Monday, 27 July 2020

Where The Mountains Sing Through The Screams Of Seagulls

I'm not a man who enjoys poetry
But at times, the beauty of a phrase whether spoken or written can grab me around the neck and almost throttle me with its beauty or power.

A verse in that fake Eurovision ballad Husavik - My home town captured my imagination just the other day
" Where the mountains sing through the screams of seagulls "
Isn't that a fantastic description of an Iceland we all have in our imaginations?

When I was a child I loved a tiny poem Little Fish by D H Lawrence for exactly the same

           " The tiny fish enjoy themselves
              In the sea
              Quick little splinters of life,
              their little lives are fun to them
              in the sea"

" Quick little Splinters of  life"
A beautiful description again, economical and bang on the money

I borrowed a book from the hospice last week and found myself reading it last night.
It was a collection of " Best Loved Poems" illustrated by Isabelle Brent
I was unexpectedly melancholic, a moment's revisiting of old wounds and the feelings around them, and the book provided me with the escape that I needed

This poem by Emily Dickinson lingers in the mind

      " A word is dead
                     When it is said,
              Some say.
         I say it just
         Begins to live
              That day"


  1. You can always count on Emily Dickens to notice, and to make a small moment in life joyous.

    1. Deep state dems are planning a takeover of America to overthrow the government for a new world order
      Do this today ,.,.,.,,, ,Look at this video ASAP!!!

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I used to love the poems of Spike Milligan, some brilliant little snippets of wisdom and silliness.

    Spring is sprung
    The grass is riz
    I wonder where dem birdies is

    ... I forget the second verse!!

    Or another example -

    I must go down to the sea again,
    to the lonely sea and the sky;
    I left my shoes and socks there -
    I wonder if they're dry

    Or I could quote Shakespeare ... but not today ;-)

    1. Here's the second verse to your "Spring is riz..." poem.

      There they are, in the sky,
      Dropping whitewash in your eye."

      Well, that's one version, anyway.

    2. Spike ......he was a patient in the private psychiatric hospital The Retreat in York when I was a psychiatric nurse in the city

  3. I've got that one too John-and also"In the house of happiness"-I bought it from Isabelle Brent herself-I think about 20 years ago in Dorset-she was a lovely young woman and seemed thrilled that I bought her book and she asked if I'd like her to sign it-she had a stall in a local market there x

  4. "The peace of wild things" Wendell Berry

    When despair for the world grows in me
    and I wake in the night at the least sound
    in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
    I go and lie down where the wood drake
    rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
    I come into the peace of wild things
    who do not tax their lives with forethought
    of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
    And I feel above me the day-blind stars
    waiting with their light. For a time
    I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

    1. Barbara Anne4:47 pm

      Wendell Berry is a favorite writer of mine. What wonder word pictures!


  5. i don't mind eels
    except as meals
    an the way they feels

    ogden nash

    1. Algie saw the bear
      The bear saw Algie
      The bear was bulgie
      The bulge was algie

    2. Love Ogden Nash.

  6. John Betjeman could always be relied on for poems replete with graphic images which embed themselves permanently in one's mind. 'The Cottage Hospital', not a long poem, is a well-favoured, quite well-known exemplar of this.

    1. Thank you Raymondo
      The Cottage Hospital by John Betjeman
      At the end of a long-walled garden in a red provincial town,
      A brick path led to a mulberry- scanty grass at its feet.
      I lay under blackening branches where the mulberry leaves hung down
      Sheltering ruby fruit globes from a Sunday-tea-time heat.
      Apple and plum espaliers basked upon bricks of brown;
      The air was swimming with insects, and children played in the street.

      Out of this bright intentness into the mulberry shade
      Musca domestica (housefly) swung from the August light
      Slap into slithery rigging by the waiting spider made
      Which spun the lithe elastic till the fly was shrouded tight.
      Down came the hairy talons and horrible poison blade
      And none of the garden noticed that fizzing, hopeless fight.

      Say in what Cottage Hospital whose pale green walls resound
      With the tap upon polished parquet of inflexible nurses' feet
      Shall I myself by lying when they range the screens around?
      And say shall I groan in dying, as I twist the sweaty sheet?
      Or gasp for breath uncrying, as I feel my senses drown'd
      While the air is swimming with insects and children play in the street?

