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Archive by tag: Carol RumensReturn
Jun 27, 2022

A bracing celebration of the exhilaration and refreshment found in wild swimming

Llyn Gwynant

All through the night I twitch my heart.
Swimming is a kind of hiccup
that jolts the body clean apart.
All through the night I twitch my heart;
tight contractions of sleep starts
break like waves pushing me up.
All through the night I twitch my heart.
Swimming is a kind of hiccup.

Note: Llyn is Welsh for lake; Gwynant is derived from “‘gwyn” meaning white, fair, blessed, holy, and “nant” meaning stream.

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Jun 20, 2022

An extraordinary, theologically agile reflection on family life bears comparison with much more famous metaphysical poems

Upon Wedlock, and the Death of Children

A Curious Knot God made in Paradise,
And drew it out inamled neatly Fresh.
It was the True-Love Knot, more sweet than spice
And set with all the flowres of Graces dress.
Its Weddens Knot, that ne’re can be unti’de.
No Alexanders Sword can it divide.

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Jun 13, 2022

A vision of jazz’s iconic instrument as an acrobatic, airborne wonder

The saxophones circle in the air
above the moor, the thermal column
that the breath supports.

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Jun 06, 2022

Moving elusively between private and public worlds, the poet finds grace in small, shared moments


Friend, I saw you sitting
at the window of yourself

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May 30, 2022

This version of a sonnet by the French symbolist poet Paul Verlaine has a down-to-earth lyricism recalling Philip Larkin’s

Last Hope
After Verlaine

Bustled about in this sputtering breeze
the graveyard’s oak seems wild and free,
as if it weren’t crowded with heavy
stones or the millpond’s dying gleam.

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May 23, 2022

A ‘youthful-memory’ poem from A Square of Sunlight, a debut collection from a poet who didn’t start writing until her 60s


The house is in Chatou, a southwest suburb of Paris.
It has proper French tree lined streets and stag beetles
noisily hovering under a fretted iron street lamp.
The kitchen is three times the size of our kitchen,
and foreign, hung with paintings. There are three windows
all without mullions but they aren’t doors.
It’s dark outside and I’m alone in the house, sitting
on the scrubbed pine table with my bare feet up on the dresser
because I’m painting my toenails and drinking real coffee.

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May 16, 2022

This portrait of a sleepy adolescent at breakfast is intensely affectionate – without ever sentimentalising youth

Slow Waker

I look at the nephew,
eighteen, across the breakfast.
He had to be called and called.
He smiles, but without
conviction. He will not
have tea, oh OK,
if it’s no trouble,
he will have tea.

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May 02, 2022

The Ukrainian poet’s modernist work grips the reader and commands attention with its political parable of power and trust set in the eerie beauty of nature

Solitude is poor …

Solitude is poor?

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Apr 04, 2022

A soldier’s vision of the hell of war resonates beyond its maker’s brief life

Strange Meeting

It seemed that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.

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Mar 28, 2022

With its Christian phraseology and powerful imagery, this 1862 verse is likely a response to a death in the American civil war

After Great Pain …

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

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Mar 14, 2022

An enigmatic lyric reflects on the relationship of memory and shame

For Nothing Tender About It

If as shame is to memory, so too desire,
then is this desire, this cloak of shadows,
that I wrap close around me, that I
refuse to take off?

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Feb 21, 2022

After the convulsions of emotion that love has landed her with, the poet wishes for more restrained feeling

I can’t undo all I have done to myself,
what I have let an appetite for love do to me.

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Feb 14, 2022

For Valentine’s Day, we return to one of the first Romantic poems I fell for, which reveals a lot about ‘what men call love’

One word is too often profaned
For me to profane it,
One feeling too falsely disdained
For thee to disdain it;
One hope is too like despair
For prudence to smother,
And pity from thee more dear
Than that from another.

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Feb 07, 2022

Jonson’s poetic response to bad reviews of his plays by ‘wolf’ and ‘ass’ praises poetry and urges a return to deeper sources of inspiration

An Ode to Himself

Where dost thou careless lie,
Buried in ease and sloth?
Knowledge that sleeps doth die;
And this security,
It is the common moth
That eats on wits and arts, and oft destroys them both.

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Jan 31, 2022

Using the medical shorthand for fracture, the poet considers other, less tangible breaks in her life


This whole time I’d been reading it wrong,
seeing only broken things.
In Orthopaedics, # is read as ‘fracture’ –
#NoF is ‘fractured neck of femur’,
#collarbone is ‘fractured collarbone’.

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Jan 24, 2022

A museum’s warning notice provides a gleeful invitation to transgress

Horniman Museum, Summer 2019

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Jan 03, 2022

Far from any rustic idyll, this mower is racked by the fallen human world

The Mower’s Song

My mind was once the true survey
Of all these meadows fresh and gay,
And in the greenness of the grass
Did see its hopes as in a glass;
When Juliana came, and she
What I do to the grass, does to my thoughts and me.

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Dec 27, 2021

A machine for eating oranges, humming new tunes and flying to the moon may be a bit less innocent than children’s play

The Age of Cardboard and String

It is a machine for eating oranges.
It is a machine for humming new tunes.
It is a rocket bound for the moon.
It is, whatever string you pull, the same machine.

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Dec 20, 2021

A sparky, theologically free-range consideration of the soul

I’ve this gut feeling that inside somewhere,
perched, so to speak, in the innermost wood
of my body or brain, on mute since childhood
a bird-creature lurks in its cramped lair
for when the wood’s consumed, as in a fire,
though also consumed as drinks are or food
(over months or could be years ingesting crude
chemicals, making the sly one ever slyer).
But then crackle’n’pop, it’s all gone for good.
And good riddance, since freed from its bonds
the avian now preens its wings and absconds
from the scene below (that’s me, in my last throes)
skyward like a lark saying fuck to the whole brood
and piping forth some blithe hymn as she goes.

