Exile’s Letter

I was reading ‘My Heroin Christmas’, one of the essays in Terry Castle’s excellent The Professor and Other Writings, and an aside took me to this astonishingly beautiful poem by Ezra Pound, a ‘translation’ from the Chinese of Li Po. Widely considered the greatest poet of China, Li Po wrote the poem in about 760 […]

The intricate web of love

I’ve been reading the Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner, a Virago paperback I picked up in the Oxfam bookshop a while back. On the strength of her writing here, she is much underrated and deserves a wider readership. For example, this wonderful entry for 16 Feb 1950  on the cremation of her mother: … Nora’s small […]

New Directions

The new year is an invitation to assess what’s working, and what’s not. But for every new direction you commit to, there’s the road not taken – and the thorny problem of being happy with the choice you make. Robert Frost’s famous poem on this theme (‘The Road Not Taken‘) dramatises this moment of choice and, […]

Waiting for the Barbarians

I have always loved this poem by C P Cavafy, about the fear and confusion of change, of the new, of having to take responsibility. The poem has a light touch, sympathetic yet taut and uncompromising, and perfectly satisfies Ezra Pound’s definition of poetry as ‘news that stays news.’ It’s never seemed more timely. This […]

The merry merry month of May

I have been meaning to write about the merry merry month of May, and its derivation, since April. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I haven’t written about it, not simply because I’ve been massively busy with new work, but because it’s just not a question that interests me enough. Look around you is […]

Spring in the rain

This month’s poem celebrates the beginning of spring and the clocks going forward (in the UK). A hugely influential poem, which I never tire of reading and thinking about, and which is very easy to memorise due to its brevity. Language at its most controlled, charged with meaning. Click to read The Red Wheelbarrow by William […]

Love-making by Candlelight

This is a fine winter poem by Scottish poet Douglas Dunn, from his collection Northlight published (by Faber) in the late ’80s. I was reminded of it when I saw a copy in our local Oxfam bookshop last week, and reproduce it below. His poems create a vivid sense of lived reality and are imbued […]

Remembrance

The British poet and novelist Richard Aldington is probably best known as one of the three ‘original Imagists’, with Ezra Pound and H.D. (Hilda Doolittle, but always known as H.D. At this time she and Aldington were married). In late spring 1916 Aldington was conscripted and on June 24th left London for Dorset, where he […]