* You are viewing the archive for September, 2014

Elder by David Constantine, Bloodaxe Books, £9.95 paperback

This is a moving and deeply humane book. Different qualities combine to make it a must-have for anyone whose poetic tastes are at all like mine.

For one thing, there’s Constantine’s mastery of the singing line. In many of these poems, the rhythms, the play of sound and the controlled fluidity of the syntax are intense pleasures in themselves. However, Constantine knows to use such qualities sparingly, keeping us on our toes by disrupting smooth rhythms and syntax with angularity and roughness, throwing grit and dissonance into the music, emphasising the expressiveness of sound rather than its harmony. In short, his … Continue Reading

W S Merwin, “Elegy for a Walnut Tree”

Another truly extraordinary poem in The Moon Before Morning is “Elegy for a Walnut Tree”. You can link to it here.

Addressing a tree as “old friend” – how audacious a use of the pathetic fallacy is that! But the way Merwin does it makes us almost forget that he isn’t talking to a person. The words are so simple, so vivid, so bare of emotive trickery and at the same time carry such powerful emotional implications, that the idea that it’s strange to address these thoughts to a tree is almost swallowed up by a sense of how … Continue Reading

W S Merwin “Long Afternoon Light” – 2

You can link to “Long Afternoon Light” by clicking here.

“Long Afternoon Light” speaks to and eludes the understanding, feeds it and makes it hungry for more by a remarkable combination of clarity and uncertainty. Reading it, the boundaries of sentences and the meanings of words keep shifting and shimmering in our minds.

Take the title. It creates a visual, spatial impression of the way light falls in the late afternoon, with long sloping beams stretching between shadows, and at the same time the temporal sense of “long” suggests how time seems to stretch out and slow as a summer … Continue Reading

W S Merwin, “Long Afternoon Light” 1

You can find a link to “Long Afternoon Light” here.

As with so many of the poems in The Moon Before Morning, the sheer, almost incantatory beauty of this one draws you to read it again and again even as it continues to elude complete comprehension. The first three lines alone bear endless repetition for the hypnotic smoothness of their phonetic and rhythmical flow.

Although it’s smooth, this flow is made rich and subtle by the complication of syntax in line two. Here, “how long ago” is a parenthesis, and so logically it represents a syntactical disjunction, but the absence … Continue Reading