Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Poems #1 (reminiscences of English Lit GSCE)

I thought it would be quite fun to put some poems on my blog from time to time. So here are two to begin with.
The first (which is kind of relevant for this time of year) is a valentine's poem by Carol Ann Duffy that was part of our set texts anthology at English Literature GCSE. In general, I didn't get along very well with English at GCSE. But this one was fun–thanks to Miss O'Neill–and I even wrote a poem based on it, which must be the most successful poem I ever wrote. It was (unsurprisingly, for those who know me) not about an onion, but a button. Sadly, although I believe it was rather good, I can't remember how it went and I never managed to retrieve my english coursework folder, so I suspect it is lost forever in a sea of shredded paper somewhere in the recycling archives of Oxford High School (or perhaps now part of an oxfordshire wormery). In any case, here is the original poem:


Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.
Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.

Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

As far as I can remember, the only other poem I really enjoyed studying at GCSE was Auden's 'Stop All the Clocks'. I even taught two lessons on it to one of my classes this year! Today is Auden's centenery. So I suppose I should include it:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

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