Sunday, May 13, 2007

On First Reading Larkin

It seems my promised first piece on other poets is rather resistant to the idea of being published here on my poetry blog. So until I sort out the technical problems, you can read it here instead.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Change of Tack

I'm going to change the tack of the blog for a while, and start a series of posts about other poets.

The reason?

Blogger and 'attempting poem-maker' Katy Murr's brief comment about Philip Larkin's minor poem 'Days' got me thinking - and frankly I rather enjoyed the process. More of that in a moment. First, here is Larkin's poem - and underneath Katy's point:

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

Philip Larkin


The first stanza seems stronger: I don't like the 'Ah,' which niggles at the rest of that stanza for me. But, arguably the images of the second stanza are needed to ground the poem, give the reader some tether?
My reponse was that I rather like the "Ah," my reasoning as follows.

By simplistically raising the notion of 'happy days', the first stanza is a whimsical, abstract, pleasant line of thought about the nature of life. So it's a question, a puzzle. The "Ah" is a more concrete moment from that life, a more real expression, a sort little moment of little realisation that we all experience each day. But crucially here, a falsely comforting one, because it ushers in the realisation of impending death. This operates to destroy the previous stanza's limited daydream, by actually being a concrete part of the life the first stanza supposes to summarize. This change of tone and focus is also reflected rhythmically: it's the first line with a pause after the first syllable. (In some ways this rhythmical device is not atypical of Larkin, as he often wedges incidental words - typically images too - in amongst his poems to make them scan; a very simple but effective technique.)

If that's a bit much for you, I can put it another way. Try reading the poem with the "Ah," omitted: you'll find it much colder I think. The emphasis then rests more on "Solving that question" - an abstracted thing to do - rather than on the answer to the question itself.

Well, if you liked this little preamble, I'll post up over the next couple of days more on Larkin. And if you didn't, well, the comments are still open to you as well.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Ceratioid Anglerfish

Miles under the ocean live the Angler Fish.

Inflated to the size of a balloon, the female gropes across the dark of the sea floor. Desperate daily to feed herself and her eggs - she lives her whole life searching, groping, grabbing; desperate her whole life amid that empty, perpetual night.

A tenth the size, barely the size of your little finger, the male is born dumb, blind, weak and indifferent. But, he is blessed with one wish.

To find a female. Then, he bites into her flesh - and his mouth dissolves into her veins. And when he is fully fused, feeding automatically from her blood, he atrophies all of his parts.

Except, one.

And so: embedded in her, tighter than a thin ring around a fat finger, he spends his life doing nothing. Nothing, but ejaculate.

He needs no pornography, nor innuendo of invititation, nor carress. No seductive subtle undress. That moment when you shut your eyes, and oh - that is his life, all of the time. So very happy, there in the freezing black. He does not even care when her body, attached to his, is being eaten alive by other fish.

Admist those abyssal depths of dark, he is nothing but a creature of perfect, pure pleasure. So much so, he does not even know the word hedonist.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Mile End

When trudging through exit after emergency exit
through carriage after dirty empty carriage
through the litter and white light of a whole tube train
through the black of the earth in the black of a tunnel
hundreds of metres under the city of London

wondering what changed world awaits you at the platform
wondering what war has started, which lives lost,
where the blood is spilt, what buildings are gone,
what poisons swim in the air, what will the survivors do
how will the survivors be different, how will you -

and then find the platform functioning as normal
(it was just a problem with the signals)
then it is time for a quick confession:
you were not afraid. Just curious.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A little note . . .

This is a housekeeping post, with a few necessaries.

1. Applies through out:

Creative Commons License

2. The posts on this blog used to be published under the pseudonym 'Antony M'. That was short for 'Antonym of Poet'. However, something changed in Blogger and now they all appear as Tom Chivers, linked to the other blogs I currently write at. Great news for stalkers, less good for me trying to be clever.

But, so be it.

3. However. Please note, if currently if you search for 'Tom Chivers' you get a London-based poet at the top of the lists - but he is *not* me. I do not have anything to do with 'penned in the margins,' 'Keystone,' 'confluence,' or 'Cherwell'. I have had various poems published in various magazines, and the like - but none are on the web, outside of this blog, that I know.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Magic in November

There - among the yellow-green of the leaves, he levitates.

Five floors up in open air: right and left he strolls, roaming at will through London trees. This way and that, fearless and free - wrapped up, in a dance with the breeze.

A miracle sight, this one floating human!

But through the window, take a closer look. There's the metal bones of the scaffold. There the slate, hammer, work; the nails by the fistful. How we should like to be creatures made of wonder - not digging in for rain, for winter.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Jewel of Jerusalem

A curled fist formed of a thousand fingers, each the parched colour of cracked mud.

Most ugly of plants, albeit arch-survivor.

They say a drought could last a century - but just one shower, and you spring back to bud.

Drifting, tumble-weed thing - then so quick to unfurl, fan out flat, a palm of green tips.

So, like no person ever has or shall, you live only when it's simple and good.

The rest - the loves and rapes, heroes and whores, the days and the nights, the winters and springs, this London lounge you are now paused in; human civilisation, and its fall - you bluntly shrug off and ignore. Just when water ends, you die as you should.

Sun and earth, rain that rains, winds that blow: you die, live, die, live among the elements. Silent, pure, unfussy faith: your lesson? Then mad, lurching mankind shall never know.