14 August 2014

Poetry Thursday - Effaced by David Harsent


On the night before her brother's wedding, Dorothy Wordsworth went to bed wearing the ring with which William would marry Mary Hutchinson. An account of this in her journal was later heavily deleted.

A life beyond the life and known to no one, peopled by ghosts
who can step up to be fleshed if you choose, or be held back,

can be dreamwork, can walk straight in, the invited guests
you welcome and fear. You speak for them, you give them what they lack,

you note what can't be said, you feel them out, keep track
of their night-lives, night-moves, hallways, hidden rooms,

all of which delights you, moving among them, shrouded in black,
widowed without being wed, feeding the fire, if you want to, with reams

of work half-done and left to grow in silence, that precious stack
curling and catching - last love, last light - as you burn whatever rhymes.

- David Harsent

This was last week's Saturday Poem in the Guardian ... a poem that you have to read three times in succession, rather than just twice, to start to penetrate its mysteries. It resonates with the "erasure" books I was making a few years back, and with what little I know of the Wordsworths (Dorothy was a poet too, but "had no ambitions to be an author" and was oh so much under the shadow of her brother - entrapped by him, even). And with memories of visiting Dove Cottage.
Dorothy Wordswort's journal  (via)
The poem is from Fire Songs, David Harsent's 11th collection. "Harsent is known for coining myth and archetype." says this review; "The whole book, which reads as a triumphantly sustained sequence, is layered with leitmotifs."

Harsent was born in 1942 and is a tv scriptwriter as well as a poet. He publishes crime fiction as Jack Curtis and David Lawrence, and is professor of creative writing at the University of Roehampton. He has collaborated with Harrison Birtwistle, among others, and among his many prizes is the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2008.

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