WHAT WAS THE LAND BEFORE IT WAS LANDSCAPE?
All those years, before I became lost, I lived a different life.
I am like the stones people place on graves to make them a little heavier.
Some bring boxes of burning words grown from roots.
Each attempts to read what the other has scripted.
The rocks here are volcanic. They rise from the sea.
They give a light unequal to the light that's cast on them.
I've seen how the sky becomes the echo of what's flown through it.
Not that it's easy to keep certain moments.
What makes me break this silence and speak to you this way?
Graveyards have things to say, and say them gently.
There's nothing so wonderful as to be heard to the very end.
Poetry tends to resist smug certainties and predetermined conclusions, but Wordsworth has a kind of genius for self-transcription: He thinks a thought or holds a belief, and then he spells it out for you, and in that transaction—which is hardly a transaction! Nothing has really been exchanged, or changed— there’s no room for anything to surprise him much less the reader. I think his unquestioned pedestal in the canon has more to do with people’s admiration of his positions, his “message,” than with the ways he got that message across—which seems to me a function of the tastes of the prose-based community, warping what poetry is meant to do and capable of doing. Plus, he was personally and professionally cruel to Coleridge, whom I love in an awfully personal way. I tend to take my own partisanship on behalf of Coleridge past the brink of self-parody… because somebody’s got to.
If I could advise all of your younger readers, I would tell them not to go into publishing or into academia if you are writing. It's difficult, because if you're working at close quarters with text during the day, the last thing you really want to do, or the last thing you really can do in the evening is to turn your mind to your own work, because you've too many other voices in your head if you've been doing your job properly and are deep into editing and the deconstruction of a text. Your mind, then, is somebody else's. That has been an impediment. I mean, I enjoy my job and working with the 50 or so authors I look after, but it takes me a couple of weeks to detox from their creativity and try and turn my mind to my own.
for Elise Partridge (1958–2015)
I have seen it a beaver-dammed
lukewarm dribble, but this summer the brook’s a river,
deep and cold, running steeped tea
and a skim of froth around lichened rocks,
roaring like an air conditioner.
Its white noise is enforced by oversized pines:
their branches albatross
from broom-closet dry to green ends shagged
with cones the colour of peanut skins
and flecked with crystals of sap.
A cindery sentry guards the top:
his ash beak clacking as he hunches
for takeoff, his wings branching
from a light crate core, eyelashing at the tips.
Timber creak in his phlegm-fat caw.
Down on the strand, big surf bangs,
lifting gulls from where they sit
like electric clothes irons. They leave
and webbed wavery wigwams.
A piece of driftwood perfectly catches
the boomerang of a swimmer’s arm.
Six-foot kelp bullwhips
have the trapped viscosity of poured motor oil
before they flare to lasagna at the tips.
Out where the ocean betrays
its breathing—closer in than the endless flat,
but farther out than the surf—a whiskery face
rides a swell and watches: time on the Nautilus
would bulk those milk bottle shoulders.
Drawn-tight hoodies small our faces
to beach stone ovals
on which our features perish.
Your message to us was simple:
look closely, and cherish.
By Patrick Warner, from Octopus (Biblioasis, 2016)