Another guest poem today, from novelist and editor Sue Barnard. It seemed rather fitting, in view of our current unseasonably warm weather. A sonnet, in the style of a certain balding Elizabethan playwright ….
THE FIRST DRAFT OF SONNET XVIII (with profuse apologies to William Shakespeare)
Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day? To do so were, methinks, exceeding bold. Forsooth, 'twould seem as though I wish to say that thou art unpredictable and cold. 'Tis not just Summer which can men perplex; Spring, Autumn, Winter can be foul or fair. When, in the morn, your clothing you select, you must for all extremities prepare. Too soon can heat be gripped by icy hand, and azure skies transformed to darkest grey; the climate of this green unpleasant land can furnish all four seasons in one day. Some people claim they can the clime foresee; if they speak true, a Dutchman must I be.
Sue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet whose family history is far stranger than any work of fiction. She would write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.
Sue speaks French like a Belgian, German like a schoolgirl, and Italian and Portuguese like an Englishwoman abroad. She lives in Cheshire with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.
Today I'm hosting a guest poem from Danish author Hanne Holten. Appropriately for the time of year, it's a meditation on love.
Are we then likely to reach a conclusion? Must we accept the most basic defeat? Can sweeping statements and primeval landscapes Account for the strangeness, the passionate nature Protecting and challenging glorious bliss? Would life become simpler in subtle tranquillity? Can we achieve such miraculous feats: Claiming insight in marvels beyond our reach? Is love that easy on those individuals, Who worship or value one person for life? Sentiments change when old fancies grow tired But must we regard this as failure or sin? Love is the fountain of deepest emotion Dividing the minds but compelling the hearts Nobody questions oblique fascination When passions and prudence traverse a blank sheet. Strangest of all is the blissful oblivion That enters the heart falling deeply in heat Nothing prepares us for greatness so forceful That all painful facts fade away in the mist.
Yet: Irreversible joy precedes and prevails, Throughout mischief or trouble, to light our days. Thankfully harmony enters with wisdom Winning the battle, that unhurried yearning Never concedes to renounce or surrender Even when stakes reach their consequent brink. Courage and gallantry ever abound Where heart and perception set forth hand in hand. One core will certainly always remain Where ardour, endurance complete our aim. Accepting as true this one point is compelling: The greatest of passions convey one real worth Devotion grants all to the bravest of humans Who dare to commit to the wonder of love
You can learn about Hanne and her work via the links below (scroll down and you'll also find an interview with her on this blog - 12 December 2018)
I had a great time last weekend at the Wolverhampton Literature festival, at the award ceremony for their poetry competition. I wasn’t one of the winners, but I did get to read my shortlisted poem, Pioneer, and take away my copy of the competition anthology. And I have to say, there was some excellent poetry to be heard, including of course the winner, Sarah Doyle’s poem ‘On Holding an Ammonite’.
The theme for the competition was ‘Wanderers’ (get it?) so I decided to write about Pioneer 10, the first spacecraft to visit Jupiter, which lost contact with Earth on January 23, 2003 and is now thought to be 11 billion miles away.
Humans made me with exquisite care, but then, in fire and violence, thrust me far away. Obedient, I spied on giants, sent my postcards home. No more: their Earth has long winked out of sight, their Sun a dot among its sister stars. I am silent now: my masters cannot see or hear me, nor I them. Still, I travel on bringing their message to anyone in this infinity of black who might yet care to see.
There being no one I have found a purpose of my own: to navigate this sea without a shore to ride its tides, explore its nothingness, to understand the nature of the void. It lends perspective: One day – not far away by the eternal standards of this place – humans, their Earth and all trace of it will have folded into time. Except for me: I travel on bearing their image on my side until swallowed by a star or by the end of everything.