Thursday 8 October 2009

National Poetry Day in the UK

It was National Poetry Day today in the UK and I've waited until - almost - the midnight hour to post my contribution to this nationwide celebration. Regular readers of this blog know that I don't need any excuse to upload poems. Poetry in my view is the subversion of prose and therefore the overthrow of what could otherwise be a lineal narrative. And the three works I present to you tonight bear witnesses to that statement.

Sujata Bhatt was born in India in 1956. Her first three books of poems were published to wide acclaim by Carcanet between 1988 and 1995. The text below was taken from 'Augatora', a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, that frst saw the light in 2000. Sujata's poems have the capacity to take the reader to both real and imagined landscapes and it was this peculiar trait that made me choose this poem as one of my presents to you tonight.

The Woman They call Abuela

Eighty-six-years-old or maybe
eighty-nine - She doesn't know herself
and couldn't care less.

She still works in her field
beside the beach -
Where the sand ends
her field begins -

The Atlantic Ocean rushing through her mind -
She plants potatoes - keeps a duck
to eat the snails.

Thirty-seven years a widow -
Dressed in black, of course -
long socks, black and heavy
even in the heat.

The other day she lifted her skirt
to marvel at her thighs
her young girl's skin white and firm
and untouched by the sun -

She laughed.

The woman they call
abuela -
her voice threaded
sharp with the Andalusian wind -
all these years the noise of the ocean
crashing within her ears - white roses
cover the trellis in her garden.

Thirty-seven years a widow -
She watched Franco's men ride by:
Moroccan mercenaries took over
the bunker in front of her house -

And she watched Rafael Alberti
back from exile
walking by her door -

All these years the noise
of the ocean now breaking
now lulling within her ears -

One of the wonders of the blogosphere is the amount of talent one comes across. I sometimes resemble a lonely rambler roaming from blog to blog, soaking up either their take on a classic piece of art or their own personal contribution to the world of muses and fauns. And Dave from Pics and Poems is no exception. I make sure to pay him a visit at least twice a week, if not more, because he always has interesting subjects on which to debate. Dave is also a marvellous poet, one of those wordsmiths who makes one wonder whether there's a limit to the use of language by humans. Fortunately, there isn't, and when you read the poem below you will understand why. To me it is a very honest and sincere ode to nature and how patient it has been with our excesses, but also in this gem of a poem there lies a cautionary message: mess up with Mama Natura at your own peril. Many thanks, Dave, for allowing me to reproduce your work.

On Turning Over a New Leaf

When the apple tree turned over a new leaf
it began producing plums.

When the pear turned over a new leaf
it brought forth grapes instead.

When the cherry turned over a new leaf
it found acorns on its branches.

When The Book of Life turned over a new leaf
a skeleton crawled out.

When the woods turned over their new leaves
a million tiny creatures saw the sun.

When these turned over the dead leaves
the dust and ash beneath began to smoke.

When humankind turned over its new leaves
it took leave of its senses

and not until it turned again the old leaves
did the trees bring forth their true and ample fruit.

My last offering tonight comes from a poet derided by the Tory press in his time as part of the Cockney School of Poetry. John Keats' sensual imagery, more specifically in his odes, put him on a par with both Shelley and Byron, two other exponents of the renowned Romantic movement.

To Autumn.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Next Post: 'Sunday Morning: Coffee, Reflections and Music' to be published on Sunday 11th October at 10:00am (GMT)


  1. very beautiful,
    I like the first especially.

    and thanks, I'm glad we can agree on love

  2. Excellent choices to celebrate National Poetry Day. I especially like the Keats.

  3. I adore this post, Cuban! The Abuela poem is so vivid and touching. Happy National Poetry Day!

  4. A lovely compliment of poems for National Poetry Day. I, too, favour Keats - loving the line, 'think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--'. An inspiring thought for those of us entering the autumn of our life.

    Thank you!

  5. Wonderful -- and I liked, especially, your friend's poem! The photo following the poetry was so beautiful. I miss that kind of foliage out here in Los Angeles. We get a fall but it's very muted.

  6. thank you for sharing these. the first one really inspired a sense of peace within me.

  7. Odes of thanks for sharing your selections.
    Happy National Poetry day, I hadn't know there was one but glad there is.

  8. Happy National Poetry Day, Cuban. A very good way to celebrate, three excellent choices.
    Thank you.

  9. I like them all but Dave's poem has a message we might all want to heed.

  10. These are wonderful and I have never really ever read poetry until I met some friends on the blogs who wrote it.

    Dave is amazing and I love his poem the best.

    Love Renee xoxo

  11. Many thanks to you for your wonderful comments.

    Greetings from London.

