Poetry West Cornwall (and local history)

The Seasons being Out of Joint

Three ladies settle in front of the Portugese Coffee House
in Market Jew Street.
I'm glad in a way,they are only taking drinks.
A teapot heralds a certain degree of bourgeois comfort, whilst the lady on the left sips her milkshake like a teenager.
They seem oblivious to the marauding prospect of seagulls.
The effect this sunshine spell on older skin doesn't bother them.
Above pound-stretcher a gull stretches his wings.
The black and yellow pennants flutter wildly in the in the incipient breeze.
A single-decker spreads a cascade of pollutants.
The outspread Guardian announces Johnson to be referred to the police by his own lawyers.
To me it feels like a temporary delicate interregnum.
Book Reviews Literature Poetry Psychoanalysis Uncategorized

Dipping into Beckett

I have read but a little Samuel Beckett- one play and a novel but his persona I find intriguing and his clearly having studied Joyce interests as well. I found a tome-like collection of his poetry second hand and have been looking at some of his translations from French. He translated Rimbaud, Breton and the surrealist poet, Paul Eluard. I notice that a collection of the latter’s poetry is soon to be published in both French and English. Beckett also translated a poem called “Delta” from Italian by Eugenio Montale. Beckett too wrote fluently in French and demonstrates his fascination for arcane usage. Here is an example-

Tristesse Janale

C’est toi, o beauté blême des subtiles concierges,

La Chose kantienne, l’icone bilitique;

C’est toi, muette énigme des aphasiques vierges,

Qui centres mes désirs d’un trait antithétique.

O mystique carquois! O flèches de Télèphe!

Correlatif de toi! Abîme et dure sonde!

Sois éternellement le greffé et la greffe,

Ma superfétatoire et frêle furibonde!

Ultime coquillage et palais de la bouche

Mallarméenne et emblème de Michel-Ange,

Consume-toi, o neutre, en extases farouches,

Barbouille-toi, bigène, de crispations de fange,

Et co-ordonne enfin, lacustre conifère,

Tes tensions ambigues de crête et de cratère.

Using Google Translate and adjusting this curious poem reads-

Sadness Janale

It is you, o pallid beauty of the subtle concierges, The Kantian Thing, the bilious icon; It is you, mute enigma of aphasic virgins, Who centers my desires with an antithetical trait.

O mystical quiver! O arrows of Telephus! Correlative of you! Abyss and hard probe! Be eternally the grafted and the graft, My superfluous and frail furious!

Ultimate shell and palate of the Mallarméan mouth and emblem of Michelangelo, Consume yourself, o neutral, in fierce ecstasies, Smear yourself, bigène, with mire contractions,

And finally coordinates, coniferous lacustrine, Your ambiguous tensions of ridge and crater.

Essentially this seems difficult although each stanza has a cluster of meaningful concerns. There are many fascinating words with allusions to place names and classical studies. The imperious voice of the poem marked by imperatives is not without a comic undertone or so it seems to me. It has made me aware of Beckett’s command of the French language and his dreamlike imagery.

Poetry Psychoanalysis

Heddy Lamarr (Misconnected)

Communication only partial

the latching you designed

seems to glitch

So that signals disappear

down some tremendous

existential void.

Wires are somehow more

secure than your bluetooth

despite its representation

as a reliable mechanical

gearwheel safely

locked in a Newtonian Universe.

How can I connect

with you? What message

can reach you up there?

Here I remain

with weakened pulses

and unreliable links

living with Beckett and Bion.

Literature Poetry Psychoanalysis

Discovering Levertov

I was thumbing through a copy of Contemporary American Poetry price six shillings, published 1962 that I borrowed from a friend at University. I couldn’t help noticing that there appeared to be only two woman poets in the collection by Donald Hall and of neither had I heard. At first perusal some of the poems by Denise Levertov seemed to be redolent of new perceptions of American springtime and then I read the blurb in the front-

DENISE LEVERTOV (b. 1923) comes from Ilford in Essex, England, and served as a nurse during the Second World War, when her poems were first published by Wrey Gardiner in London. She married an American and has lived in the United States since 1948. She published her first book, The Double Image, in England in 1946. Her American books are Here and Now (1957), Overland to the Islands (1958), With Eyes at the Back of our Heads (1960), and The Jacob’s Ladder (1961).

This delightful poem about origins and identities is immersed in beautiful place names both suburban and sylvan. Rivers run through it and there is the lovely image of the forlorn white statue standing in the old house garden. It is a reflection of childhood innocence and religious thoughts add to the majesty of the poetic voice. ( ” merciful Phillipa”, “multitudes” and “Simeon quiet evensong”) In the meeting and parting she brings together Belarus and Spain, the United States and Wales. It is about the expansion of the world as in the maps of a child’s imagination; the safety and containment of morning sunlight on garden walls.