    2. Thanks for taking the trouble to show the poem here, JayGee. Could have done it myself, of course, but felt that those who were sufficiently curious would have looked it up anyway.
      I thought the subject matter was one you would readily identify with in your work, though thought you may well prefer not have been reminded if it. Very downbeat and direct, it goes without saying, though it touches on a subject few like to put in words - and J.B. does it ever so well.

  7. I'm not a poetry lover either but this is one I do like by e.e. cummings:

    who are you,little i
    (five or six years old)
    peering from some high
    window;at the gold
    of november sunset
    (and feeling:that if day
    has to become night
    this is a beautiful way)

    1. It's not showy but pure description

  8. Anonymous3:45 pm

    Hi John,

    I love poetry and two of my favourites are below.

    The way through the woods. Rudyard Kipling
    THEY shut the road through the woods
    Seventy years ago.
    Weather and rain have undone it again,
    And now you would never know
    There was once a road through the woods
    Before they planted the trees.
    It is underneath the coppice and heath,
    And the thin anemones.
    Only the keeper sees
    That, where the ring-dove broods,
    And the badgers roll at ease,
    There was once a road through the woods.
    Yet, if you enter the woods
    Of a summer evening late,
    When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
    Where the otter whistles his mate,
    (They fear not men in the woods,
    Because they see so few.)
    You will hear the beat of a horse's feet,
    And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
    Steadily cantering through
    The misty solitudes,
    As though they perfectly knew
    The old lost road through the woods.
    But there is no road through the woods.

    I think it's fabulously descriptive and I also love

    The Listeners
    ‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
    Knocking on the moonlit door;
    And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
    Of the forest’s ferny floor:
    And a bird flew up out of the turret,
    Above the Traveller’s head:
    And he smote upon the door again a second time;
    ‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
    But no one descended to the Traveller;
    No head from the leaf-fringed sill
    Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
    Where he stood perplexed and still.
    But only a host of phantom listeners
    That dwelt in the lone house then
    Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
    To that voice from the world of men:
    Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
    That goes down to the empty hall,
    Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
    By the lonely Traveller’s call.
    And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
    Their stillness answering his cry,
    While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
    ’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
    For he suddenly smote on the door, even
    Louder, and lifted his head:—
    ‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
    That I kept my word,’ he said.
    Never the least stir made the listeners,
    Though every word he spake
    Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
    From the one man left awake:
    Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
    And the sound of iron on stone,
    And how the silence surged softly backward,
    When the plunging hoofs were gone.

    Kim xxxxx

    1. Kipling's Power of the dog
      Is my all time favourite

    2. Anonymous8:51 am

      One of mine too. I just can't bring myself to have another one as the loss really does "tear" the heart apart.


  9. Hard to go wrong with an Emily Dickinson poem. Lucky enough to have had a semester-long class at university studying only her work. The professor was/is a leading authority on ED and her course was one of the best I've ever taken.

    1. I've been reading six poems every morning for over 50 years - well, maybe 95% of mornings - but it seems at least to me, that a high proportion of Emily Dickinson's poetry which I've encountered seems to concern, or reference, the wind, which seems curious, even though there's nothing particularly 'wrong' if that is so. I don't know if that's a fair observation of her work overall, and I'm ready to be enlightened.

    2. You are a cultured soul Raymondo,
      You impress me

    3. When I used to place contact ads [quite a number over the years] I used to describe myself as a 'culture-vulture', which I think put off at least as many as those who wanted to investigate. Some might have preferred the word 'boring'.

  10. I'd never heard that D.H. Lawrence poem, but that is a fabulous line, "quick little splinters of life." I've always liked "Eel Grass" by Edna St. Vincent Millay:

    No matter what I say
    All that I really love
    Is the rain that flattens on the bay
    And the eel-grass in the cove;
    The jingle shells that lie and bleach
    At the tide-line, and the trace
    Of higher tides along the beach:
    Nothing in this place.

    1. All it takes is one word written right that captures the attention

  11. I am a great poetry lover John - can't even begin to say what my favourite is. But your Emily Dickinson poem does make me think of an expression one of my dearest friends is fond of quoting( he is gay)- 'Three things never return - the spent arrow, the lost opportunity and the spoken word.'

