SAFARI seems to no longer work
for comments...use another browser?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Another poem at Autumn Sky

I've been seldom-seen in these airy rooms--lots of celebrations and time-consuming activities and also deadlines. But here's a little nibble:

Icarus, Icarus, Paratrooper
Homage to Charles Causley

Slung down from heaven, torn silks whipped
By precipitous wind, he tripped

From air and rammed the blasting sea

Read the whole poem here. And yes, I love the poems of the Cornish poet Charles Causley; this is a nod to his beautiful work, particularly the poems inspired by his naval service. A surprising and often ravishing writer, he is neglected on this side of the puddle. But not by me.

So please take a plunge if you're not violently opposed to myth, sea, falls, and rhyme. You can also comment or use a whole wild array of like-share buttons, and there are links to three other poems by me at the foot, "I Met My True Love Walking," "Epistle to F. Douglass," and "Landscape with Icefall."


Elsewhere, thanks to novelist Emily Barton for recommending Catherwood (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996) in the new issue of Post Road Magazine (issue 31.) Must check on that reprint! Forthcoming...


  1. Are you also a musician, Marly? Your poetry sings in a special way that seems to me to be the voice of a musician.
    BTW, my blog has a slightly new address and name. Errors within Blogger caused erasure, and I was forced to reconfigure everything.

    1. No, I would never make such a claim, though I have been in a choir several times and learned to be a better singer than before. But I believe that poetry should approach song--not be song but lean toward it.

      Ah, I wondered what was up....

  2. Deadlines. Do you ineluctably float up against them like a cat presented with a table-leg? On reflection has some of your best work occurred within earshot of time's wing├ęd chariot? Me they've always terrified. I'm inclined to hand in my article two weeks early.

    And then there was the moment when I crossed the fence, became the commissioner of written stuff, aware that the world was full of foot-dragging journos who could cause me problems. So I lied to them, gave them deadlines that were in effect a week in advance, then waited. When I received their panicky phone-call the night before, I graciously gave them another 24 hours and relished their blubbering gratitude.

    Are you looking for ecstasy on earth? Try Dowland's "Time stood still". It's surely modal; nothing else could explain the piercing poignancy of the two musical intervals associated with "gazing" in the second sentence. But here worldwide gender-unfairness is reversed and the clear, steady-voiced soprano is advantaged as if to the manor born. A stumbling baritone gets only one-tenth of the reward.

    1. I'm not fond of deadlines--of not doing exactly as I wish with my writing--but now and then they happen. I prefer a big, lovely expanse of tedium but seldom get any.

      "Blubbering gratitude." My, what a pleased tormentor you were! I am amused to think of you on the other end of the phone line, being kind and gracious. I tend to find that the letting-down of the other party tends to occur more often on the part of the publisher or magazine--both are often full of delay and too much business, whereas I tend to think entirely too much of the deadline in front of me.

      I like Dowland and shall listen when the house wakes up. We are exhausted from being up half the night, fetching a daughter from Albany after a few weeks of her French immersion class in Montreal. (But unfortunately I am now incapable of sleeping in. Maybe a nap later, though I'm not good at that either.) The lyrics of "Time stood still" seem a pre-Dylan-Nobel-flap proof that "Good song-writers don’t need to be considered poets—they’re walking the other side of the street." Conventional Elizabethan sentiment in lines that can't compare to the treatment of similar ideas in "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" But of course Dowland doesn't stand alone but stands under music.... What else do you especially like with Dowland? He was so lucky to be dug up in the last century and find such stellar interpreters.

  3. I hadn't allowed for you being up to the same kind of tricks as I am - ie, communing with the computer when all the other members of the household are decently abed.

    Time Stands Still doesn't have the best lyrics but arguably has the best of Dowland's tunes. I've sung it solidly since being given the score at last Monday's lesson and when V opens the door to me tomorrow and asks me how I am I intend to say "Ecstatic, utterly ecstatic."

