Monday, 16 September 2013

A reason to celebrate

I don't read nearly as seriously as I used to right now. Four out of five days still start with a clean out of my feeds (using Feedly now - recall the laments for Google Reader, so strong at the time, so vaguely remembered now ...) and then work, of course, is made up of a lot of swift review/reading (the kind where you're reading almost more for the exceptions and aberrations, the little thorns that catch your eye, than for sense). Outside of that, my reading has become focused almost exclusively on young adult fiction - strong narrative, memorable, often comforting. Lately I've been back through Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching books, read Neil Gaiman's latest, and am currently halfway through Patrick Ness's new (and distinctly uncomfortable) More Than This.

Poetry in particular has fallen away, as I don't get to the public library nearly as much as I used to, and this was where I did all my shelf-skimming. Still, a pointer from Bill Manhire on Twitter led me to four new poems by Alice Oswald (linked to from the right-hand column here), and that indeed is a reason to celebrate.

Oswald's Memorial blew me away last year. Of these four poems, it's 'Living under the digestive system' that gives me the same tingle (although this, a comedy of manners and visceral detail, bears little relation to Memorial's nature-soaked chant). It's formatting however is impossible to reproduce here, so before you go read that, try on 'Aside'. (It's the 'hear-through' that kills me here.)

In Berkshire somewhere 1970
I hid in a laurel bush outside a house,
Planted in gravel I think.
I stopped running and just pushed open
Its oilskin flaps and settled down
In some kind of waiting room, whose scarred boughs
Had clearly been leaning and kneeling there
For a long time. They were bright black.

I remember this Museum of Twilight
Was low-ceilinged and hear-through
As through a bedroom window
One hears the zone of someone’s afternoon
Being shouted and shouted in, but by now
I was too evergreen to answer, watching
The woodlice at work in hard hats
Taking their trolleys up and down.

Through longer and longer interims
A dead leaf fell, rigidly yellow and slow.
So by degrees I became invisible
In that spotted sick-room light
And nobody found me there.
The hour has not yet ended in which
Under a cloth of Laurel
I sat quite still.

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