    1. Less a poem more a necessary saying

  12. Love teh ED poem, shes been a favorite of mine for decades.... here's one of my top 10..

    The Bustle in a House
    The Morning after Death
    Is solemnest of industries
    Enacted opon Earth –

    The Sweeping up the Heart
    And putting Love away
    We shall not want to use again
    Until Eternity –

  13. Words really do live, and never die. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could erase them from our minds.

  14. Barbara Anne4:55 pm

    I've so enjoyed reading these many lovely poems! Thanks to all!

    Here is mine:
    Reluctant Prophet by Luci Shaw

    Both were dwellers
    in deep places (one
    in the dark bowels
    of ships and great fish
    and wounded pride.
    The other
    in the silvery belly
    of the seas). Both
    heard God saying
    " Go! "
    but the whale
    did as he was told.


  15. "Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing”
    ~ Camille Pissarro
    It says it all.... love Ro xx

  16. Anonymous6:08 pm

    Hi John, my favourite my late husband gave to me a few years after we met.
    You and i,
    We met as strangers each carrying a mystery within us
    I cannot say who you are
    I may never know you completely
    But I trust that you are a person in your own right possessed of a beauty and value that are the earth richest treasures.
    So, I make this promise to you.

    I will endeavour to impose no identities upon you, but will invite you to become yourself without shame or fear.
    I will hold open a space for you in the world and allow your right to fill it with an authentic vocation and purpose.
    For as long as your search takes , you have my loyalty.

    He was a lovely man.
    Love Jayne

    1. Aww Jayne, that is so lovely it makes me very teary.

      Jo in Auckland

    2. Something I would have spoken at my wedding x

  17. I too am not one to pick up a book of poems.
    Yet, I collect, copy down, phrases from
    prose or something poetic
    that sings to me in the moment.
    Here is one of my favorites

    He puts his cheek against mine
    and makes small, expressive sounds.
    And when I’m awake, or awake enough

    he turns upside down, his four paws
    in the air
    and his eyes dark and fervent.

    “Tell me you love me,” he says.

    “Tell me again.”

    Could there be a sweeter arrangement?
    Over and over
    he gets to ask.
    I get to tell.

    “Little Dog’s Rhapsody in the Night” by Mary Oliver from Dog Songs

  18. Anonymous6:36 pm

    I too adore poetry, old, new, modern and traditional.
    My favourite from childhood is anything by Hillare Belloc, especially Matilda.
    Traditional is a joint fav being The Lady of Shallot and Under Milkwood.
    Modern is anything by Benjamin Zephania and he is a bit of alright as well!
    Tess xx

  19. Anonymous6:38 pm

    Get his name right if you like him so much, it is Benjamin Zephaniah!
    T x

    1. Snarky, Tsk.

      Jo in Auckland

    2. Anonymous9:07 pm

      That was me correcting myself! Tess

  20. I can't pick a favourite of mine, but I'll add yours to the list - well chosen!

  21. I'm like you. I don't have a great love/appreciation of poetry in general, but sometimes a poet's lines will just hit me so perfectly.

    1. Yes, certain lines pierce your heart x

  22. I love poetry and that looks like a lovely collection of poets. Thank you John for your helpful comments on my blog while Tom was in the hospital. Just knowing there are people that care makes a huge difference!

  23. My fifth and sixth grade English teacher had each of us keep a poetry notebook. Every month she would print a poem on the board and we had to copy it down in our notebooks, using our best penmanship (mine never was very good--I'm left-handed).

    We were to memorize the poem, and sometime during the month, when we were ready, we would stand at her desk, give her our notebooks (which she would grade for our penmanship) and recite the poem to her. We didn't have to do it in front of the whole class, just her. I still have those notebooks, and I can still recite many of the poems from memory, such as "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost. Those poetry notebooks began my love of poetry.

  24. Jon are you familiar with the essays and poems by Mary Oliver? I really enjoy some of her work.

    1. Not at all...send me one you like

    2. Teach the children. We don't matter so much,but the children do. Show them daisies and the pale hepatica. Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen. The lives of the blue sailors,mallow,sunbursts,the moccasin flowers. And the frisky ones-inkberry,lamb's quarters,blueberries. And the aromatic ones-rosemary,oregano. Give them peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school. Give them the fields and the woods and possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit. Stand them in the stream,head the upstream,rejoice as they learn to love this green space they live in,its sticks and leaves and then the silent,beautiful blossoms. Attention is the beginning of devotion. Mary Oliver.

