How good that poetry has stepped back over my threshold once again. During the last year, a year that included two family bereavements and other significant if (mostly) happier events, for the first time since I was a teenager poetry appeared to be perpetually on the cusp of vanishing over the brow of the hill in my rear-view mirror.
So here I am dwelling in it once again: reading it, writing it, and thinking about it.
In the Guardian of Saturday 16 January, Ben Wilkinson mentions the oft-quoted sentence by R S Thomas: 'Poetry is that which arrives at the intellect by way of the heart.'
In his review of Sarah Howe's debut T S Eliot-prizewinning collection Loop of Jade, he goes on:
'The poet's task is to find the effective middle ground to perform that lyric trick whereby thought and emotions seem to effortlessly combine. Seek to provoke only feeling, and crude sentimentality ensues; indulge in the cerebral, and the poem might remain interesting enough, but it will remain lifeless – a kind of versified intelligence.'
Couldn't have put it better myself. In my Elements of Poetry online course, I say:
I have read or reread the last week a few poems that do it for me. Working as I do, it is not as frequent as it once was. I suspect that my taste has become, let's say, more refined; or perhaps simply more critical.
Then again, in the deluge that is the contemporary poetry world where everyone wants to write poetry – and why not – but few want to buy it, it is possible that the proportion of good poetry to OK or mediocre poetry is smaller.
One poet whose work I rate is Rosie Jackson. Forthcoming soon from Cultured Llama is her (overdue) first full collection, The Light Box. On Josephine Corcoran's site you can read the title poem, which is a fine, restrained and moving poem.
Last birthday a dear friend sent me a poem by David Sutton. I return over and over to this poem; in its simplicity and depth I find some kind of sanctuary. David has kindly given me permission to reprint it here.
Come and live, they said,
In the house of science
With its solid floor of sense
Its tiled and timbered roof,
Its foursquare walls of proof.
But I chose instead
The house of poetry
Under its rowan tree,
Half ruin and half grave
With green grass like a wave,
Nettles and moss for bed,
And its people coming and going
Like seeds the wind might bring,
Like words in the wind's song,
Their tenancy not long.
© David Sutton
You can read more of David's poetry here.