I have loved Brian Patten since I was a teenager when my hip seventh form English teacher taught us about the Liverpool Poets (Patten, Roger McGough and Adrian Henri).
Patten was my favourite of the three…and I still have an soft spot for his work, all these years later. I know the Liverpool poets are often derided for how ‘accessible’ they are…(is there ever a more ‘damn me with faint praise’ word for a poet than to be called ‘accessible’? Code word for simplistic, easy, populist…) Nonetheless, I enjoy Patten’s take on the world, the way he examines relationships and pokes gentle fun at neuroses.
When I lived in England I saw a poster advertising that Roger McGough and Brian Patten would be reading at my local South Bank Centre so swiftly approached the ticket office, thinking to myself that although I couldn’t really afford it…I HAD to see Patten read….I had to! At the ticket office, I was pleasantly shocked to be told my ticket cost three pounds fifity, about NZ $7. Heh.
Patten was brilliant live, generous and soulful and lugubrious and dour and funny. He finished with a poem about sitting at his mother’s death bed and I cried my sentimental wee eyes out. Here is a recentish poem from him – you can find more on his poetry blog here.
That Dress, This Shirt
by Brian Patten
That dress will not stop you growing older,
No matter how you wear it-
Nor will this baggy shirt I wear disguise anymore
A stomach growing fatter by the hour.
Now that we no longer have time’s currency to squander
Lets get used to the raw material we are,
Lets celebrate this far harder adventure
And stop carrying about the dead weight of Ago.
That dress, this shirt-
We place them over chairs in rooms
Besides beds that sets sail each night without expectation,
With us the crew, held together by time and by the faith
That we are buoyant enough to see any darkness through.
This Tuesday poem is an often quoted one but for good reason. I was given a copy of these revisions stages of the poem at a workshop I did years ago and they really brought home what the art of revision was all about.
Here is an early draft
And then a revision
and then the final version
You can see other Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem Blog.
(cross posted to Show Your Workings)
I don’t really ‘get’ this poem, and yet I love it. Sometimes it is nice to have a little mystery in a poem. It is both whimsical and dark, all at once. I think I relate to it as a maker of things, also. I make small dolls myself and agree there is something entirely sinister about the process – like pretending to be god. Do tell me what you make of it. Here are the other Tuesday Poems.
by Carol Ann Duffy
I put two yellow peepers in an owl.
Wow. I fix the grin of Crocodile.
Spiv. I sew the slither of an eel.
I jerk, kick-start, the back hooves of a mule.
Wild. I hold the red rag to a bull.
Mad. I spread the feathers of a gull.
I screw a tight snarl to a weasel.
Fierce. I stitch the flippers on a seal.
Splayed. I pierce the heartbeat of a quail.
I like her to be naked and to kneel.
Tame. My motionless, my living doll.
Mute. And afterwards I like her not to tell.
How he found her
He tells the legend
again, how they met
over the varsity
Did their hands touch?
Did he admire her
frown of concentration?
Did she call him
a buffoon, even then?
When did he know?
As he watched intently
her small fingers
peeled back the skin
and pinned it down,
exposing the muscle layer
then deeper to the organs,
pulling them out –
laying them on the table.
Go here for more Tuesday Poems.
(cross posted to Show Your Workings)
Click the feather to the right of here to see more Tuesday poems.
I copied this poem out of The New Yorker ages ago.
I love imperative poems, poems which tell you to go and DO something (but not didactic poems, there is a difference). How can you argue with a poem which begins “be yourself”? It is slightly grim, this poem, and yet…and yet…I find it weirdly affirming (but then my favourite bands are The Smiths and Joy Division, so perhaps I’m a bit of a miserablist.)
by Dennis O’Driscoll
Be yourself; show your flyblown eyes
to the world, give no cause for concern,
wash the paunchy body whose means you
live within, suffer the illnesses
that are your prerogative alone-
the prognosis refers to nobody but you;
you it is who gets up every morning
in your skin, you who chews your dinner
with your mercury-filled teeth, gaining
garlic-breath or weight, you dreading,
you hoping, you regretting, you interloping.
Sometimes you might wonder things about the people behind these blogs you read…but you feel a bit weird about asking them random questions in the comments, or via email. It can feel too confrontational, too odd. Or maybe you have a slightly THORNY question?
Well, now thanks to the postmodern madness of the internet, you can ask us anything anonymously via a little platform called formspring. The questions just arrive in our formspring in-boxes with no clue as to where they came from.
HH’s formspring is here
HL’s formspring is here.
I joined for a bit of a laugh about three weeks ago, not really thinking anyone would ask me anything much after the first couple of days, but so far I have answered 73 questions! Some of them have been pretty raw/deep/bold questions! Answering them has been very thought-provoking…at times even a little bit uncomfortable, and yet…I am enjoying it in some strange way…I don’t entirely understand why…