17 April 2014

Poetry Thursday - Rising Five by Norman Nicholson

"We never see the flower / but only the fruit in the flower"
(watercolour by Katrina Small, via)

Rising Five 

I’m rising five” he said
“Not four” and the little coils of hair
Un-clicked themselves upon his head.
His spectacles, brimful of eyes to stare
At me and the meadow, reflected cones of light
Above his toffee-buckled cheeks. He’d been alive
Fifty-six months or perhaps a week more;
_____________Not four
But rising five.

Around him in the field, the cells of spring
Bubbled and doubled; buds unbuttoned; shoot
And stem shook out the creases from their frills,
And every tree was swilled with green.
It was the season after blossoming,
Before the forming of the fruit:
_____Not May
But rising June._____

And in the sky
The dust dissected the tangential light:
_____Not day
But rising night;
_____Not now
But rising soon.

The new buds push the old leaves from the bough.
We drop our youth behind us like a boy
Throwing away his toffee-wrappers. We never see the flower,
But only the fruit in the flower; never the fruit,
But only the rot in the fruit. We look for the marriage bed
In the baby’s cradle; we look for the grave in the bed;
_____Not living
But rising dead.

Norman Nicholson (from Complete Verse, Jonathan Cape, 1999)


This poem came my way via the BBC iPlayer, perhaps on "Something Understood" but more likely on "Words and Music" - both are eclectic and always interesting programmes. In an engaging, vivid way, it reminds us to pay attention to today, rather than always hurrying ahead to tomorrow.

Norman Nicholson (1914-1987) is known for his association with a town on the edge of the Lake District, Millom - and for four books of poems, two novels, four verse plays, criticism and an autobiography, Wednesday Early Closing (1975). His work is characterised by the simplicity and directness of his language, and deals with "ordinary" things, whether the industries in his area, religion and faith, or quotations from everyday life. He worked outside the poetry mainstream, and is also known for his social awareness as a champion of the working class.

2 comments:

david b said...

Hope it's not nitpicking too much, but Norman Nicholson I think should be credited too with some of the finest topographical prose on the Lake District and Cumbria which has ever been written - eg 'Greater Lakeland' as well as countless journalistic articles, book reviews and radio and tv broadcasts. He saw himself primarily as a poet, although the other work provided the bulk of his remuneration. He would have made a very suitable Poet Laureate, save for his utter predilection for Millom.

Tessa kate lowe said...

Thank you for this. I think he and it, are wonderful