Collected Poems: Lynette Roberts

Collected Poems: Lynette Roberts

by Lynette Roberts
     
 

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The work of an original haunting poet comes to life again, after fifty years. Lynette Roberts was born in Buenos Aires, a Welsh writer whose best work stands alongisde that of her near-contemporaries: David Jones, R. S. Thomas and Dylan Thomas, and yet an outsider in Wales. She is a war poet: her two published collections are about a woman's life in wartime. But she

Overview

The work of an original haunting poet comes to life again, after fifty years. Lynette Roberts was born in Buenos Aires, a Welsh writer whose best work stands alongisde that of her near-contemporaries: David Jones, R. S. Thomas and Dylan Thomas, and yet an outsider in Wales. She is a war poet: her two published collections are about a woman's life in wartime. But she is also a love poet and a poet of the hearth. A late-modernist, she moves between the mythic and the domestic voices. Her work was praised by, among others, T. S. Eliot, Wyndham Lewis and Robert Graves. Experimental and challenging, Roberts opens out the language of poetry, exploring extremes of subject, scale and conception. Now this extraordinary poet is restored to her place in the development of twentieth-century British poetry.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781847775641
Publisher:
Carcanet Press, Limited
Publication date:
04/01/2006
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
220
File size:
1 MB

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Read an Excerpt

Collected Poems


By Lynette Roberts, Patrick McGuinness

Carcanet Press Ltd

Copyright © 2005 Angharad and Prydein Rhys
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84777-564-1



CHAPTER 1

    Poem from Llanybri

    If you come my way that is ...
    Between now and then, I will offer you
    A fist full of rock cress fresh from the bank
    The valley tips of garlic red with dew
    Cooler than shallots, a breath you can swank

    In the village when you come. At noon-day
    I will offer you a choice bowl of cawl
    Served with a 'lover's' spoon and a chopped
      spray
    Of leeks or savori fach, not used now,

    In the old way you'll understand. The din
    Of children singing through the eyelet sheds
    Ringing smith hoops, chasing the butt of hens;
    Or I can offer you Cwmcelyn spread

    With quartz stones from the wild scratchings of
      men:
    You will have to go carefully with clogs
    Or thick shoes for it's treacherous the fen,
    The East and West Marshes also have bogs.

    Then I'll do the lights, fill the lamp with oil,
    Get coal from the shed, water from the well;
    Pluck and draw pigeon with crop of green foil
    This your good supper from the lime-tree fell.

    A sit by the hearth with blue flames rising,
    No talk. Just a stare at 'Time' gathering
    Healed thoughts, pool insight, like swan sailing
    Peace and sound around the home, offering

    You a night's rest and my day's energy.
    You must come – start this pilgrimage
    Can you come? – send an ode or elegy
    In the old way and raise our heritage.


    The Shadow Remains

    To speak of everyday things with ease
    And arrest the mind to a simpler world
    Where living tables are stripped of a cloth;

    Of wood on which I washed, sat at peace:
    Cooked duck, shot on an evening in peacock
      cold:
    Studied awhile: wrote: baked bread for us both.

    But here by the hearth with leisured grace
    I prefer to speak of the vulgar clock that drips
    With the falling of rain: woodbine tips, and
      yarrow

    Spills, lamp, packet of salt, and twopence of
      mace
    That sit on the shelf edged with a metal strip,
    And below, brazier fire that burns our sorrow,

    Dries weeping socks above on the rack: that
      knew
    Two angels pinned to the wall – again two.


    Plasnewydd

    You want to know about my village.
    You should want to know even if you
    Don't want to know about my village.
    My village is very small. You could
    Pass it with a winning gait. Smile.
    They stand in corners plain talking,
    Flick the cows passing down our way.
    The women – that's the men,
    Pull their aprons over their heads.
    They put another around their hips,
    Blue sprigged white ... so ...
    Another to cover the one underneath
    Pity to spoil: 'Best Hundredweight of
    Cow Cakes': sacking stitched and homemade.
    Now we are used to such things
    Never laugh at their ways for
    Our own asides carry a larger tale.
    We sit and sit in a cornered rut
    We pine for our love to thin the rhythm
    From out of our hearts
    WAR. 'There's no sense in it.
    Just look at her two lovely eyes
    Look at those green big big eyes
    And the way she hangs her tail.
    Like a weasel. Ferret. Snowball
    Running away on the breast of a hill.
    WAR. There's no sense in it
    For us simple people
    We all get on so well.
    Hal-e-bant.
    The cows are on the move.
    I must be off on the run:
    Hal-e-bant. pussy drwg.
    Hal-e-bant Fan Fach
    Hal-e-bant for the day is long
    We must strengthen it:
    Ourselves:
    To the cows
    Fetch them in.'


    Low Tide

    Every waiting moment is a fold of sorrow
    Pierced within the heart.
    Pieces of mind get torn off emotionally,
    In large wisps
    Like a waif I lie, stillbound to action:
    Each waiting hour I stare and see not,
    Hum and hear not, nor, care I how long
    The lode mood lasts.
    My eyes are raw and wide apart
    Stiffened by the salt bar
    That separates us.
    You so far;
    I at ease at the hearth
    Glowing for a welcome
    From your heart.
    Each beating moment crosses my dream
    So that wise things cannot pass
    As we had planned.
    Woe for all of us: supporting those
    Who like us fail to steel their hearts,
    But keep them wound in clocktight rooms,
    Ill found. Unused. Obsessed by time.
    Each beating hour
    Rings false.


    Raw Salt on Eye

    Stone village, who would know that I lived
      alone:
    Who would know that I suffered a two-edged
      pain,
    Was accused of spycraft to full innate minds
      with loam,
    Was felled innocent, suffered a stain as rare as
      Cain's.

    Amelia Phillips, who would know that I lived
      lonely,
    Who would know old shrew that your goose's
      wing
    Did more for me than the plucked asides of
      daily
    Nods: yet I had need of both to prove my sting.

    Cold grate, who would know that I craved my
      love;
    Who would know the pain fell twice; could
      realise
    My loss. Only the coloured cries of stars can
      prove
    The cold rise of dawn – understand and advise.

    White village, I lost my love. – He went floating
    Brushing the wet seas. He stood like a soldier
      trapped
    And thought of me but could not speak.
      Fighting
    Hard he stood, freeing nations the old enemy
      cramped.

    Hard people, will wash up now, bake bread and
      hang
    Dishcloth over the weeping hedge. I can not
      raise
    My mind, for it has gone wandering away with
      hum
    I shall not forget; and your ill-mannered praise.


    The Circle of C

      I walk and cinder bats riddle my cloak
      I walk to Cwmcelyn ask prophets the way.

    There is no way they cried crouched on the
      hoarstone rock
    And the Dogs of Annwn roared louder than of
      late.'

      'Red fever will fall with the maytide
    blossom
      Fever as red as your cloak. Woe to all
    men.
      Food-ties will mellow in the bromine
    season
      Then willowed peace may be brought.'

      But what of my love I cried
      As a curlew stabbed the sand:

      And we cut for the answer. They said
      'He would come not as he said he would
    come
      But later with sailing ice, war glass and
    fame:
      Grieve not it is better so.'

      I left the Bay, wing felled and
    bogged
      Kicked the shale despondent and
    green

      Heard Rosie say lace curtained in
    clogs
      I've put a Yule log on your grate.


    Lamentation

    To the village of lace and stone
    Came strangers. I was one of these
    Always observant and slightly obscure.
    I roamed the hills of bird and bone
    Rescuing bees from under the storm:
    Five hills rocked and four homes fell
    The day I remember the raid so well.
    Eyes shone like cups chipped and stiff
    The living bled the dead lay in their grief
    Cows, sheep, horses, all had got struck
    Black as bird wounds, red as wild duck.

    Dead as icebone breaking the hedge.
    Dead as soil failing of good heart.
    Dead as trees quivering with shock
    At the hot death from the plane.

      O the cold loss of cattle
      With their lovely big eyes.
      The emptiness of sheds,
      The rick stacked high.
      The breast of the hills
      Will soon turn grey
      As the dogs that grieve
      And I that fetched them in:
      For the good gates are closed
      In the yard down our way.

    'But my loss. My loss is deeper
    Than Rosie's of Chapel House Farm
    For I met death before birth:
    Fought for life and in reply lost
    My own with a cold despair.
    I hugged the fire around the hearth
    To warm the beat and wing
    Yet knew the symbol when it came
    Lawrence had found the same.
    I threw the starling hard as stone
    Into the breaking earth ...
'

    Dead as icebone breaking the hedge
    Dead as soil failing of good heart.
    Dead as trees quivering with shock
    At the hot death from the plane.

