Sunday, 19 June 2011

‘One is inside’ by R. D. Laing

One is inside
then outside what one has been inside
One feels empty
because there is nothing inside oneself
One tries to get inside oneself
        that inside of the outside
        that one was once inside
        once one tries to get oneself inside what
        one is outside:
        to eat and be eaten
to have the outside inside and to be
        inside the outside

But this is not enough. One is trying to get
the inside of what one is outside inside, and to
get inside the outside. But one does not get
inside the outside by getting the outside inside
although one is full inside of the inside of the outside
one is on the outside of one’s inside
and by getting inside the outside
one remains empty because
while one is on the inside
even the inside of the outside is outside
and inside oneself there is still nothing
There has never been anything else
and there never will be

R. D. Laing, Knots (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1973), 83.

‘I am doing it’ by R. D. Laing

I am doing it
the it I am doing is
the I that is doing it
the I that is doing it is
the it I am doing
it is doing the I that am doing it
I am being done by the it I am doing
it is doing it

One is afraid of
the self that is afraid of
the self that is afraid of
the self that is afraid
One may perhaps speak of reflections

R. D. Laing, Knots (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1973), 84.

‘a finger points to the moon’ by R. D. Laing

a finger points to the moon

Put the expression
        a finger points to the moon, in brackets
        (a finger points to the moon)
The statement:
‘A finger points to the moon is in brackets’
is an attempt to say that all that is in the bracket
        (                                                             )
is, as to that which is not in the bracket,
what a finger is to the moon

Put all possible expressions into brackets
Put all possible forms in brackets
and put the brackets in brackets

Every expression, and every form,
is to what is expressionless and formless
what a finger is to the moon
all expressions and all forms
point to the expressionless and formless

the proposition
        ‘All forms point to the formless’
is itself a formal proposition

        as finger to moon
        so form to formless
        as finger is to moon
                 —                                                               —
                 |  all possible expressions, forms, propositions, |
                 |  including this one, made or yet to be made,    |
                 |  together with the brackets                             |
                 —                                                               —
        are to

What an interesting finger
        let me suck it

It’s not an interesting finger
        take it away

The statement is pointless
The finger is speechless

R. D. Laing, Knots (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1973), 87-90.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Painter by John Ashbery


Sitting between the sea and the buildings
He enjoyed painting the sea's portrait.
But just as children imagine a prayer
Is merely silence, he expected his subject
To rush up the sand, and, seizing a brush,
Plaster its own portrait on the canvas.

So there was never any paint on his canvas
Until the people who lived in the buildings
Put him to work: "Try using the brush
As a means to an end. Select, for a portrait,
Something less angry and large, and more subject,
To a painter's moods, or, perhaps, to a prayer."

How could he explain to them his prayer
That nature, not art, might usurp the canvas?
He chose his wife for a new subject,
Making her vast, like ruined buildings,
As if, forgetting itself, the portrait
Had expressed itself without a brush.

Slightly encouraged, he dipped his brush
In the sea, murmuring a heartfelt prayer:
"My soul, when I paint this next portrait
Let it be you who wrecks the canvas."
The news spread like wildfire through the buildings:
He had gone back to the sea for his subject.

Imagine a painter crucified by his subject!
Too exhausted even to lift his brush,
He provoked some artists leaning from the buildings
To malicious mirth: "We haven't a prayer
Now, of putting ourselves on canvas,
Or getting the sea to sit for a portrait!"

Others declared it a self-portrait.
Finally all indications of a subject
Began to fade, leaving the canvas
Perfectly white. He put down the brush.
At once a howl, that was also a prayer,
Arose from the overcrowded buildings.

They tossed him, the portrait, from the tallest of the buildings;
And the sea devoured the canvas and the brush
As though his subject had decided to remain a prayer.

John Ashbery, The Norton Anthology of Poetry, 5th edition, ed. by Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter, and Jon Stallworthy (New York and London: W.W. Norton and Company, 2005), 1736-7.

The Window by Derek Mahon

io                                                                         oo
n  o                                                                  o  w
d    d                                                               w    i
o   w                                                               o    n
w   o                                                               o    d
i     o                                                               d    o
n    d                                                               w  w
d   w                                                               o     i
o    o                                                               o    n
w   o                                                               d    d
i     d                                                               w   o
n   w                           wind                          o   w
d    o                                                               o     i
o    o                                                               d    n
w   d                                                               w   d
i    w                                                               o    o
n   d                                                                w  w
d  o                                                                   o   i
oo                                                                       on

Derek Mahon, The Norton Anthology of Poetry, 5th edition, ed. by Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter, and Jon Stallworthy (New York and London: W.W. Norton and Company, 2005), 1923.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Girls Playing with Boys by Paul Durcan


My wife-to-be used play in the front garden
In the grass and the gravel with the boys next-door.
A small red-headed girl,
She loved playing with boys;
She loved playing, she loved boys,
And when she put the two together
She got “playing with boys”,
And naturally she thought
That boys would be boys
And playing would be playing,
And since girls were girls
“Girls Playing with Boys”
Would be the most natural game of all –
The number one game in the world.

Girls Playing with Boys

How was my wife-to-be to know
That she was also to be my ex-wife to-be?
Yet, as she played on her own in the front garden
And dreamed about the little boys next-door –
Whatever did they do with those pretty little
Yokemebobs between their bony legs? –
She sensed among the scatter of broken daisy chains
Something else besides the smell of summer grass.

Girls Playing with Boys

So it was she had the courage to make breaks,
And made of our marriage a truly broken marriage.
Only then did she achieve her potential as a human being,
Her incomplete completion as a small red-headed girl –
Only then did I see her for the spirit that she is.
I could not believe it as she walked away from me
As I sat watching on TV a funeral in Moscow,
Slumped in my armchair in disbelief.
I felt sure she would cling to the Church-State lie
Of the happy, wholesome, white teeth marriage:
I did not believe she would have the nerve to break
Although I had always known her to be a courageous woman,
More courageous by far
Than those whom the world deemed brave:
She makes jellyfish guerrillas look frail
And bullylike – in their revulsion to change.

I loved my wife – although I say it myself –
And yet it was not until the day she left me –
Girls Playing with Boys
That I began to see that she was not
First of all a woman and, second of all, a human being:
Her soul stepped out of its furry pelt
(Woman-image patented by archbishops and film directors)
And I saw her, as if for the first time, in the glittering dusk,
Standing alone on the dual carriageway outside Cork City –
Her two children waiting for her in her car –
Lighting up a cigarette, chatting to a motorcycle cop;
A solitary, vulnerable, detached, beautiful human being
Sharing a risky joke with a motorcycle cop;
A girl playing with a boy – playing for playing:
For her there is only the playing – all else is death.

Paul Durcan, The Berlin Wall Cafe (London: The Harvill Press, 1995), 57-8.

Self-Portrait, Nude with Steering Wheel by Paul Durcan


I am forty-five and do not
Know how to drive a car
– And you tell me I am cultured.

Forty-five years creeping and crawling about the earth,
Going up and down the world,
And I do not know the difference between a carburettor and a gasket
– And you tell me I am a Homo sapiens.

Forty-five years sitting in the back seat giving directions
– And you say that I am not an egoist.

Forty-five years sitting in the passenger seat
With my hands folded primly in my lap
– And you think I am liberated.

Forty-five years getting in and out of cars
And I do not know where the dipstick is
– And you tell me that I am a superb lover.

Forty-five years grovelling behind a windscreen
– And you talk of my pride and courage and self-reliance.

Forty-five years of not knowing the meaning of words
Like transmission, clutch, choke, battery, leads
– And you say that I am articulate.

Forty-five years bumming lifts off other people –
And you tell me I am an independent, solitary, romantic spirit.

So it is that you find me tonight
Loitering here outside your front door
Having paid off a taxi in three ten-pound notes,
Nude, with a steering wheel in my hands.

Ruth Padel, 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem: A Poem for Every Week of the Year (London: Vintage, 2004), 219.

Rising Damp by U. A. Fanthorpe


‘A river can sometimes be diverted but is a very hard thing to lose
                                                 Paper to the Auctioneers’ Institute, 1907

At our feet they lie low,
The little fervent underground
Rivers of London.

Effra, Graveney, Falcon, Quaggy,
Wandle, Walbrook, Tyburn, Fleet

Whose names are disfigured,
Frayed, effaced.

These are the Magogs that chewed the clay
To the basin that London nestles in.
These are the currents that chiselled the city,
That washed the clothes and turned the mills,
Where children drank and salmon swam
And wells were holy.

They have gone under.
Boxed, like the magician’s assistant.
Buried alive in earth.
Forgotten, like the dead.

They return spectrally after heavy rain,
Confounding suburban gardens. They infiltrate
Chronic bronchitis statistics. A silken
Slur haunts dwellings by shrouded
Watercourses, and is taken
For the footing of the dead.

Being of our world, they will return
(Westbourne, caged at Sloane Square,
Will jack from his box),
Will deluge cellars, detonate manholes,
Plant effluent on our faces,
Sink the city.

Effra, Graveney, Falcon, Quaggy,
Wandle, Walbrook, Tyburn, Fleet

It is the other rivers that lie
Lower, that touch us only in dreams
That never surface. We feel their tug
As a dowser’s rod bends to the surface below

Phlegethon, Acheron, Lethe, Styx.

Ruth Padel, 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem: A Poem for Every Week of the Year (London: Vintage, 2004), 125-6.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Euclid Alone Has Looked on Beauty Bare by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare.
Let all who prate of Beauty hold their peace,
And lay them prone upon the earth and cease
To ponder on themselves, the while they stare
At nothing, intricately drawn nowhere
In shapes of shifting lineage; let geese
Gabble and hiss, but heroes seek release
From dusty bondage into luminous air.
O blinding hour, O holy, terrible day,
When first the shaft into his vision shone
Of light anatomized! Euclid alone
Has looked on Beauty bare. Fortunate they
Who, though once only and then but far away,
Have heard her massive sandal set on stone.

Edna St. Vincent Millay, The Norton Anthology of Poetry, 5th edition, ed. by Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter, and Jon Stallworthy (New York and London: W.W. Norton and Company, 2005), 1383.

Windsor Forest by Alexander Pope [extract]

Above the rest a rural nymph was famed,
Thy offspring, Thames! the fair Lodona named;
(Lodona's fate, in long oblivion cast,
The Muse shall sing, and what she sings shall last.)
Scarce could the Goddess from her nymph be known,
But by the crescent and the golden zone:
She scorned the praise of beauty, and the care;
A belt her waist, a fillet binds her hair;
A painted quiver on her shoulder sounds,
And with her dart the flying deer she wounds.
It chanced, as eager of the chase the maid
Beyond the forest's verdant limits strayed
Pan saw and loved, and burning with desire
Pursued her flight, her flight increased his fire.
Not half so swift the trembling doves can fly,
When the fierce eagle cleaves the liquid sky;
Not half so swiftly the fierce eagle moves,
When through the clouds he drives the trembling doves;
As from the God she flew with furious pace,
Or as the God, more furious, urged the chase.
Now fainting, sinking, pale, the nymph appears;
Now close behind his sounding steps she hears;
And now his shadow reached her as she run,
(His shadow lengthened by the setting sun)
And now his shorter breath, with sultry air,
Pants on her neck, and fans her parting hair.
In vain on Father Thames she calls for aid,
Nor could Diana help her injured maid.
Faint, breathless, thus she prayed, nor prayed in vain;
‘Ah Cynthia! ah—though banished from thy train,
Let me, O let me, to the shades repair,
My native shades—there weep, and murmur there.’
She said, and melting as in tears she lay,
In a soft, silver stream dissolved away.
The silver stream her virgin coldness keeps,
For ever murmurs, and for ever weeps;
Still bears the name the hapless virgin bore,
And bathes the forest where she ranged before.
In her chaste current oft the Goddess laves,
And with celestial tears augments the waves.
Oft in her glass the musing shepherd spies
The headlong mountains and the downward skies,
The watery landskip of the pendant woods,
And absent trees that tremble in the floods;
In the clear azure gleam the flocks are seen,
And floating forests paint the waves with green.
Through the fair scene roll slow the lingering streams,
Then foaming pour along, and rush into the Thames.

The Cambridge Companion to Alexander Pope, ed. by Pat Rogers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 54-5.

Idiot Child on a Fire-Escape by Mina Loy

Idiot Child on a Fire-Escape

Obedient as a bundle,
parked in your careful shawls,

you will not fall
into the exertions
of the earth under you,

having spilled,
on your way to becoming,
your skill in Being.

Sunlight excessively
illumines your deep eyelids

domed awnings
over the somnolent
reluctance of your sight—

inverted cups
of mortal ivory,
almost emptied.

Mina Loy, The Lost Lunar Baedeker, ed. by Roger L. Conover (Manchester: Carcanet, 1996), 114.

Moreover, the Moon — — — by Mina Loy

Moreover, the Moon — — —

Face of the skies
over our wonder.

truant of heaven
draw us under.

Silver, circular corpse
your decease
infects us with unendurable ease,

touching nerve-terminals
to thermal icicles

Coerce as coma, frail as bloom
innuendoes of your inverse dawn
suffuse the self;
our every corpuscle become an elf.

Mina Loy, The Lost Lunar Baedeker, ed. by Roger L. Conover (Manchester: Carcanet, 1996), 146.

‘There is no Life or Death’ by Mina Loy

There is no Life or Death
Only activity
And in the absolute
Is no declivity.
There is no Love or Lust
Only propensity
Who would possess
Is a nonentity.
There is no First or Last
Only equality
And who would rule
Joins the majority.
There is no Space or Time
Only intensity,
And tame things
Have no immensity.

Mina Loy, The Lost Lunar Baedeker, ed. by Roger L. Conover (Manchester: Carcanet, 1996), 3.

Marble by Mina Loy


Greece has thrown       white shadows
their eyeballs with oblivion

A flock of stone
perched upon pedestals

A populace
of athlete lilies
of the galleries

swoop the facades of space
with spiral curves
of idol substance
in the silence

A colonnade
Apollo haunts Apollo
with the shade
of a lost hand

Mina Loy, The Lost Lunar Baedeker, ed. by Roger L. Conover (Manchester: Carcanet, 1996), 93.

Friday, 3 June 2011

I am a woman by Parvin Jahanbani

I am a woman
Who has not buried love alive in her body
The desert that screams: Rain on me.
My heart is heavy
I am a woman
Banished from the abode of the gods.
Let the green-tongued ones of unknown love
Reproach Raba’a and Forugh.
Women who
Love the raw passion of love
Women who, with their pains, cannot be confined
Women who do not hide
Their feelings in the corners of their scarves or behind their veils
Or under the carpet.


translated by Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis

Persian Love Poetry (London: The British Museum Press, 2005), 90.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

More Persian Love Poetry

I said I felt pain for you; you said my pain would pass.
        I asked you to be my moon; you said, if she appears.
I said, learn from lovers the custom of faithfulness;
        You said seldom is this the custom of the moon-faced.
I said I wanted to hold your attention;
        You said it is like a night thief and will come another way.


translated by Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis

Persian Love Poetry (London: The British Museum Press, 2005), 58.

Persian Love Poem

At last I was recaptured by his love
            Resisting had no effect
Love is like an ocean without a shore
            How can one swim there, oh wise one?
Love must be taken right to the end
            Many unsuitable things must be accepted
Ugliness must be seen as if it were good
            Poison must be taken as if it were sugar
I was disobedient and did not understand:
            The harder you pull, the tighter the rope.


translated by Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis

Persian Love Poetry (London: The British Museum Press, 2005), 16. The poetess Raba’a is also known as Rabi'a Balkhi: