Poetry in the garden

I sit in my cottage garden in the sun, for an hour, reading poems. I am looking for poems on the theme of ‘journeys’ to share with the poetry group that meets in our local library next week. Some people write poems on the theme, or find them from within their previous works. I don’t write poetry, but I am enjoying browsing through my shelves, and look forward to reading it aloud. It’s a special pleasure.

97 poetry in gdnThe sun is mild, occasionally obscured by clouds. No mechanical, man-made sounds reach me, just the droning of the bees in the hedge behind me, the arguments of the rooks who live in the trees by the old people’s home, and the clicking of plastic guttering in the sun.

I work through my pile, getting distracted by the pleasure of the task and by poems not about journeys.

I try the anthology called Staying Alive, which has a whole section on journeys and the road, and I note Adrienne Rich’s poem. This is the first line

A wild patience has brought me this far

I had remembered it as a wild impatience, which was more appealing to my ambitions and character when I first encountered the poem in the ‘70s. The rhythm is better in my version I think. But I must slow down and read the poem more closely. A wild patience? The lines of the childhood chant come into my head, which associates patience with good girls in an adult view.

Patience is a virtue

Virtue is a grace.

Grace is a little girl

Who didn’t wash her face.

That puts patience in her place for me. How can patience be wild? The juxtaposition of these words begins to create ripples in my head.

I move on to Robert Frost, Stopping in Woods, and recall walking in Robert Frost’s woods a few years ago on a visit to Amherst (when I also visited Emily Dickinson’s house). It was May, so there was no snow and no ponies. I read this poem to a group of travellers on Stewart Island, on Christmas Day a couple of years later – also no ponies and no snow but miles from home. Stewart Island is about as far south as normal people can travel without being in Antarctica.

97 Poetry booksAnd then I meet again Michael Donaghy’s poem Machines about writing poetry, cycling and harpsichord music. It starts …

Dearest, note how these two are alike:

This harpsichord pavane by Purcell

And the racer’s twelve-speed bike.

Then I loose myself in an anthology of poems by women in the 1930s. I marvel again at the steadfastness, endurance and perceptions of that generation of women who flourished between the wars. I find a poem by Winifred Holtby called Trains in France, the sounds of trains haunting the night, reminding her of wartime trains transporting people to and from the Front.

I move on to Billy Collins who can always be relied upon to write quirky, witty and intelligent poems about everyday things. I find two that I might read to the poetry group: Passengers and Walking across the Atlantic. I always enjoy the last three lines of Walking across the Atlantic.

97 b collins' feet

Drowsiness begins to infect me and I imagine lying on the lounger on the lawn all afternoon, reading, as the bees drone, the rooks caw and all seems well with this corner of England.

In my head, words are singing, like poetry when it is read aloud. In my head my own words become poetic, lyrical and full of intelligent observations. My mood is violently broken by a call on my mobile phone about PPI.

These are the poems I finally chose:

  • Walking across the Atlantic and Passengers by Billy Collins.
  • Trains in France by Winifred Holtby.
  • But I might add Honeymoon Flight by Seamus Heaney for the imagery of sewing that he uses to write about marriage.
  • And Craig Raine’s A Martian Sends a Postcard Home, which presents the world and its people from a fresh, Martian, perspective.

Have you any suggestions of poems connected with journeys?


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Filed under Libraries, poetry

4 Responses to Poetry in the garden

  1. Helen Ashley

    “A wild patience…” – could it mean patience as of wild creatures? You never see a heron stamping on the river bank and screaming oaths because the fish he’s waiting for hasn’t appeared, do you? Or is that stretching analysis too far? I don’t know the poem.
    Look forward to hearing your ‘Journeys’ selection tomorrow, Caroline.

  2. Gorgeous! Your cottage garden looks like just the place for reading poetry, thinking ponderous thoughts, and writing. I love your description of the day, and appreciate the poetry you have shared. It must bring such a richness to life, sharing poetry among a group of friends. I agree that ‘wild’ and ‘patience’ seem to be ill fitting, but perhaps the poet has a purpose for that. I’ll have to give it a read and think about it. It would be interesting to share the poem with your group and hear their collective thoughts. It is amazing how just reading your post brings forth a certain quietude inherent to poetry. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Eileen

    I must look up Honeymoon Flight by Seamus Heaney. He is my favourite poet and I was so sad when he died this year. I am intrigued by the imagery of sewing especially as I am making a crazy quilt for my partner Isobel.

  4. Caroline

    Thanks my friends. The meeting was in such contrast to the preparation. We had to read in a cafe, with a background noise of hissing coffee machine, cafe conversation and a man who really wanted to join us but had not much clue about engaging with people reading poetry. Lots of great poems read, and I added one sent by a blog reader: Meditations on a Return Ticket by Robert Vas Dias. And I read Seamus Heaney’s poem, Eileen.
    Thanks Helen for calling the group together and keeping us going.

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