from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

the precise timing of a sideways glance: Jennie Osborne

This post is not really about language in the sense in which I've been mulling it over lately; the Tuesday blog is to post a poem from our recent anthology, Confluence (see previous posts). I'm using the book sequence to determine the 'running order' of the poets; how gratifying, then, to find that the poem I've posted this week, at its end, fits so well with parts of yesterday's blog.

And before I move on to that, I want to add a rider to yesterday's post: I mentioned, in passing, a poem by Robert Hass – 'Meditation at Lagunitas'. The poem deserved a great deal more than a passing reference, as Hass speaks very directly to the questions of language and the ground behind language in this poem. If you have Staying Alive, it's in there; otherwise it's available online from There is an excellent essay online that explores this poem in insightful depth and teases out what Hass is saying about the limits of language:

On another note, and forgive the plug here: there is still time – just – to sign up for the next 6-month 'Elements of Poetry' correspondence course that I teach. You need to be already reading and writing contemporary poetry, and it's an intensive course with reading and reflection as well as writing required. I've had excellent feedback from the first two. Details from my website, (go to 'Courses', hover until 'Correspondence Courses' shows up, and then there should be an option of 'novel' or 'poetry').
Today's poet is Jennie Osborne. Well-known on the Southwest England poetry circuit, Jennie also facilitates workshops throughout England on the 'Alternatives to Violence Project'. Jennie is both Quaker and dancer, and burns with a quiet Celtic fire. Her poems in Confluence are a sequence of five; this is the second. Look out for her collection How To Be Naked from Oversteps Books.

On the Island

This is my own country. It may
seem tight, lacking adventure
and smelling always of lavender.

It’s on a smaller scale. Look at the leaves.
See how every leaf is patterned
with a dozen smaller leaves, each patterned...

Its colours are mostly soft to touch,
the lightest blue you can drown in
and the green spring uses to wake trees gently.

Creatures slip past like shadows,
are sparing with advice, but leave
shy footprints shaped like smiles.

Learning their friendship does not need words
only slight thumbprints left on corners,
the precise timing of a sideways glance.

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