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Compiling the work of writers from Canada, England, Iran, New Zealand, the Philippines, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, and the United States, this poetry anthology is a celebration of the diversity and possibility of new poetry in English. Ranging in age from early 20s to late 60s, each poet offers a different approach to language and form. Poetry lovers and academics will appreciate the rich and varied content included here.
|Publisher:||Carcanet Press, Limited|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Michael Schmidt is a poetry professor at the University of Glasgow, a founder and editorial and managing director of Carcanet Press, and a founder and general editor of PN Review. He is the author of several books, including Lives of the Poets and New and Collected Poems.
Read an Excerpt
New Poetries V
By Michael Schmidt, Eleanor Crawforth
Carcanet Press LtdCopyright © 2011 Michael Schmidt and Eleanor Crawforth
All rights reserved.
Most of the poems included here took me a long time to write – the idea might have been in my head for months or years. Often, they started with a line I wrote down in my notebook, such as the definition of a word, or a sentence spoken by a newsreader that I liked the sound of, or sometimes a note about the atmosphere in somebody else's poem. An example of this is my 'Himalayan Balsam' poem. I had been trying for some time to write about the wild riverbank flower which, when touched, springs back its sides and violently throws its seeds out. It was only when, as an undergraduate student, I happened to attend a lecture on Christina Rossetti's poem 'Winter: My Secret', that I found the tone I wanted. My poem is nothing like hers, but it was influenced by the ambiguity of her touch-me, touch-me-not talk. A lot of my poems seem to come about in this way; by a combination of lengthy planning and thought, followed by an unexpected resolution.
This is Yarrow
In this country house I had a dream of the city
as if the thick yarrow heads had told me,
as if the chokered dove had told me,
or the yellow elder seeds had made me ask –
and in the dream I went up to the dirty bus station
and I saw the black side of the power station
and as if the brown moth's tapping at the window
made me say it I said, do you still love me?
And when I woke and went to the window,
your tender voice told me: this is yarrow,
this is elder, this is the collared dove.
Portrait of the Artist's Wife as a Younger Woman
I go to my husband's studio
and I stand looking at her face,
I stand and I think:
I must measure seven ounces at three.
I must level the scoops with a clean dry knife.
(he wanted a wife he wanted a wife) –
I must pick up the baby with its shaking fist,
and go: Shh, shh, little one,
while I sprinkle the milk
like perfume on my wrist,
it's so hot, little one, it's so sour, little thing.
I look at her there.
See where the soft knife's been
at her collarbone and her mouth
which is pink –
like the bark of trees in America,
And she doesn't say:
I am free legally to take;
she doesn't say: Shh, shh.
Only I speak.
Only I say: Shh, shh.
Only I say: it's so hot, little one,
it's so sour, little thing.
He thought my clothes were my skin.
He thought these soft things,
this lace and these buttons,
were things I belonged in,
but I do not belong in them.
I told him but he didn't see.
Look, he went on stroking my gloves
and my things,
thinking, what fine skin – Oh
Mister My, My –
I did take thee and thou me.
And after the ceremony?
We drove past rapeseed.
Fields of it through the window
on the full hot air – oh sweet,
oh stale, oh clinging to the air –
oh shame, oh full, oh cruel.
How we feared its fierceness!
How we worried it would overlook us!
We feared too much,
thinking the world
is reached only in violence.
You Could Show a Horse
An experiment in collage
You could show a horse, you might see some riderless horse, galloping among the rushing among the enemy with its mane in the wind with his mane flying in the wind causing heavy casualties and doing no little mischief with his heels. Or you could show a man, mutilated, some maimed warrior may be seen lying on the ground fallen to the earth shielding himself in some way covering himself with his shield with his enemy bent over him and trying to while the enemy bending over him tries to deal him a deathstroke – or show a lot of people fallen on to a dead horse A number of men fallen in a heap over a dead horse – and you could show the men you would see some of the victors, leaving the fight, abandoning the conflict emerging from the and issuing from the crowd using both hands rubbing their eyes and cheeks with both hands, to clean their faces, to clean them of the dirt made by their watering eyes now coated smarting from the dust and smoke in tears which have poured from their dust-filled eyes.
1. Did you ever play the piano again after your mother died and if so, what did you play?
2. Could you sing and did you ever sing later on in life when you were married and living away from Moscow?
3. If you can remember (and please try) what songs exactly did you sing?
4. What did you think when you took your pen in your hand and wrote that letter to Stalin?
5. Did you feel a kind of heat of the mind and also a chill somewhere in your stomach?
6. Did your hand shake?
7. Is time mostly to do with feeling and thought?
8. Is time a trap, in your opinion?
9. Am I completely responsible for what I do with time, or not at all, or partly?
10. How powerful – would you say – is a poem not to do with war?
11. Did you like the violin?
12. Were you an insomniac?
13. Compared, I mean, to one about war?
The Undertaker's Tale of the Notebook Measuring 1 x 2 cm
For forty years I have had in my possession:
A notebook, morocco-bound and blue in colour
which was so small it could be covered over by a thumb.
I found it at the bottom of her
And for forty years I have had in my throat
the rotten apple of Mordovia
which for forty years
I could not swallow;
And I have held in my possession
the year Nineteen-Forty-
a year too small for her
to write in.
The analysis of battle begins here at our desks.
The voice of violence enters our mouths
and our skin, and under my own nails
I hear it seduce me. I argue with nothing it says.
The voice is a swan of the estuary.
It laments, it recites:
Sixteen Dead Men; The Rose Tree,
out of pages yellowed from 1953 –
it bangs oh it bangs
I denounce my motherland,
propose fidelity to my fatherland.
It begins here,
the voice of beauty begins here,
lovely out of the desk.
We mark our youth on the
photocopied maps with black crosses,
obediently we mark our youth.
Once one of them showed me how to:
You turn this (the right) hand to grasp the stock.
You turn this (the left) hand to grasp the barrel.
He touched my knee,
and I hid my surprise –
but now he's changed his tune.
36, 37, 38.9
I've a fever little sparrow, I am sick.
Their flag is flying red,
I can hear it from my window,
I hear it tattered like a torn red rag.
Go and get it little bird,
go and tell them danger! danger!
I will wear it as my Sunday Dress.
I'll wear it walking on the moor
where they practice with their guns.
38.9, 37, 36
How ashamed they'll be
to hurt a young and pretty
girl like me.
Swiss Station Room
Dear Anne, what a show –
my tongue was going
like the red second hand
on that clock, on that clock
at the station, did you see it?
When he watched me –
Did you see how my cheeks
were flushed – how my cheeks were hot?
Did you see how my hands on my lap
pulled and twisted at my dress –
Could he see? How shy?
I spoke vainly: it was false.
Liebe Anne, you spoke so much better,
like a man, like a bull –
Ay ay ay –
it's becoming habitual
and I ...
How vain the sea is also, though,
have you noticed?
Gazing forever in the glass,
always avoiding, avoiding us both.
Look at little Mikhail Ivanovich:
five flights up in his grandmother's room,
wrapped in furs, and perched like a pianist
on her padded, crocheted, dressing-table stool –
Porter! Grandmother calls.
Keep the thermostat at twenty-five degrees –
Mikhail eats sweets,
wrapped and stuffy in his furs.
On Sunday he hears the sound of the street:
a choir, five flights down.
come away from the window.
Grandmother wrings her hands.
The village church rings her bell.
Young Mikhail knows all is well.
Himalayan Balsam for a Soldier
They don't see me but I walk
into Fitzgeralds with them the half-wounded,
I sit in there at the high table with my pint,
half-wounded, thinking, I will drag my
wounds in here.
I drag myself in and up to the high stool
among the guys with one arm and they
don't see me.
Here is your talisman I say, I whisper
hold it in your good hand and sing one
of your songs for me.
How does it go? Oh how does it go again?
There is blood on my hand, la la,
there is blood on my hand, la, la.
Your talisman, I say, a foul flower.
Hold it in your hand and how full your good
hand will be with the
If Painting Isn't Over
If painting isn't over
I will say this:
Who have I offended?
1. I have figures that are not figures;
2. I have gone for an undoing of the image.
If painting isn't over
I will admit this:
You have offended your whole life.
You have divided your days.
You have taken your hands
and put them in the drawer.
Form is helpful for me as a way of orientating myself amongst the bric-a-brac (to gobble Frost's nibble at Stevens) of words and sensation, providing a narrative and/or organisational template to adhere to, work against, or ignore. Many of these poems started life as mistakes – misheard or misunderstood words, sounds or images taken for others, gutted anecdotes, punchlines cut adrift from their jokes – so it often seems right to carry on from this first impetus. It's a little cruel, maybe, to set an already dyspraxic thing hobbling across an old obstacle course, but after all the stress and amputations, by the end it can be gratifyingly unrecognisable. This estrapade reaches its logical extreme in 'The Inability to Recall the Precise Word for Something', which is a 'found' poem (a bad case of messiah-desire); I tried to be as absent-minded about my selections as possible, but, no matter how significant the disjunction between lines, narrative and identification always seemed to occur. So now I like to read this poem as part of a dialogue between two poems, the one included here, made up of definitions, and the one elsewhere, made of their words.
You take me down to the crease in the hills
Where the farm's boundaries are smothered
By brambles and the dry stream-bed lies
Like a pelt – we follow it quietly, shoeless,
Listening to the waves at Calpe knead into
The beach, and reaching out my hand to
Touch your hair we are suddenly
Aware of the sensation that we are being
Overheard: yet all there is on this side
Of the valley is the fuzz of telephone
Wires overhead and darkness slowly
Encroaching behind the skin-pink clouds –
The orange trees, after all, seem to clutch themselves
Above the safflowers and alfalfas that
Spring from the ground like cocked eyebrows –
So, stepping onwards – stalking, by now –
Convinced that night is simply the folding over
Of fingers, leaned into a steeple – we hunt
For some burrow, some hood of earth
Where the sound of the sea is as unbroken
As it is within a coiled shell and build
A fire whose voice, like chicks-being-
Incessantly-hatched, will make our
Own seem all the more improbable. But
Now, as I sit alone, crumbling dry leaves
In my palm, it seems all I can dream of is
The onset of sleep. Really, I hardly notice
The rising heat of the circling brush fire that
Flays the whole sky of its stars.
