e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Archive for the tag “Ted Hughes”

The poetry of heatwaves

Cooling down in the heatwaveAs our over-hot weather goes on I had a look on the web for poems about heatwaves. There seem to be an amazing number of them, although google often produces the same thing in different contexts.

One of the first I came across was John Stammers’ Like a Heatwave Burning:

It was the hottest summer on record;
we flew into rages at the drop of a pin.
The heat made cacti of us all.

I love that line about cacti. There are plenty of things that make me feel cactus-like, not only in the heat. There are several more verses all as entertaining (link above).

Ted Hughes also had something to say in Heatwave which starts:

Between Westminster and sunstruck St Paul’s
The desert has entered the flea’s belly.

So far I’ve not come across any subject that doesn’t have at least one poem of its own.

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On re-reading ‘The Rattle Bag’

7fb35406cc300cf593138475541434f414f4141For my late night reading lately I’ve been re-reading The Rattle Bag, a poetry anthology edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. Apparently the original intention was a collection aimed at the young or new poetry reader, but it doesn’t shirk serious subjects like death, love or loneliness. I love it and, to judge by the reviews around the web, so do many other not-so-young people.

Here is a collection of poems to which the term ‘quirky’ seriously applies, though there are plenty of ‘normal’ poems for readers who like their quirky in moderate doses.

On a more serious level the book goes to the edge of what poetry is, both in subject and form: midnight mice, no punctuation and horses eating violins crowd together with the more traditional.

One of the innovations is to arrange the poems alphabetically by title. This means that the usual pattern of date or subject is broken up. Sylvia Plath is on the same page as Shakespeare, while a pet cat precedes a pilgrim.

I’ve had this book for some years (it was published in 2005) and have read most of the poems already, some several times. However, this time I’ve had a serious look at the glossary at the back.

Many of the entries are dialect or archaic terms I already knew, and some I don’t really want to know: should I care that a danegun is an “old firearm, fairly primitive”?

But there are plenty of new-to-me words to enjoy. I’ve seen many solons (gannets) in my time, but have never met a goney (albatross). As I write the gullies (seagulls) are squawking outside. I didn’t know a rack was a cloud in the upper air and I wonder if, like other clouds, it can be scrowed (streaked).

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