  25. Ah, Emily, one of America's greatest poets.

  26. Whose woods these are I think I know.
    His house is in the village though;
    He will not see me stopping here
    To watch his woods fill up with snow.

    My little horse must think it queer
    To stop without a farmhouse near
    Between the woods and frozen lake
    The darkest evening of the year.

    He gives his harness bells a shake
    To ask if there is some mistake.
    The only other sound’s the sweep
    Of easy wind and downy flake.

    The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep.

    By Robert Frost. My mum quoted that to one of her grandchildren shortly before she died and he read it at her funeral. I do love poetry.

    1. This is one of my favorites and especially so because it actually rhymes.

  27. I actually do like poetry when it is filled with symbolism that is not lost on my little pea brain. I frequently say this to my students on the last day of school, words by e e cummings.
    "To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing it's best, night and day, to make you everybody else...means to fight the hardest battle that any human being can fight; and never stop fighting...

  28. Sit by me ,so that I know the depths of hurt and pain.
    Can stroke your head and sooth with touch.
    Can hum a tune to calm your fears.
    Read you a line to convey understanding.
    Take you in my arms to soothe the worry.
    A wonderful memory we will make.

  29. Anonymous1:23 am

    You baby boomers destroyed your own children's future, and then laughed about it and blamed it on them. Do you realize that you are going to end up in a retirement home where you are going to get treated like total trash, and abused? Your children won't be able to help you, even if they wanted to. Karma's a bitch, you boomer scum.

  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

  31. Wild Geese | Mary Oliver
    You do not have to be good.
    You do not have to walk on your knees
    for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
    You only have to let the soft animal of your body
    love what it loves.
    Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
    Meanwhile the world goes on.
    Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
    are moving across the landscapes,
    over the prairies and the deep trees,
    the mountains and the rivers.
    Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
    are heading home again.
    Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
    the world offers itself to your imagination,
    calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
    over and over announcing your place
    in the family of things

  32. I can stop one heart from breaking
    Emily Dickinson

    If I can stop one heart from breaking,
    I shall not live in vain;
    If I can ease one life the aching,
    Or cool one pain,
    Or help one fainting robin
    Unto his nest again,
    I shall not live in vain.

    Fainting robins..... Is there a thing more heartbreaking, heartopening, hearsoftening?

  33. There should be an If at the beginning of the title

  34. Hours fly
    Flowers die
    New Days
    New ways
    Pass by
    Love stays

  35. I am not particularly fond of poetry but for some reason this one makes me want to cry at the end of it!!

    “Where are the snowdrops?” said the sun.
    “Dead” said the frost, “Buried and lost, every one.”
    “A foolish answer,” said the sun
    “They did not die, asleep they lie, every one.
    And I will awake them, I the sun,
    Into the light, all clad in white, every one.”
    “It’s rather dark in the earth today”
    said one little bulb to its brother.
    “But I thought that I felt a sunbeam’s ray.
    We must strive and grow ’til we find our way”
    and they nestled close to each other.
    They struggled and strived by day and by night,
    ’til two little snowdrops in green and white
    rose out of the darkness and into the light;
    and softly kissed one another.
    By Annie Mattheson born March 1853 died 1924

  36. PS...I like this one too,

    Who's that tickling my back
    said the wall,
    It's me said the caterpillar,
    I'm learning to crawl.

    Spike Milligan.

  37. On a lighter note: I came across this years ago, and do declare Millay was peeking into my garden!
    "Portrait by a Neighbour"

    BEFORE she has her floor swept
    Or her dishes done,
    Any day you'll find her
    A-sunning in the sun!
    It's long after midnight,
    Her key's in the lock,
    And you'll never see her chimney smoke
    Till past ten o'clock!
    She digs in her garden
    With a shovel and a spoon,
    She weeds her lazy lettuce
    By the light of the moon,
    She walks up the walk
    like a woman in a dream,
    She forgets she borrowed butter
    And pays you back cream!
    Her lawn looks like a meadow,
    And if she mows the place
    She leaves the clover standing
    And the Queen Anne's Lace!

    (Edna St. Vincent Millay)

  38. What a lovely post I have enjoyed reading all the poems, I must admit that I like W H Auden Funeral Blues it's sad although in this case the person died but it could also be about love lost. I also like The Raven by Edgar Alan Po, and for all the dog lovers I like Beau by Jimmy Stewart.


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