It’s National Poetry Day and the theme is Vision. Our monthly poetry class that met at Eden Court before lockdown have selected four very different poems for you to enjoy that bring the theme 'vision' to life.
Leaving Early - Leanne O’Sullivan
tonight Fionnuala is your nurse.
You’ll hear her voice sing-song around the ward
lifting a wing at the shore of your darkness.
I heard that, in another life, she too journeyed
through a storm, a kind of curse, with the ocean
rising darkly around her, fierce with cold,
and no resting place, only the frozen
rocks that tore her feet, the light on her shoulders.
And no cure there but to wait it out.
If, while I’m gone, your fever comes down —
if the small, salt-laden shapes of her song
appear to you as a first glimmer of earth-light,
follow the sweet, hopeful voice of that landing.
She will keep you safe beneath her wing.
This poem contains beautiful imagery and ends with a vision of hope in the face of darkness. In Irish mythology Fionnuala was changed into a swan to wander the lakes and rivers of Ireland until the curse was lifted 900 years later.
The Aunties - Lynn Valentine
They had the gift. Hidden about them
like a penny at the bottom of a pocket.
But theirs was a silver coin. On high days
they flattened your hand, palm up and
snap, out of their mouths flowed planets
and stars, life’s stink and honey, babies
being born, relationships stalling, illnesses
yet to come. Never a date of death,
only a hint of feather, of crow. I laughed
as a child, thought them witches, hoodwinkers.
Now the crow cracks the glass, the moon turns her head,
the evening thickens with visions from aunts long-dead.
In this poem, by local poet Lynn Valentine, there is curiosity coupled with apprehension of what the future may have in store.
With thanks to Lynn Valentine and the Scottish Poetry Library for giving us permission to publish the poem.
The Ophthalmologist - Hilary Davies
We are in a very dark room.
He has the air of one not gone above
For years; his whisper shows
He is completely in command down here.
So I commend myself into his gentle fingers
That play around my head more intimately
Than most men’s should do, the trembling
At my ear, the pressure on my temples,
Making me turn profile from side to side,
The touch testing my neck.
He has more categories of sight, ranged
In little boxes, a long, a short, an astigmatism
In a prism of glass. His machinery
Flickers an instant before me, lenses
You’d love to turn in your hand
Like ovals of limestone, waxy as opal.
All the kingdoms he shows me of letters
From their different angles: bold,
Crabbed, melancholic. I peer through
The thicknesses, pitting myself guiltily
Against deft fingers, the deferential mask.
Half an hour’s enough to pinpoint all my weaknesses;
How to correct blur, squint, failure to see things
As they really are. I’ve grown to like
The shadowiness with which we work,
How outlines turn to sculpture, the world
Dividing into lamplight and the dark.
When he throws wide the door, I cannot rise
Towards the greening surface;
Under the desks and curtains the eye-doctor
Offers the lure of many visions,
The honey of his systems underground.
This poem has an ambivalence about it, is the vision it offers one of light or darkness?
A Vision by Simon Armitage
The future was a beautiful place, once.
Remember the full-blown balsa-wood town
on public display in the Civic Hall.
The ring-bound sketches, artists’ impressions,
blueprints of smoked glass and tubular steel,
board-game suburbs, modes of transportation
like fairground rides or executive toys.
Cities like dreams, cantilevered by light.
And people like us at the bottle-bank
next to the cycle-path, or dog-walking
over tended strips of fuzzy-felt grass,
or model drivers, motoring home in
electric cars, or after the late show –
strolling the boulevard. They were the plans,
all underwritten in the neat left-hand
of architects – a true, legible script.
I pulled that future out of the north wind
at the landfill site, stamped with today’s date,
riding the air with other such futures,
all unlived in and now fully extinct.
Although we have plans for our futures, quite often they don’t come to fruition, whether through personal circumstances or major events such as climate change or more recently COVID-19.
'Poetry For Everyone' is a free class that has been running for six years. In normal times we meet on the first Monday of the month and bring two or three poems on the chosen theme. These can be poems members know already or have discovered in poetry books or sourced on the internet. Some come along simply to listen.
We look forward to welcoming new members once classes are able to resume.
This blog was written by Jill Thompson from Poetry For Everyone.