Tag Archives: poetry

Advent Calendar Day 22: Snow!

English: Dry stone walls in the snow - on the ...

Dry stone walls in the snow – on the edge of Erringden Moor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Snow and Snow


by Ted Hughes
Snow is sometimes a she, a soft one.
Her kiss on your cheek, her finger on your sleeve
In early December, on a warm evening,
And you turn to meet her, saying “It”s snowing!”
But it is not. And nobody”s there.
Empty and calm is the air.


Sometimes the snow is a he, a sly one.
Weakly he signs the dry stone with a damp spot.
Waifish he floats and touches the pond and is not.
Treacherous-beggarly he falters, and taps at the window.
A little longer he clings to the grass-blade tip
Getting his grip.


Then how she leans, how furry foxwrap she nestles
The sky with her warm, and the earth with her softness.
How her lit crowding fairylands sink through the space-silence
To build her palace, till it twinkles in starlight—
Too frail for a foot
Or a crumb of soot.


Then how his muffled armies move in all night
And we wake and every road is blockaded
Every hill taken and every farm occupied
And the white glare of his tents is on the ceiling.
And all that dull blue day and on into the gloaming
We have to watch more coming.


Then everything in the rubbish-heaped world
Is a bridesmaid at her miracle.
Dunghills and crumbly dark old barns are bowed in the chapel of her sparkle.
The gruesome boggy cellars of the wood
Are a wedding of lace
Now taking place.


[Because my flat is the tiniest flat, most of my books – especially childhood books – are at home in Stratford-upon-Avon. This Hughes poem has been one of my favourites since I was little; it was in The Puffin Book of Christmas Poems (1990). I had quite a few children’s poetry anthologies; this was by far the best. It’s with me as I type. It may be out of print now but ebay certainly has copies…]


{not the} Thursday Retrospect

Previous Thursday retrospects can be found below! Some were even published on Thursdays.

  • Travel plans are afoot; Berlin in June/July, Kent in August and (I so hope) Positano (with Ravello and Sorrento, oh my god) in November. Recommendations for Berlin & Positano extremely welcome!
  • It was my birthday! I am now 24, which is older than practically every fictional character I’ve ever loved, except for Harriet Vane and several of the Forsytes. I am also the proud owner of MANY SHOES, a dress, MOLESKINES, lovely jewellery, my very own tiny turning-into-John-Simm watch-on-a-necklace, Henry Holland tights with the Eiffel Tower on (from Chloe) and Much Ado tickets (<3!!). Yes.
  • Continuing the #acquisitionspam, I am now reading Keith Osborn’s Something Written in the State of Denmark and will shortly begin The Invention of Murder.
  • How to get The Selby in your place.
  • I have taken my own advice from a year ago, and registered for Britgrad 2011.
  • On that note, if you need to write on .pdf forms electronically, PDFExpress is your friend. One of the most useful things on the internet.
  • I am tempted to get a Tumblr.
  • The final articles have been chosen for Issue 4 of Victorian Network, which will have the title Theatricality and Performance. As Submissions Editor, my part in the cycle is largely over… as Editorial Board member, I’m sure there will still be plenty to do.
  • Also, this cartoon.
  • My favourite Easter poem is after the jump. Continue reading

Call To Register: Oxford English Graduate Conference “The Famed and The Forgotten”

Registration is now open for The Famed and The Forgotten, taking place on 10th June in Oxford University’s English Faculty.

45 student speakers from Oxford and around the UK will be delivering papers on the concepts of ‘famed’ and ‘forgotten’, interrogated in the broadest possible terms across genres and periods encompassing Old English to the literature of the present day.

A panel discussion on “The Future of Reading” featuring representatives from Oxford University Press, SHM Productions consultancy and the Oxford English Faculty will take place, and we will hear a keynote address from Booker Prize winner Penelope Lively.