The window I saw myself in was a room.
The sun unpacked the buildings. On the deep table
An antique map, bleached of its colours, lay twitching in
The breeze, a drowsy mantis. I drifted beneath a honeycomb of balloons;
Mistook swans for dollops of cream; saw ghosts in
The white of Chinese-burned skin. Those people
Inside looked out at me strangely. They couldn't
Believe it when I reached out to touch them. I said, We all believe
In the value of pretending one thing is another, don't we?
We were all a little frightened. But I could not do what
I threatened. Something else was needed to secure it in place.
Said another way, maybe it could have happened.
Said another way, maybe it could have happened,
I threatened. Something else was needed to secure it in place.
We were all a little frightened. But I could not – what?
In the value of pretending one thing is another. Don't we
Believe it? When I reached out to touch them, I said: we all believe.
Inside looked out at me strangely. They couldn't.
The white of Chinese-burned skin, those people –
Mistook swans for dollops of cream, saw ghosts in
The breeze. A drowsy mantis, I drifted. Beneath a honeycomb of balloons,
An antique map, bleached of its colours, lay twitching.
The sun unpacked the buildings on the deep table.
The window I saw myself in was a room.
Prelude To Growth
Tomorrow is watching today through the one-way mirror.
Something is taken from each, exchanged for something else, more
or less valuable.
Your too-thick glasses, the ones that
are totally off-trend, render the suddenly swarming pavilions
a tearful furnace.
No one is more or less orange. Microbes of sand grow
on my eyes. The collision between cement-mixer and ice-cream van
provokes less identity
in the etiolated gallantry of longhand. Make milk my measure
of white. Or today a smaller fraction of my life.
To oil that lends water a gradient.
And yet the gorgeous weather continues to move along the walls,
plucks the Dijon telephone, approves its endurance.
Now your hand hovers
over each object: it self-inflates to meet the bruit gift.
As these beaches
remain leaning into their own portrait,
in that fuller night, our skin powdery, we see the whole event
unfolding very slowly,
the wind somersaulting down our throats.
The Inability To Recall The Precise Word For Something
All things are words of some strange tongue
Jorge Luis Borges
The first person you see after leaving your house
One who always wants to know what's going on
To make money by any means possible
A surgical sponge accidentally left inside a patient's body
Given to incessant or idiotic laughter
An incestuous desire for one's sister
The act of mentally undressing someone
One who speaks or offers opinions on matters beyond their knowledge
A secret meeting of people who are hatching a plot
The act of beating or whipping school children
The categorisation of something that is useless or trivial
Belching with the taste of undigested meat
One who is addicted to abusive speech
The use of foul or abusive language to relieve stress or ease pain
The condition of one who is only amorous when the lights are out
To blind by putting a hot copper basin near someone's eyes
The act of opening a bottle with a sabre
The habit of dropping in at mealtimes
The act of killing every twentieth person
One who eats frogs
The low rumbling of distant thunder
Someone who hates practicing the piano
The practice of writing on one side of the paper
A horse's attempt to remove its rider
The collective hisses of a disapproving audience
The sensation that someone is mentally undressing you
The act of self-castration
Being likely to make a mistake
One who fakes a smile, as on television
Counting using one's fingers
The act or attitude of lying down
The smell of rain on dry ground
The space between two windows
His stillness knows exactly what it wants. Flemish, it climbs
down the rungs of its laughter, til strasse-light chokes
in the key of its throat, or a reticulated fog catches
in the youngish trees; or, through the milk-bottle glaucoma
of a villainous monocle, it scouts out the gallery of a plot-hatchery
with a test-tube full of bewitching molecules.
Thwarted! In the long hiss of its head,
thawing silence slakes the fossilising song Their Life is Hidden with God.
Some song! Like a soft cymbal it shirrs in the recollection.
The city's plushness crab-hands along the neck
of its buildings. Who trusts such plushness, huh?(Does who fuck?)
It neither declares intentions nor inters declensions.
Playing it backwards reveals a song being force-fed itself (the tack-tock-tuck-tick
of drool from its mouth). Scuppered, he lounges against the scene-stripping
window: tries to name, then count, then watch, the flux of birds palpitating
in the sprained lens of a lake, a jigsaw shaken out of its box,
indicating, in a shaky hand, that the shape's clear, the picture less so.
Cheap tricks earn cheap treats, brother, he mutters, before, like the sudden urge to
feign sleep, an obscure and untrustworthy impulse selects
the sensation, then turns it over to itself: do what you have to,(Baltimore, simpatico)
but make it quick. But his stillness could outrun itself. Decades without water!
Then: We don't seem to have moved. Then: Every move an altar.
Excerpted from New Poetries V by Michael Schmidt, Eleanor Crawforth. Copyright © 2011 Michael Schmidt and Eleanor Crawforth. 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.
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