Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tuesday Poem: "Exposure" by Wilfrid Owen

Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knive us . . .
Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent . . .

Low drooping flares confuse our memory of the salient . . .

Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous,

       But nothing happens.

Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire,

Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles.

Northward, incessantly, the flickering gunnery rumbles,

Far off, like a dull rumour of some other war.

       What are we doing here?

The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow . . .

We only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy.

Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army

Attacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of grey,

       But nothing happens.

Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence.

Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow,

With sidelong flowing flakes that flock, pause, and renew,

We watch them wandering up and down the wind's nonchalance,

       But nothing happens.

Pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces—

We cringe in holes, back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow-dazed,

Deep into grassier ditches. So we drowse, sun-dozed,

Littered with blossoms trickling where the blackbird fusses.

       —Is it that we are dying?

Slowly our ghosts drag home: glimpsing the sunk fires, glozed

With crusted dark-red jewels; crickets jingle there;

For hours the innocent mice rejoice: the house is theirs;

Shutters and doors, all closed: on us the doors are closed,—

       We turn back to our dying.

Since we believe not otherwise can kind fires burn;

Now ever suns smile true on child, or field, or fruit.

For God's invincible spring our love is made afraid;

Therefore, not loath, we lie out here; therefore were born,

       For love of God seems dying.

Tonight, this frost will fasten on this mud and us,

Shrivelling many hands, and puckering foreheads crisp.

The burying-party, picks and shovels in shaking grasp,

Pause over half-known faces. All their eyes are ice,

       But nothing happens.

by Wilfred Owen

Certain regions have experienced devastating winds of late in New Zealand, but nothing really compares to Wilfred Owen's wartime wind experience.

For more information about the poet, Wilfrid Owen, see:


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Tuesday Poem: "Advice" by Sinéad Morrissey

You think it ugly: drawing lines with a knife
Down the backs of those writers we exist to dislike. But it’s life.

One is disadvantaged by illustrious company

Left somehow undivided. Divide it with animosity.

Don’t be proud –

Viciousness in poetry isn’t frowned on, it’s allowed.

Big fish in a big sea shrink proportionately.

Stake out your territory

With stone walls, steamrollers, venomous spit

From the throat of a luminous nightflower. Gerrymander it.

by Sinéad Morrissey

A bitchy little number showing a less than aspirational or higher purpose for poets and writers.

For more information about the poet, Sinéad Morrissey, see:

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tuesday Poem: "The Speech on St Crispin's Day" from Henry V, Act IV, Scene 3 by William Shakespeare

What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:

If we are mark'd to die, we are enow

To do our country loss; and if to live,

The fewer men, the greater share of honour.

God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.

By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,

Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;

It yearns me not if men my garments wear;

Such outward things dwell not in my desires:

But if it be a sin to covet honour,

I am the most offending soul alive.

No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:

God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour

As one man more, methinks, would share from me

For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,

Let him depart; his passport shall be made

And crowns for convoy put into his purse:

We would not die in that man's company

That fears his fellowship to die with us.

This day is called the feast of Crispian:

He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,

Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,

And rouse him at the name of Crispian.

He that shall live this day, and see old age,

Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,

And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.

And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'

Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,

But he'll remember with advantages

What feats he did that day: then shall our names.

Familiar in his mouth as household words

Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,

Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,

Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.

This story shall the good man teach his son;

And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember'd;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

by William Shakespeare

It is the 400th Anniversary of the Bard's death this year, so it is only fitting to post one of the most famous and stirring speeches from his great body of work.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Tuesday Poem: "Go and play in the middle" by John Hegley

my Mum used to watch out of the window
these boys who played football
on the green in front of the bungalow
she used to stand well back
so she couldn't be seen
and when the ball hit the wall of our garden
she said to my Dad
it's hit our wall again Bob
go out and tell them
and my Dad would go out and tell them
maybe eight or nine times in a day
to go and play in the middle
and immediately he had told them
my Mum would be on the watch
for the next time he would need sending out
and sometimes it was only a few moments
after he had come back in

by John Hegley

I saw John Hegley perform his poems in an early Comedy Festival at BATS Theatre in the mid-1990s. He was very funny.

For more information on poet, John Hegley, see:


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Tuesday Poem: "Finnish Girls (an Excerpt)" by Kira Wuck

Finnish girls seldom say hello
They are not shy nor arrogant

One only needs a chisel to come closer

They order their own beer

Travel all over the world

While their men are waiting at home

When angry they send you a rotten salmon.

by Kira Wuck
 (translated from the Dutch by Tilleke Schwarz)

For more information about the poet, Kira Wuck, see:

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tuesday Poem: "Christmas Trees" by Robert Frost

A Christmas circular letter

The city had withdrawn into itself  

And left at last the country to the country;  

When between whirls of snow not come to lie  

And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove  

A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,  

Yet did in country fashion in that there  

He sat and waited till he drew us out,  

A-buttoning coats, to ask him who he was.  