The £15 attendance fee covers lunch, snacks and all conference materials. Please register via our website – http://graduate-conference.english.ox.ac.uk/ – or with an email to claire [dot] waters [at] ell [dot] ox [dot] ac [dot] uk.

Then, confirm your place by sending a cheque or postal order for £15 made out to the University of Oxford to Claire Waters, St Catherine’s College, Manor Road, Oxford, OX1 3UJ.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Ruth Padel: Who is Olivia Cole?

Olivia Cole amongst the Facebook poets, standing, red dress.

Olivia Cole amongst the 'Facebook poets', standing, red dress.

Padel’s claims she did nothing to ‘smear’ Walcott are looking even shakier – Olivia Cole, the journalist to whom she chose to raise ‘student concerns’ is in fact a gossip diarist for the Evening Standard.

Interestingly, however, she is an Oxford graduate, and an award-winning fellow-poet, listed in April 2009 as one of the Times’s ten rising stars of poetry (were they photographed in the Oxford Union?). Olivia Cole, 28, read English (Padel read English and Classics at LMH) at Christ Church, got a first in Mods (and, one assumes in Finals), and won the Gibbs Prize for a thesis on Sylvia Plath. Cole quotes Plath on page 4 of her 13 May 2009 article for the Spectator, which covered Walcott’s ‘dignified halt’ to the campaign. No mention there of the email which she had received from Padel on 9 April.

Much of her poetry is online, including “Julia“, “A to Z“, and “Gossip Column“. See what you think.

Leaked: the email Ruth Padel used to tell journalist about Walcott’s past

Poor woman does not take a good photo. (c) Press Association.

Poor woman does not take a good photo. (c) Press Association.

Here is the text of the email Ruth Padel (who resigned as Oxford’s Professor of Poetry yesterday) sent to Olivia Cole, ensuring the press knew about the past of her then-rival, Derek Walcott.

“Hi Olivia,

“ON the CHair, there is still no other nomination except (so extraordinarily) Derek W and me. But thye close on 29th April so another or others may well turnup…

“THere is aupposed to be a book called The Lecherous Professor, which has 6 pages on Derek Walcott’s two cases of sexual harassment, which might provide interestigfn copy on what Oxford wants from its professors.. ALl best, Ruth.”

Published by the Torygraph among other papers, Padel’s (incredibly badly-spelt) email – which she denied sending – doesn’t mention the ‘student concerns’ she claimed prompted her to tip off the press (as opposed, one assumes, to the University itself).

At a press conference today, Padel spoke of her ‘relief’ at quitting, and called the emails she sent ‘naive and silly’. However, she still denies having done anything wrong. Unsurprisingly, she has ruled out the possibility of standing for reelection – can you imagine if she tried to run again?!

Meanwhile in Oxford, students finishing English Finals at the Exam Schools (where the election was held earlier this month) were filmed emerging from their exams by media cameras; University staff supervising the event said the footage would be used as part of the coverage of Padel’s resignation.

Ruth Padel resigns as Oxford’s Poetry Professor

(c) Chris Moses.

(c) Chris Moses.

Ruth Padel has resigned as the Oxford Professor of Poetry, the Guardian reports. Although details are currently scarce, it seems very likely she withdrew after it emerged that she privately alerted journalists to the (proven) allegations of sexual harassment against her former rival, Derek Walcott. Walcott withdrew from the race before the election, leading to Padel’s election.

This does not mean Padel was involved in the anonymous packages sent to male and female members of the English Faculty at Oxford, alerting them to Walcott’s past.

Padel was elected on 21 May 2009, claiming the Walcott situation was “nothing to do with” her. However, yesterday on 24 May, the Guardian reported that, despite claiming that “neither [my campaign managers] nor I mentioned Walcott’s harassment record and had nothing to do with any behind-doors operation”, she was emailing journalists as early as April to tip them off; Padel admitted to these emails, in yet another email, this time to the Guardian. The original news of the smear emails broke in the Sunday Times; as a result of these and other reports, Padel lost the support of prominent supporters including Lord Bragg and Sir Jeremy Isaacs. The language of the emails is, at best, highly disingenuous:

“Some [of my] supporters add that what he does for students can be found in a book called The Lecherous Professor, reporting one of his two recorded cases of sexual harassment and that Obama is rumoured to have turned him down for his inauguration poem because of the sexual record. But I don’t think that’s fair.”