    However I've known another Dowland song, Come Again Sweet Love Doth Now Invite, for decades and this does IMHO have better lyrics. Especially:

    That I may cease to mourn
    Through thy unkind disdain
    For now left and forlorn

    I would have loved to link you to the version by Dame Janet Baker, my constant musical companion since pre-CD days, but YouTube has let me down. Here's the very acceptable Barbara Bonney:

    I am presently practising Come Again as a strange imperfect baritone homage to Dame Janet and had problems when my recording of the first line played back as a harsh dirge. Quick check with the Dame and I discovered it's much brisker than I thought. Singing too slowly is a novice's tendency.

    Deadlines. Sounds as if you've been dealing with amateurs. I was paid to meet deadlines and to ensure others did so. I could, on occasion, be horribly cruel. Now I'm a 19-year-old, three-legged marmalade pussy-cat called George, lazing by the CH rads.

    1. Those lines are lovely, though I find that I immediately think of Wyatt's "They flee from me." I was listening to Dowland on Pandora radio in your honor, but now the laundry is done and it is 2:20, so I must tumble into bed. So good night, Roderick Robinson aka George the marmalade cat.

      I do think that singing Dowland could make a person ecstatic--I found being in a choir made me happier and also made my nose run, which is less attractive but probably happy for sinuses.

    2. Oh, who does V like among contemporary composers for choral music? (And who do you, if you do?)

  4. Does Janacek count? He died in 1928. My third novel, Blest Redeemer, which is about secular redemeption and has not yet been submitted to agents, reaches its moral climax in a performance of the Glagolitic Mass. I'm a huge Janacek fan, esp. the two quartets.

    I'm also a great fan of Britten's Spring Symphony which is choral. Have lisened to Walton's Belshazzar's Feast several times. It seems fashionable to mock Tavener these days but the little I've heard seems agreeable. Reckon I'm rather stick-in-the-mud.

    V favours twentieth century British composers, esp Britten, Quilter and Michael Head. I'll put your specific question to her later today.

    1. I must be too. Love Britten and Tavener.

      Why haven't you sent it out (sheer curiosity. Not that I don't have plenty in The Heap!)

  5. V favours Michael Head, as I mentioned, also Bob Chilcott and John Rutter. However V's relationship with choirs is rather tenuous: her voice is simply too powerful and choral singing tends to frustrate her. Also, her daughters insist that she doesn't sing when they accompany her to services at Hereford Cathedral. For the same reason.

    I think a runny nose is probably indicative of musical passion. During the brief period I sang as a treble in a church choir I used to come home from practice absolutely ravenous. There's an allusion to this in this sonnet I wrote:

    Sonnet – Wednesday night practice

    The darkened nave entailed a womb of light
    Gilding our boyish group. Standing, we sang
    The Nunc Dimittis, Angels ever bright,
    Stainer – all proof our aims were Anglican.

    The words were null, my job to recreate
    The notes with an unthinking treble voice.
    I soared the heights towards the perfect state
    Where notes become a licence to rejoice.

    Fatigued by descants, holding volume low,
    I left betimes starved like a refugee,
    Ate Marmite toast then turned my face from woe
    Dispensing with the evening’s ecstasy.

    Oh wasteful child who lost that gift along the way
    And deeded me this false reed in decay.

    1. Very kind of you to attribute the runny nose to musical passion! Less embarrassing than bursting into tears, I suppose...

      Oh, Rutter I like, too.

      I have a good friend who sometimes sings with Glimmerglass Opera who has the same problem, always reining in her voice to sing in choir. Otherwise it would be a solo with murmuring in the background.

      Ah, the Wednesday night practice! Been there. Though not with the lovely boy-treble. And such starvings were assuaged with Marmite? Hate the stuff! That's an interesting sonnet. Not sure about the "woe." Still thinking but must run for now...


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.