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Dec 13, 2021

Tadpoles growing to reach the terrors of land suggest the universal journey of life towards mortality


A twig breaks. Promptly, obligingly
staging the haiku, one or two new frogs
plop in the water, where their younger
kin lie or skitter, hundreds
and hundreds of fat commas swept
from the compositor’s workbench
into the sandy shallows, hundreds
of little fat breathing pauses in the water’s
dull paragraph. When their breath
has pumped up shiny eyes and limbs,
they will wait too, throbbing by the pond’s

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Aug 02, 2021

The poet confronts her terminal cancer without flinching but asserts a defiant will to live

I guess it was my destiny to live so long

Death chase me down
death’s way
uproot a breast
infest the lymph nodes
crack a femur
rip morale
to shreds

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Jul 26, 2021

A young woman newly ‘in service’ tries to make sense of the enigmatic flap her fellow servants are rushing to attend to

The Maid’s Tale

I hadn’t been in service that long. Such a morning!
I dodge out a minute, hoping no one will notice,
needing to get away from all that racket. Oh my!
You never seen so many roses in bloom at once,
thickets of them, white, crimson, stripey, alive with bees.
So I pull just one, the smell’s heavenly, and nip back
in case I’m punished. I asks the lass in the pantry –
well, she stares at me and says It’s the wedding, stupid!

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Jul 19, 2021

A defiant assertion of the poet’s power to overcome physical separation from her beloved

Sonnet Six from Sonnets from the Portuguese

Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand
Henceforward in thy shadow. Nevermore
Alone upon the threshold of my door
Of individual life, I shall command
The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand
Serenely in the sunshine as before,
Without the sense of that which I forbore –
Thy touch upon the palm. The widest land
Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine
With pulses that beat double. What I do
And what I dream include thee, as the wine
Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue
God for myself, He hears that name of thine,
And sees within my eyes the tears of two.

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Jul 12, 2021

This sensuous evocation of a moonlit walk is rich with precisely observed natural details

A Nocturnal Reverie

In such a night, when every louder wind
Is to its distant cavern safe confined;
And only gentle Zephyr fans his wings,
And lonely Philomel, still waking, sings;
Or from some tree, famed for the owl’s delight,
She, hollowing clear, directs the wand’rer right:
In such a night, when passing clouds give place,
Or thinly veil the heav’ns’ mysterious face;
When in some river, overhung with green,
The waving moon and the trembling leaves are seen;
When freshened grass now bears itself upright,
And makes cool banks to pleasing rest invite,
Whence springs the woodbind, and the bramble-rose,
And where the sleepy cowslip sheltered grows;
Whilst now a paler hue the foxglove takes,
Yet checkers still with red the dusky brakes
When scatter’d glow-worms, but in twilight fine,
Shew trivial beauties, watch their hour to shine;
Whilst Salisb’ry stands the test of every light,
In perfect charms, and perfect virtue bright:
When odors, which declined repelling day,
Through temp’rate air uninterrupted stray;
When darkened groves their softest shadows wear,
And falling waters we distinctly hear;
When through the gloom more venerable shows
Some ancient fabric, awful in repose,
While sunburnt hills their swarthy looks conceal,
And swelling haycocks thicken up the vale:
When the loosed horse now, as his pasture leads,
Comes slowly grazing through th’ adjoining meads,
Whose stealing pace, and lengthened shade we fear,
Till torn-up forage in his teeth we hear:
When nibbling sheep at large pursue their food,
And unmolested kine rechew the cud;
When curlews cry beneath the village walls,
And to her straggling brood the partridge calls;
Their shortlived jubilee the creatures keep,
Which but endures, whilst tyrant man does sleep;
When a sedate content the spirit feels,
And no fierce light disturbs, whilst it reveals;
But silent musings urge the mind to seek
Something, too high for syllables to speak;
Till the free soul to a composedness charmed,
Finding the elements of rage disarmed,
O’er all below a solemn quiet grown,
Joys in th’ inferior world, and thinks it like her own:
In such a night let me abroad remain,
Till morning breaks, and all’s confused again;
Our cares, our toils, our clamors are renewed,
Or pleasures, seldom reached, again pursued.

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Jul 05, 2021

With a sharp and witty tongue, this melodious work reasons out the case against pious hypocrisy

Anima Anceps

Till death have broken
Sweet life’s love-token,
Till all be spoken
That shall be said,
What dost thou praying,
O soul, and playing
With song and saying,
Things flown and fled?
For this we know not –
That fresh springs flow not
And fresh griefs grow not
When men are dead;
When strange years cover
Lover and lover,
And joys are over
And tears are shed.

If one day’s sorrow
Mar the day’s morrow –
If man’s life borrow
And man’s death pay –
If souls once taken,
If lives once shaken,
Arise, awaken,
By night, by day –
Why with strong crying
And years of sighing,
Living and dying,
Fast ye and pray?
For all your weeping,
Waking and sleeping,
Death comes to reaping
And takes away.

Though time rend after
Roof-tree from rafter,
A little laughter
Is much more worth
Than thus to measure
The hour, the treasure,
The pain, the pleasure,
The death, the birth;
Grief, when days alter,
Like joy shall falter;
Song-book and psalter,
Mourning and mirth.
Live like the swallow;
Seek not to follow
Where earth is hollow
Under the earth.

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