He proved to be the city come again  

To look for something it had left behind  

And could not do without and keep its Christmas.  

He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;  

My woods—the young fir balsams like a place  

Where houses all are churches and have spires.  

I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas trees.    

I doubt if I was tempted for a moment  

To sell them off their feet to go in cars  

And leave the slope behind the house all bare,  

Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.  

I’d hate to have them know it if I was.      

Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees, except  

As others hold theirs or refuse for them,  

Beyond the time of profitable growth—  

The trial by market everything must come to.  

I dallied so much with the thought of selling.      

Then whether from mistaken courtesy  

And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether  

From hope of hearing good of what was mine,  

I said, “There aren’t enough to be worth while.”


“I could soon tell how many they would cut,    

You let me look them over.”  


                                    “You could look.  

But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.”  

Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close  

That lop each other of boughs, but not a few    

Quite solitary and having equal boughs  

All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to,  

Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,  

With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.”  

I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so.  

We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,  

And came down on the north.


                                    He said, “A thousand.”  


“A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?”  


He felt some need of softening that to me:      

“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.”  


Then I was certain I had never meant  

To let him have them. Never show surprise!  

But thirty dollars seemed so small beside  

The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents    

(For that was all they figured out apiece)—  

Three cents so small beside the dollar friends  

I should be writing to within the hour  

Would pay in cities for good trees like those,  

Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools    

Could hang enough on to pick off enough.


A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had!  

Worth three cents more to give away than sell,  

As may be shown by a simple calculation.  

Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter.      

I can’t help wishing I could send you one,  

In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.

by Robert Frost

I know we are miles away from Christmas, but what the heck!

For more about the poet, Robert Frost, see:

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tuesday Poem: "in the Village" by Derek Walcott


I came up out of the subway and there were

people standing on the steps as if they knew

something I didn’t. This was in the Cold War,

and nuclear fallout. I looked and the whole avenue

was empty, I mean utterly, and I thought,

The birds have abandoned our cities and the plague

of silence multiplies through their arteries, they fought

the war and they lost and there’s nothing subtle or vague

in this horrifying vacuum that is New York. I caught

the blare of a loudspeaker repeatedly warning

the last few people, maybe strolling lovers in their walk,

that the world was about to end that morning

on Sixth or Seventh Avenue with no people going to work

in that uncontradicted, horrifying perspective.

It was no way to die, but it’s also no way to live.

Well, if we burnt, it was at least New York.


Everybody in New York is in a sitcom.

I’m in a Latin American novel, one

in which an egret-haired
viejo shakes with some
invisible sorrow, some obscene affliction,

and chronicles it secretly, till it shows in his face,

the parenthetical wrinkles confirming his fiction

to his deep embarrassment. Look, it’s

just the old story of a heart that won’t call it quits

whatever the odds, quixotic. It’s just one that’ll

break nobody’s heart, even if the grizzled colonel

pitches from his steed in a cavalry charge, in a battle

that won’t make him a statue. It is the hell

of ordinary, unrequited love. Watch these egrets

trudging the lawn in a dishevelled troop, white banners

trailing forlornly; they are the bleached regrets

of an old man’s memoirs, printed stanzas.

showing their hinged wings like wide open secrets.


Who has removed the typewriter from my desk,

so that I am a musician without his piano

with emptiness ahead as clear and grotesque

as another spring? My veins bud, and I am so

full of poems, a wastebasket of black wire.

The notes outside are visible; sparrows will

line antennae like staves, the way springs were,

but the roofs are cold and the great grey river

where a liner glides, huge as a winter hill,

moves imperceptibly like the accumulating

years. I have no reason to forgive her

for what I brought on myself. I am past hating,

past the longing for Italy where blowing snow

absolves and whitens a kneeling mountain range

outside Milan. Through glass, I am waiting

for the sound of a bird to unhinge the beginning

of spring, but my hands, my work, feel strange

without the rusty music of my machine. No words

for the Arctic liner moving down the Hudson, for the mange

of old snow moulting from the roofs. No poems. No birds.


The Sweet Life Café

If I fall into a grizzled stillness

sometimes, over the red-chequered tablecloth

outdoors of the Sweet Life Café, when the noise

of Sunday traffic in the Village is soft as a moth

working in storage, it is because of age

which I rarely admit to, or, honestly, even think of.

I have kept the same furies, though my domestic rage

is illogical, diabetic, with no lessening of love

though my hand trembles wildly, but not over this page.

My lust is in great health, but, if it happens

that all my towers shrivel to dribbling sand,

joy will still bend the cane-reeds with my pen’s

elation on the road to Vieuxfort with fever-grass

white in the sun, and, as for the sea breaking

in the gap at Praslin, they add up to the grace

I have known and which death will be taking

from my hand on this chequered tablecloth in this good place.

by Derek Walcott

For more information about the poet, Derek Walcott, see: