New Poems

Exclusive poems from Oxford’s new Professor of Poetry

Literature Text

SEI MADRIGALI

1

Is it not strange that thou shouldst weep? So gravid
The sweetest song a burdening: the six
Metamorphoses, of violence and sex,
The sensuous oboe touched by sensual Ovid. 

Pan pipes, the syrinx, the Orphic lyre;
The waters of the mere, reedy and full;
Poignant the false-relationed madrigal;
The hunter poised, the watcher with the lure. 

2

The heron’s flight out of the reeds is laggard
Yet still it climbs. You could have watched its slow
Navigation of the risen dawn,
Its neck drawn back, prehensilely long-legged,

But you were probably asleep, and I 
Display too late my early grief. Too late
Pinions of holding lift and agitate.
The heron crests its high-reared heronry. 

3

This keeping of delight makes to its strath.
As we must know it, the perturbèd moon
Which is the singular being and yet none
And of the sexual will its grief its graith,

Suffuses, broadens, rouses to subside.
Sometimes the archaic and reflective swan
Ploughs through its image before setting down.
The river-margins thrum with each new tide.

4

So, solace without respite, as when, cour-
Sing through the ear, Italian lute-songs
With preciosities pluck at the heart-strings,
Thy studied dissonance, crudel Amor.

Caccini’s Amarilli I would play
At school assemblies, a warped seventy-eight
Bucking the needle, churning sweet disquiet.
Our loves are dying, we have had our day. 

5

What would I have us do, enshrine Sosostris’
Aria from that fey Midsummer Marriage,
Joyous transcendent threnos before mere age,
All-mastering strings quelling things queer, disastrous?

Somewhere within the extravagant gauche plot
Is our true-plight, misfathomed, salutation.
If we should labour back against time’s motion
Still distant are those lovers we were not. 

6

What I have so invoked for us is true
As invocation. The Fibonacci range
Of numbers is a constant, like Stonehenge. 
Like Ovid’s book of changes to construe. 

I can see someone walking there, a girl,
And she is you, old love. Edging the meadow
The may-tree is all light and all shadow. 
Coming and going are the things eternal. 

HIRAETH

(from ORACLAU | ORACLES, forthcoming from the Clutag Press)

1

I would do gratefully what others claim
They could not: relive my adolescence
If I were granted a special licence
To learn Welsh and love you. Great shame
I cannot speak or sing
This language of my late awakening
Nor ask your pardon, Beloved, nor bring
You my bride into the feasting house
Of first desire, dazed by your wedding dress.

2

Tell me, then, what is my sense of abiding.
Ah, love, are we to labour over these
Mechanic etymologies
Who encountered blank forbidding
Before we gave much thought
To language — touching was vivid sight,
Our fingers talked, we were illiterate.
Abide does not hit home as does inure:
I who have swum in love-words shore to shore!

3

With the miscredence of the desperate
I would blow hot on any fancy and forge
From which the myths emerge
Though keeping separate
Your myth and my version;
I owe you that much from our misprision.
Supra and infra chain us to this session:
Guilt in its medieval court desires
To judge by pain, hands grappled to the fires.

4

I yet hear an unsecured door thudding
Elsewhere in the recesses of my head,
Horseboxes for horses now dead.
What brings this bride to her wedding;
Why does she affront me
With steady reproach like Charlotte Brontë
Smiting hubris for gain at ten-and-twenty;
Bidding curt rule dash curvetting emotions,
Causing blindness to betoken impotence?

5

Things do not suit too well with allegory.
I do not feel emblematic or moral.
Pick up the cell-phone and quarrel.
Let us donate this old story
To the geriatric
Programme of the Poor Sisters of St Patrick.
If I can cap this it will be a hat trick.
I do not think that you have Alzheimer’s.
I could still cut capers with naked screamers.

6

Maes-y-mochin calls us on our hiraeth,
Held by joint patent, of which I largely speak;
So that passion at length grows weak
And strong memory wearieth,
Never draining the pond
Of blood and bile from which gulped cries ascend.
A Nemcon of bright stupor seals the land
Of which our love was and is part-arrear.
I shall have us — vanishing — strike the air!