  12. Usually, I prefer poetry that is performed so that I can enjoy the flow of words and specific emphasis, from the poets mouth. But I really enjoyed this selection, they were an inspiring beginning to my day. Thanks for showing me these verses!

  13. Excellent choice, Cubano. Gracias también por tu visita a mi blog y al comentario sobre Eliot. No sabía que era poetry day en UK! Gracias!

  14. Thanks for the poetry offerings this week - as someone who is from working class London roots with cockney rhyming slang as her first language, I was most surprised to see that Keats- such a wordsmith had been labelled as coming from the "Cockney School" - never heard of it.. and then reading the link to see it was a literary term of abuse for working class poets - how interesting. Also does Bhatt have a personal connection to Andalusia?? greetings from Mexico...

  15. I love what you said about finding such talent in the blogosphere...I feelt he same way...I'm sailor going from port to port.

    much love

  16. "The Woman They Call Abuela" is my personal favorite. Thank you for sharing it. I had never heard of Sujata, so thanks for introducing me. The other selections are also beautiful, but there was something about the Abuela poem that sang to me... And it's a wonderful thing you've done to recognize others. Thanks, as always!

  17. What a beautiful woman Abuela is..the way the poet weaves her memories and ramblings.."keeps a duck to eat the snails"..just reading a poem with that line really makes my day. Poetry Day is every day..thanks for all...

  18. Great choices for National Poetry Day, I love Keats and I do enjoy reading Dave's blog - much to learn from him.
    How is London treating you - kindly I hope.
    Oh btw I shall be flying in to "Willow Manor" on the 13th for the BALL! save me a dance or two!

  19. 'poetry is the subversion of prose'

    I have never seen that before and I am still not sure that I understand it fully. Poetry is very much a part of my everyday life, I love quoting poetry everywhere and at any time,certainly frequently on my blog, although I do not write any myself. Prose will have to do for me.

    The three poems couldn't be more different. All three are valuable. Reading Dave's again here, on a clear background without anything to detract from it, makes me appreciate it even more than I did when I read it on pics and poems.

    thanks Cuban and good evening from Shropshire

  20. Many thanks for your kind comments.

    Why is, to me at least, poetry the subversion of prose? Because prose can at times, or, some would say, most of the times, be lineal, built upon the grounds of direct travel. From A you get to B. Occasionally you get authors, the good ones who will take a detour to C en route to A, actually did I mention that they set off from Q? You probably get my drift.

    Poetry is the opposite. The writer starts in L, or S, or M, it does not matter, it does not even matter if he/she gets to N? E? T? I'm running out of letters now, but a good poet never runs out of roads: side roads, long roads, motorways. Yes, poetry is subversive because it's one of those genres that cannot be confined. Have you ever seen a good poet in chains, metaphorically speaking? No, neither have I.

    When I write poetry, in Spanish most of the time, I become Pollock for a second, I just let my pen do the talking. Whether the result is good or not it's for me to judge, but I just enjoy playing with those words that come to my head randomly and at odd hours.

    Oh, yes, poetry is subversive, rebellious and as Zadie Smith put it brilliantly in her essay one of the better ways to explore one's self.

    Many, many thanks for your feedback.

    Greetings from London.

  21. I adore this post -so full of beauty. 'On turning over a new leaf' is just brilliant! Thank you.

  22. Hola Cuban! Muy buena tu seleccion. Me encanta Keats pero los otros poemas que escogiste no tienen nada que envidiarle. Me has dejado pensando... Habra un dia de la poesia aqui en Montreal? Saludos ;-)

  23. Ah, fabulous, especially that first piece. Wow!

    So you think poetry is revolutionary do you? Hmmm ... For me it is the world concentrated into a homeopathic dose. Figures I would see it in a healing context, yes?

    Thanks again for the feast of words this morning.

  24. I've been neglecting my brain lately...reading fluff.

    I'm always glad to stop by...your posts open my mind, make me think, feel, and be grateful.


  25. Thanks for sharing these poems. I will come back again to read them over. I have read Dave's three times now and I love the way he connects the dots, simple, direct, compassionate.

  26. "Or eight nine... and couldn't care less." I love that line. More. I love that attitude.

  27. Many thanks for the great build-up, somewhat undeserved and more than a little blush-making, but much appreciated. I also much appreciated being put into bat before Keats and not having to follow him! I hope this one "sticks" - I've tried a couple of times already to leave my comment. I would say "Great post", but modesty forbids it, so I'll be content with thanks.

  28. Many thanks to you all for your kind comments and many thanks to you dave, again, for allowing me to post such a gem.

    Greetings from London.



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