Archive for December, 2008

December part three

More piecemeal updates – late, of course (it’s that time of the year).

A.E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad (Dover Thrift Editions, 1990, following the authorised 1924 edition)
U.A. Fanthorpe, Christmas Poems (Enitharmon/Peterloo 2002)

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forty-seven: Elizabeth Bishop, North & South

Apologies for the late post, and for the fact that, as I’ve left my copy of the Complete Poems behind in London (I’m now ‘home’ for the holidays), there won’t be much substance.

Reading Elizabeth Bishop was a slightly odd experience; she felt very American, and very different to the much more contemporary writing I’ve been reading recently. I think I wanted to like her quite a lot more than I did; maybe when I return to the Complete Poems and read the rest of her writing I’ll find it more engaging, or maybe some background reading would help. Sadly without my copy here I can’t remember any of my favourites, but I seem to recall they featured sleeping on the ceiling…

North & South, Elizabeth Bishop (1946; Complete Poems Chatto & Windus, 2004)

December part two

Who knows why I’m resisting getting all the rest of my December reading lined up, but I am. Maybe it’s nice to break the rules after almost a year of doing things the same way each month? Anyway this week’s collection is Elizabeth Bishop’s first collection North & South, originally published in 1946. My edition is the very handsome Complete Poems, published by Chatto & Windus. I’ve been wanting to read Elizabeth Bishop for a while now, and I’m loving it so far. But that’s for the end of the week, when I’ve finished.

forty-six: Maura Dooley, Life Under Water

Maura Dooley‘s latest collection Life Under Water has been shortlisted for the 2008 T.S. Eliot prize, which is in part why I picked it up; I was a bit uninspired trying to select my last month’s worth of poetry collections, so I thought reading a few of the shortlist was as good a way as any for making my final selection (although I still haven’t got all of December’s reading lined up).

I hadn’t read any of Dooley’s work (I don’t think) before this, and I enjoyed it. The collection has a broad horizon, with pieces mapping recent elections, lost rivers in London, the English Civil War, family life, the heart… Somehow though I look back over last week’s reading (yes, I’m late, I’m sorry) and there’s nothing particularly that grabs me or a sense of the collection as a whole that I feel I can write about. Last week was a rather depressing one, it has to be said, so maybe it’s that; or maybe it’s the weather, and getting to the end of the year. Sorry, Ms Dooley. I think it’s my fault, not yours.

Favourites were ‘Valentine’, ‘What You Will’, ‘Midsummer Lullaby’, ‘Lettered’, the shocking brilliance of ‘The Old Masters’, ‘Remark’, ‘A Tune for Dave Smith’ and this, ‘Moth Trap’, which grows on me more each time I read it: –

We looked to learn,
lit the lamp, waited
till something like a bloom
could be gathered,
its freedom tethered
by a shaft of light,

the way this lovely girl,
observing her own shadow,
holds up twelve years of life,
complicated filigree,
a thread leading home,
a rope to be cast off.

Life Under Water, Maura Dooley (Bloodaxe Books, 2008)