no end but delight.)
I knife to the oblong host of its pith.

Wine sinks its ease to the nerve-ends.
Here are my roots. I feast on faces.
Boundless laughter. A radiance of friends.

from A Fragile City (Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe, 1995), 72.

Poem for Friday: Les Murray on NT Scholarship


Mother and type of evolution,
The New Testament of the scholars
may be likened to a library catalogue
of the old type, a card index console
of wooden drawers, each a verse.
And you never know which ones are out,
stacked up, split, or currently back
in, with some words deleted
then restored. And it never ends.

Reputations slide them out,
convictions push them in.
Speculations look backwards once
and stiffen to salt-crystal proofs.
Dates grown on palms in the wilderness
and ferment in human minds –
and criticism's prison for all poems
was modelled on this traffic.

Most battered of all are the drawers
labelled Resurrection, The.
Bashed, switched, themselves resurrected
continually. Because it is impossible,
as the galaxies were, as life was,
as flight and language were. The impossible,
evolution's prey, shot with Time's arrow.
But this one is the bow of time.

Shadowy at a little distance tower
other banks of card-index drawers,
other myriad shelves, jammed with human names.
Some labelled in German are most actively
worked over, grieved, and reinserted.
More stretch away in Easter scripts,
scarcely visited. Dust softens their headwords.
yet the only moral reason to leave any
in silence fragments and reassembles
in the swarmed over, nagged, fantasised
word-atoms of the critics' testament.

From Les Murray, Collected Poems (Manchester: Carcanet, 1997), 436.

A Poem for Friday: Idiot Psalms by Scott Cairns

ScottCairns135110 A recent poem by Scott Cairns:

Idiot Psalms

by Scott Cairns


       A psalm of Isaak, accompanied by Jew's harp.

O God Belovéd if obliquely so,
                     dimly apprehended in the midst
                     of this, the fraught obscuring fog
                     of my insufficiently capacious ken,
                     Ostensible Lover of our kind—while
                     apparently aloof—allow
                     that I might glimpse once more
                     Your shadow in the land, avail
                     for me, a second time, the sense
                     of dire Presence in the pulsing
                     hollow near the heart.
Once more, O Lord, from Your enormity incline
                     your Face to shine upon Your servant, shy
                     of immolation, if You will.

       A psalm of Isaak, accompanied by baying hounds.

O Shaper of varicolored clay and cellulose, O Keeper
                     of same, O Subtle Tweaker, Agent
                     of energies both appalling and unobserved,
                     do not allow Your servant's limbs to stiffen
                     or to ossify unduly, do not compel Your servant
                     to go brittle, neither cramping at the heart,
                     nor narrowing his affective sympathies
                     neither of the flesh nor of the alleged soul.
Keep me sufficiently limber that I might continue
                     to enjoy my morning run among the lilies
                     and the rowdy waterfowl, that I might
                     delight in this and every evening's intercourse
                     with the woman you have set beside me.
Make me to awaken daily with a willingness
                     to roll out readily, accompanied
                     by grateful smirk, a giddy joy,
                     the idiot's undying expectation,
                     despite the evidence.

       A psalm of Isaak, whispered mid the Philistines, beneath the breath.

Master both invisible and notoriously
                     slow to act, should You incline to fix
                     Your generous attentions for the moment
                     to the narrow scene of this our appointed
                     tedium, should You—once our kindly
                     secretary has duly noted which of us
                     is feigning presence, and which excused, which unexcused,
                     You may be entertained to hear how much we find to say
                     about so little. Among these other mediocrities,
                     Your mediocre servant gets a glimpse of how
                     his slow and meager worship might appear
                     from where You endlessly attend our dreariness.
Holy One, forgive, forgo and, if You will, fend off
                     from this my heart the sense that I am drowning here
                     amid the motions, the discussions, the several
                     questions endlessly recast, our paper ballots.

       Isaak's penitential psalm, unaccompanied.

Again, and yes again, O Ceaseless Tolerator
                     of our bleaking recurrences, O Forever Forgoing
                     Foregone (sans conclusion), O Inexhaustible,
                     I find my face against the floor, and yet again
                     my plea escapes from unclean lips, and from a heart
                     caked in and constricted by its own soiled residue.
You are forever, and forever blessed, and I aspire
                     one day to slip my knot and change things up,
                     to manage at least one late season sinlessly,
                     to bow before you yet one time without chagrin.