Literature Poetry

Sitwell at Sea

Sailor, What of the Isles?


The whole poem with it’s images of islands, sailors and the sea appeals to me- mostly through imagery rather than meaning. A friend comments, not unfairly I think……

She is a great enigma to me.  I find her poetry both avant-garde and deeply conservative in its floundering eccentricity, like her life. She epitomises the remnants of a bankrupt class yet gives a voice to pertinent modern concerns. A voice that is both mesmerising in its clarity yet from an alien world. 

Was it just show or does it present a living reflection of her/our times? 

The Facade poems maybe found at

and this poem in full at

where it is also in Hungarian!

Book Reviews Literature Poetry St Ives West Cornwall (and local history)

Two New Poetry Collections

In both of these collections the sea and its various moods features. It is not just this that endears me in each case but it is that element that prompts me to write about them today. It is raining once again here in Cornwall and it is as the mists mizzle gather over the bay that I find myself in somewhat melancholy mood to respond to these collections.

Derek Mahon

Essentially this is a collection of essays by different writers together with Mahon’s poems. Here is one example- the poem-“The Sea in Winter” which was written for Desmond O’Grady. There are so many lovely passages in this poem which is fast becoming a favourite.-

Portstewart, Portrush, Portballintrae-

Un beau pays mal habité,

policed by rednecks in dark cloth

and roving gangs of tartan youth.

No place for a gentleman like you.

The good, the beautiful and the true

have a tough time of it; and yet

there is that Hebridean sunset,

The coast in winter, something familiar here in West Cornwall evokes feelings as in these engaging couplets:-

The sea in winter, where she walks,

vents its displeasure on the rocks.

The human factor appears too beside these images or pathetic fallacies-

………………………….; the spite

mankind has brought to this infernal

backwater destroys the soul;

it sneaks into the daily life,

sunders the husband from the wife.

Sunder seems a significant word here, perhaps evoking “thunder” and reminiscent of the biblical separation of “asunder”. ( The chariot and horses of fire “parted asunder” Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 2:11). So we are situated on the bleak edge of the sea. Though not quite in the same mood state as T.S.Eliot-On Margate Sands./I can connect/Nothing with nothing./The broken fingernails of dirty hands./My people humble people who expect/Nothing.

There is an interesting piece on Mahon as the poet of place at

In his comments on this poem, John Fitzgerald says;

I grew to love the poem’s complicit sense of ennui,bordering on but never quite reaching desolation, ‘living on the edge of space’; the memorable turns of phrase and allusive colour, both classical and contemporary; the sense of redemption just out of reach; the agonizing, trapped uncertainty of the writing life; all balanced against the consolation of confident, impeccable poetry.”

Evelyn Holloway

Evelyn’s book is published in English and German by Edition Sonnberg which is based in Vienna, where Evelyn was born in 1955. Perhaps the most interesting poem, it is for me, is Meeting which tells of Evelyn encountering Samuel Beckett in Oxford where she was a student in October 1973. I find that even with my poor German having the text in both languages somehow broadens the comprehension of the text.

Suddenly I see his face

stepped down from book covers,

a furrowed face, a landscape of thought

I waited for Godot,

saw people stuck in bins,

so many figures of his universe,

Now to return to the sea, a sea of memories- some perhaps repressed…….


Ich kam hier um das Wrack zu sehen,

musste tiefer tauchen, tiefer.

Farben sind dort begraben,

Stimmen von der Zeit verschluckt.

Irgendwo in diesem Chaos,

ich bin irgendwo

verlassen,gefunden, und wieder verlassen

Atmen fällt schwer hier unten

Kunstweke hinter Mauern versteckt

Errinerung ist ein Ozean ohne Salz.

So that the memory can appear like a sea too, but one without salt. Memory and dreams have perhaps links to Vienna but the salty sea is close by in St Ives.

Here are just a few lines from WE ARE DANCING ROCKS (WIR SIND TANZENDE FELSEN)

We will outlast you.

Our salty eternity does not count the years.

We do not mourn the sand swallowed by the sea.

We are dancing rocks.

Her collection Words through Walls is published by Wieser Verlag ISBN 978-3-9504320-8-4

Art and Photographic History Literature Poetry

Poetry from the Isle of Lewis

This is by my friend Ursula Ghee Wieckowska, who lives on the Island of Lewis not far from Stornaway

Snow Hills

March is turning out to be the month of
Blue skies sun and brilliant snow
Not overwhelming snow
Pawprints made by the cats
Prints by the chickens crows and ducks
Then this morning all the prints were gone
It must have snowed in the night
Glistening crystals of snow now
Covering the ground smooth and white
By tonight the garden will be covered in prints again

Then over to the east the hills
Beautiful white covered in snow
The sun shining on them
Showing off their features
From a distance we see
The individual hills
Stac Polly Cul Beag
Cul Mor Sulliven
Different shapes
Different personalities
They only appear on some days
This week we have been blessed
Everyday against the blue sky
They stand on the horizon
They stand on the sea

In the town the roads are wet
The traffic has melted the snow
And the black tarmac appears
Some snow is just lying
On the verges and roofs and
In between the trees

I head home and will look at the snow
Through the car windows
Then through my house windows
As long as the sun shines
Then it will disappear into the dark
To come again hopefully tomorrow
When I open the curtains in the morning
I will once again be blinded by the
Sun on the white snow

Literature Poetry

From “All day it has rained” by Alun Lewis

And I can remember nothing dearer or more to my heart
Than the children I watched in the woods on Saturday
Shaking down burning chestnuts for the schoolyard’s merry play,
Or the shaggy patient dog who followed me
By Sheet and Steep and up the wooded scree
To the Shoulder o’ Mutton where Edward Thomas brooded long
On death and beauty – till a bullet stopped his song.

Literature Poetry

A Second Look At Simon Armitage

You May Turn Over and Begin

“Which of these films was Dirk Bogarde

not in? One hundredweight of bauxite

makes how much aluminium?

how many tales in ‘The Decameron’?”

General Studies, the upper sixth, a doddle, a cinch

for anyone with an ounce of common sense

or a calculator

with a memory feature.

The lines above are from one of Google’s suggestions for Armitage’s top best poems. This poem is actually about teenage sexuality and has a surprising and mildly interesting ending, I think. However, having shared the poets exam room ambience as a youngster, as well as having invigilated many many tests and examinations it is the first few lines that I would like to peruse here.

More soon but you can read the whole poem at

Literature Poetry Uncategorized

Deux Barbaras-Autumn Leaves

Miri it is while sumer i-last
With foulës song;
Oc now neghëth windës blast
And weder strong.
Ei, ei, what this night is long,
And Ich with wel michel wrong
Sorwe and murne and fast.

Dis, quand reviendras-tu ?

Voilà combien de jours, voilà combien de nuits,
Voilà combien de temps que tu es reparti,
Tu m’as dit cette fois, c’est le dernier voyage,
Pour nos coeurs déchirés, c’est le dernier naufrage,
Au printemps, tu verras, je serai de retour,
Le printemps, c’est joli pour se parler d’amour,
Nous irons voir ensemble les jardins refleuris,
Et déambulerons dans les rues de Paris,

Dis, quand reviendras-tu,
Dis, au moins le sais-tu,
Que tout le temps qui passe,
Ne se rattrape guère,
Que tout le temps perdu,
Ne se rattrape plus,

Le printemps s’est enfui depuis longtemps déjà,
Craquent les feuilles mortes, brûlent les feux de bois,
A voir Paris si beau dans cette fin d’automne,
Soudain je m’alanguis, je rêve, je frissonne,
Je tangue, je chavire, et comme la rengaine,
Je vais, je viens, je vire, je me tourne, je me traîne,
Ton image me hante, je te parle tout bas,
Et j’ai le mal d’amour, et j’ai le mal de toi,

Dis, quand reviendras-tu,
Dis, au moins le sais-tu,
Que tout le temps qui passe,
Ne se rattrape guère,
Que tout le temps perdu,
Ne se rattrape plus,

J’ai beau t’aimer encore, j’ai beau t’aimer toujours,
J’ai beau n’aimer que toi, j’ai beau t’aimer d’amour,
Si tu ne comprends pas qu’il te faut revenir,
Je ferai de nous deux mes plus beaux souvenirs,
Je reprendrai la route, le monde m’émerveille,
J’irai me réchauffer à un autre soleil,
Je ne suis pas de celles qui meurent de chagrin,
Je n’ai pas la vertu des femmes de marins,

Dis, quand reviendras-tu,
Dis, au moins le sais-tu,
Que tout le temps qui passe,
Ne se rattrape guère,
Que tout le temps perdu,
Ne se rattrape plus

That’s how many days, that’s how many nights,
How long have you been gone,
You told me this time, it’s the last trip,
For our hearts torn, this is the last shipwreck,
In the spring, you’ll see, I’ll be back,
Spring is pretty to talk about love,
We will go together to see the flowering gardens,
And stroll through the streets of Paris,

Quoting Paroles at

“Dis, quand reviendras-tu ?” est une chanson sortie en 1962, écrite, composée et interprétée par Barbara. Dans cette chanson, l’auteure-narratrice écrit une lettre à un amant dont elle attend inlassablement le retour pour l’inciter à revenir à ses côtés. La qualité exceptionnelle d’écriture de cette chanson ainsi que la sensibilité de l’interprétation de Barbara en font un monument de la chanson française.