Bedtime Poems #2

June gloom…

My updates on bedtime poems have not been as frequent as I promised (I believe I said this would be a fortnightly post!) due to lack of internet. However, today I am in my local library, where the magical being that is the internet floats in the air and brings happiness to all. Hoping to get another few posts up today but please bear with me if I can’t update as regularly as I would like.

Way, way back at the start of the month I tweeted some lines from Seamus Heaney’s lovely poem ‘The Conway Stewart’:

The shopkeeper
Demonstrated,

The nib uncapped,
Treating it to its first deep snorkel
In a newly-opened ink bottle,

Guttery, snottery,
Letting it rest then at an angle
To ingest,

It comes from his collection Human Chain and I loved the image of the pen being used for the first time, ‘treated to its first deep snorkel’, that the poet’s pleasure at seeing the pen used for the first time could be shared by the pen itself. I know some people who are particular about the pens they use and hold on to them for years. I am not particularly fussy; pen, pencil, crayon…whatever comes to hand first really. There is something lovely about a new pen that flows well though, especially for those for whom writing is a passion. A lovely poem.

Listen to Seamus Heaney reading his poem here.

The next bedtime poem was Don Paterson’s ‘Rain’. It comes from his collection of the same name, which is full of lovely poems perfect for this June gloom weather:

I love all films that start with rain:
Rain, braiding a windowpane
or darkening a hung-out dress
or streaming down her upturned face;

one big thundering downpour
right through the empty script and score
before the act, before the blame,
before the lens pulls through the frame

to where the woman sits alone
beside a silent telephone
or the dress lies ruined in the grass
or the girl walks off the overpass,

If ever a poem felt cinematic, it would be this one. It has such vivid imagery and I feel like my eyes are being drawn down through the poem as I read it, just like the rain ‘streaming down her upturned face’. It might sound daft to say but I love the rhymes of this poem, they just flow so easily, and the image of the ‘darkening hung-out dress’ evolving into ‘the dress lies ruined in the grass’ really captures the heightened drama and even menace that rain can signify in film. It pops into my mind now whenever it is raining!

You can read the full poem here. If Jeanette Winterson likes it you know it must be a good ‘un!

Next comes a beautiful poem on sleeplessness, Lavinia Greenlaw’s ‘Bird Walk’, from her collection Minsk. This one appeals to me particularly at the moment as the light summer nights (and my thin curtains) make early nights difficult:

White nights feather me mind.
I am a giant of sleeplessness, as high
as the cliff where auks lay teetering eggs
which droop roughly, like tears.

They won’t roll. My mind rolls.
To sleep, I must think like the birds
in camouflage, decoys and patrols.

I’d like to imagine that this was composed by Greenlaw during a night of sleeplessness, her mind meandering, landing on cliffs and birds and telephone wires, finding that sleep is something that you need to sneak up on. I particularly like the closing image:

At three a.m., a black cormorant dives.
A needle, a nightfall, it closes my eyes.

Read the full poem here.

And the most recent #bedtimepoem – ‘Tea’ by Carol Ann Duffy. I read it in the collection of Love Poems but it was originally published in Rapture:

I like pouring your tea, lifting
the heavy pot , and tipping it up,
so the fragrant liquid steams in your china cup.

Or when you’re away, or at work,
I like to think of your cupped hands as you sip,
as you sip, of the faint half-smile of your lips.

I think this is such an endearing poem about getting to know someone, their tastes, the different things they like. It really is an ode to how something as simple as making your lover a cup of tea can be a demonstration of devotion and I love the way the poem reflects all of this in its simplicity.

You can read all of it and sigh at its beauty here.

So that’s the latest on my #bedtimepoem tweets. Looking forward to the next few poems, made it along to the library so I am all restocked. Expect more Carol Ann Duffy as well as Frank Kuppner and John Burnside.

If you’re looking for some poetry links in the meantime, Lizzy’s Literary Life recently did a post on her poetry-reading challenge and I second her recommendations for Faber & Faber’s Jubilee Lines ’60 years in 60 poems’ project and the Scottish Poetry Library’s Written World Project.

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