7

Fantastic logic found unreason here —
Russell’s North Wales, Betws, Portmeirion.
Who now would thrust inquiry on 
Beyond necessity of desire?
I would be named: so pledge
Me, language you old reprobate, my rage
Your own eccentric loves drawn from the edge;
Transfigure my proclaimed ineptitude: 
Twice-born that virgin bridegroom and his bride. 

from ODI BARBARE: I, II, XXIX, XLVII, XLVIII

I

If the soul so glares at annihilation
Name despair one deviant path of wisdom
Music steel-rimmed spectacles make as objects
Claiming a victim

Not moronic but a fell world of equals
Things to fall for deep in our study sessions
Ready metered set to a mark perfection
Staggers away from

Anarchs’ paradiso the infrastructure
Luck permitting love and its grave verdictives
Some have gone purblind and athwart our sensors
Broken not brain dead

Ewig endurances for good and all done
Labour our survival and their reviving
Nonsense too deep meaning a derogation
Torch not untimely

Measure loss re-cadencing Sidney’s sapphics
Not as words fall but as they rise to meaning
Laurels withheld fractured the noble column
Alien torsos

That much of writ · Angular backlit miners’
Profiles · Build up roofing and side supports · Quote
Axioms · Blast access to unsuspected
Caverns of fluorspar 

II

Like Carducci meant: barely more than rustic
Not urbane not welcomed the Aula Regis
Rhetoric — uptight the morose consensus
Freely enhanced · I

Hate barbarians taking a stab at meaning
Freaks elision · Tell those who move the circle
Words that have clear biznis before the threshold
Need not profane us

Sacrificial oxen the gift of Virgil
Ruminating white sacrificial oxen
Heaving lyre-pronged heads from hoof-podged Clitumnus
Suffer their garlands

Rumpus uncouth anacolutha bullish
Metamorphs treading out a line the luckless
Fetishizing blood of the lucky victims
Rote ruination

Rimini marred Pisa the slew of armies
Apennine muscular brusque torrents voiding
Panzers Anzacs out of the rocky slurry
Mud-wrestled corpses

Virgil loves bees reads by the way as Plato
In the Symposium on immortal being
What price this verdict to regrouping nature’s
Plenary sessions

XXIX

Plug in energeia to guarded language
There remains folly if you take my meaning
Do you right now face of tribunal charged with
Strict contrapunctus

Senex Pound’s here-valent refusals no more
Vanities than Plato’s tendentious troping
Soul’s perusal eyes of discernment long since
Hazy in focus

So much here well turned as to meaning act now
Truths uncomely witness in things most proper
There are few that lucky if you should count them
Sign the occasion

Briefed at hazard scramble the brittle crystal
Bough from saltmine Stendhal has made so much of
Titan arum rotten Sumatran splendour
Passion of substance

Silicon meltdowns freeze communication
Rabelais forecast in his mute phonetics
Find poetics’ entrails exposed as at the
Pompidou Centre

Reinstatement held to recuse this statement
Ignorance madness being springs of action
Cannot you hear yourself as I can saying
Yes I would burn books

XLVII

Since by death came sexual death’s erection
Let the hung-up accolade just suffice it
Do not now play too much for love the four-horned
Lyre of betrayal

Granted fictions mark we can talk the truth out
Metaphor’s late wardrobe malfunction | granted
We admire its lustrous celebrity hair
Given the treatment

When affinities are released to strangeness
I am not with you in this burthened fable
Is it so well proven we fell together
Ex pupillari:

Neither begging time off for erudition
Doubting even where we should look for help | not
Mystical Strindberg not Kokoschka with The
Nature of Visions —

Whose interstice is it admits the fine point
Try that staunch wound-dresser the wound itself try
Mastering judgement when the highest prizes
Fall to hysterics:

Poppies plough-torn blaze into grand remonstrance
That is nature reigning obliviously
Though not insentient and in place of labour —
Ours — for survival

XLVIII

But imagine shall I the mirror broken
Treading slivers — pray not to be a sophist —
Nor would you find dramatization fitting
Such a persona

So to be whipped up out of wax and stylus –
Pardon affectation — the apparitions —
Paper lanterns paper extinguishers where
Flame is observance —

Made by folly’s competency imperilled
Conjured shards dancing on the leather desktop:
Orpen’s self portrait in the French hotel room
Quizzing his helmet —

He was no combatant — the brandy bottle
Concentrated uppish within reflection
Peril implicate but not here intrusive
There will be shadows:

Granted they hold firm to eluding virtue
Codifications volunteer perspectives
Mathematics’ figures predestinated
Infinite regress

Something sprung here that you may yet recoil from —
Stick with hazardous enigmatic fractured —
Metaphysics’ laboured accommodation
Unrecommended