Monday, December 24, 2012

Poetry Monday

I just read Ian McEwan's latest novel, Sweet Tooth, which will certainly be one of my favorite books of the year. It's a twisty take on the spy novel, one that is actually far more about literature and love. There's a fair amount of poetry discussion in the novel, including a reference to one of my favorite Kingsley Amis poems, "A Bookstore Idyll". And there is reference to a poem I had never read by Edward Thomas called "Adlestrop."

Here are both poems, well worth reading.

A Bookshop Idyll

Between the GARDENING and the COOKERY
            Comes the brief POETRY shelf;
By the Nonesuch Donne, a thin anthology
            Offers itself.

Critical, and with nothing else to do,
            I scan the contents page,
Relieved to find the names are mostly new;
            No one my age.

Like all strangers, they divide by sex:
            Landscape near Parma
Interests a man, so does The Double Vortex,
            So does Rilke and Buddha.

“I travel, you see”, “I think” and “I can read”
            These titles seem to say;
But I Remember You, Love is my Creed,
            Poem for J.,

The ladies’ choice, discountenance my patter
            For several seconds;
From somewhere in this (as in any) matter
            A moral beckons.

Should poets bicycle-pump the human heart
            Or squash it flat?
Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart;
            Girls aren’t like that.

We men have got love well weighed up; our stuff
            Can get by without it.
Women don’t seem to think that’s good enough;
            They write about it,

And the awful way their poems lay them open
            Just doesn’t strike them.
Women are really much nicer than men:
            No wonder we like them.

Deciding this, we can forget those times
            We sat up half the night
Chockfull of love, crammed with bright thoughts, names, rhymes,
            And couldn’t write.


Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

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