      O the salt loss of life
      Her lovely green ways.
      The emptiness of crib
      And big stare of night.
      The breast of the hills
      Yield a bucket of milk:
      But the crane no longer cries
      With the round birds at dawn
      For the home has been shadowed
      A storm of sorrow drowned the way.


    Broken Voices

    Here a perfect people set – on red rock,
      White and grey as gull met
      Pure to plough, each prince hamlet
      Of slate strong as rate ticket.

    Now one mouth twisting twelve tongues – of
      the flock
      Unlocked the padlocked lungs:
      Slung a trail of steaming dung
      Blocking path of two not sung.

    Stained virgin village with dearth – for the mock
      Like strumpet jet, rocked mirth
      And farmer: brought no more worth
      Than winding sheet of sour berth.

    When gossip kneads to grave crust, – with       feared shock
      Runs into fox of dust,
      Then shall the two minds discussed
      Remain bold with new sung trust.


    Earthbound

    I, in my dressing gown,
    At the dressing table with mirror in hand
    Suggest my lips with accustomed air, see
    The reflected van like lipstick enter the village
    When Laura came, and asked me if I knew.

    We had known him a little, yet long enough:
    Drinking in all rooms, mild and bitter,
    Laughing and careless under the washing-line
      tree.

    The day so icy when we gathered the moss,
    The frame made from our own wire and cane;
    Ivy in perfect scale, roped with fruit from the
      same root:
    And from the Pen of Flowers those which had
      survived the frost.

    We made the wreath standing on the white
      floor;
    Bent each to our purpose wire to rose-wire;
    Pinning each leaf smooth,
    Polishing the outer edge with the warmth of
      our hands.

    The circle finished and note thought out,
    We carried the ring through the attentive eyes
      of the street:
    Then slowly drove by Butcher's Van to the
      'Union Hall'.

    We walked the greaving room alone,
    Saw him lying in his upholstered box,
    Violet ribbon carefully crossed,
    And about his sides bunches of wild thyme.
    No one stirred as we offered the gift. No one
      drank there again.


    Spring

    The full field.
    The stiff line of trees.
    The antiseptic grass – dew shining.
    The green,
    Spraying from shorn hedgerows.
    Sodium earth dug hard;
    Bound by the fury of the earth's lower crust.

    Black bending cattle nose to the warmth.
    Pebble sheep pant to a lighter tune.
    To high air sustained.
    To high springing air.
    To blue-life-mist rising from the flaming earth.

    On aconite shade and xerophyte fern
    Dull sheep lie:
    That heat 'Lamb's Ear'.
    That heat farmer's head.
    That heat rick and roar,
    Into a raging flame.

    From innermost earth.
    From fire underground.
    From fire out of sight.
    From rising fire in the sky
    To Spring.
    All glory,
    And faith in mankind.


    Rhode Island Red

    Spade jackets and tapping jackdaws on boles of
      wood,
      Song of joy I sing.
    Prim-pied under sky full of fresh livelihood,
      Smile for eye of man.
    Outhouses sweet with air stand whitened by       the flood,
      Of sun blanching spring.
    In plate green meadows sheepdog and farmer
      brood,
        On galvanised can.
    Calling cattle from celandine and clover to       mood,
      Song of joy I sing.


    Ecliptic Blue

    In the cold when sea-mews flake the sky
    With their curmurring fight for the eye
    Of food on water blue, I think of snow.
      I think alone.

    I think of the sea its tall high waves
    Of the eyes that it seeks, of the lives
    That say the waves seek dead, it is not so
    They are not dead.

    For sea gives more than it takes and spreads
    No stain of death on life of man, but treads
    The dead for further flight, as sea-mews know,
      As sea-mews go.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Collected Poems by Lynette Roberts, Patrick McGuinness. Copyright © 2005 Angharad and Prydein Rhys. Excerpted by permission of Carcanet Press Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Lynette Roberts published two collections of poems in her lifetime: Poems and Gods with Stainless Ears. Patrick McGuinness is translator of Mallarmé's "For Anatole's Tomb" and author of a book of poems, The Canals of Mars.

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