Padel then helpfully directs her correspondents to the internet, where they can find out more.

The Oxford University Poetry Society is bound to be pleased; Secretary Eloise Stonborough, after all, organised the open letter which went to the Times, calling for Padel’s withdrawal and the reopening of nominations. And, in fact, as I look over facebook, there’s quite a bit of celebration (inc references to the ‘sinister teddy hall cabal’)… not to mention speculation about the new candidates. Tony Harrison‘s my man.

I would have really loved to have supported Padel – and plenty of people I respect did choose to do so. I would, all things being equal, definitely have preferred a woman to win. Talking to female academics convinced me that supporting Walcott wasn’t an unfeminist move, and I did, in any case, prefer his poetry (I would never have endorsed him for a teaching position). I thought before the election that Padel should have withdrawn; I now feel I wasted my sympathy on her, since she emailed journalists and then lied about it. I’m not sorry she’s gone.

days of roses, poetry and proses

I write poetry. Mercifully, not for public consumption. The reason I like writing poetry (different from the reason I like writing prose) is probably one of the reasons I’m currently such a bad poet – I use it to disguise myself. Mistakenly, I still like or try to like believing that you can hide in poetry. I have never explicitly set out to be autobiographical in prose, but make some sort of return to autobiography repeatedly because the only experience on which I can guiltlessly draw is my own, i.e. somewhat limited. Naturally I break that rule a lot, racking up my days in Purgatory (which of course I don’t believe in).

I do know I’m wrong about poetry, whenever I see the clarity (economy, elegance) with which my friends who are real poets write.

Last time I was at home, I found some poems I wrote when I was fifteen. In a shock twist of fate and searing display of originality, they’re about being in unrequited love. There’s a piece of prose which goes alongside them, which is a) moving and b) alarming as its now-unaccustomed intensity suggests that some time between the ages of fifteen and twenty-two I lost the CAPACITY TO FEEL. Although people couldn’t walk around in adulthood feeling what I was feeling, we’d all be tiny emotional suicide bombers, and the streets would be full of wailing and pestilence and bad analogies about dappled sunlight. Anyway, I had hidden these poems not only inside a roll of drawings, but in an envelope, in a box, underneath my bed, and when I eventually found and re-read them, for some time I had no clue what they were about. Also, my god, did I like things to rhyme, back then Too often when I write poetry, I rely on dabs of colour, images os encoded as to be impenetrable, because (and here’s the clincher), if I’m writing poetry I’m writing something I don’t want to talk about..

All this makes poetry sound disgustingly therapeutic. Not that I’d object, per se, to the idea of art as therapy (oh my god, anyone who’s ever seen one of my plays could probably formulate a disturbing psychotheory or two), but I don’t want to be the sort of person whose work talks about the same things all the time. Everybody has their preoccupations, and some make good use of them. I know whatever’s interesting my boy academically, or has befallen him personally, will be recycled into jokes, riffs, or venomous ammunition for a personal diatribe. Or maybe he’ll just take off his top, smear blood-red soap from his chin to his nipples, and perform as a lactating horror-figure from a land without touching. Which is to say, yes, thankyou, the Oriel 24 Hour Play went exceptionally well.

I ought to tell the truth in what I write. I do, unstintingly, when it’s journalism, but with poetry I struggle. Not least because I find poetry difficult (it’s not writing how you talk, after all) and so much of what’s considered ‘good’ I also find dreadful. But last night, I had the idea for a novel – an idea of how to tell a story about some of the things which most interest me. It’s not quite a case of ‘write what you know’, but it will have to come with all sorts of disclaimers…