Skip to main content


In the house
a great silence, the roped-off tables and chairs,
the shirt and hat still on their hook as if at any second
he might come in and reach for them. I’ll be down
at the water’s edge, looking out. . .
We were the ghosts
beyond the ropes, peering in
to breathe tunes into a wind-up gramophone,
work the hand-press into the night, infuse
the flags with the tang of bread and oil.
But that clarity, how everything blazed
in the undaunted light of itself. A typewriter
nailed down for all eternity, drafts a whisper from ink
flourishing their imperfections.
In the museum room a looped film of the artist shaving,
shelves of his books; ‘I breed pedigree dogs to feed my cats’.
The place held its breath. In this readiness what could resist?
Touch nothing but listen for the lift-off, the print
of the house on its own waiting, the lucky lope
of the sleek black cat through the ropes, and out.


Popular posts from this blog

Songs of the earth (1): Yannis Ritsos

The Meaning of Simplicity
I hide behind simple things so you’ll find me; if you don’t find me, you’ll find the things, you’ll touch what my hand has touched our hand-prints will merge.
The August moon glitters in the kitchen like a tin-plated pot (it gets that way because of what I’m saying to you), it lights up the empty house and the house’s kneeling silence– always the silence remains kneeling.
Every word is a doorway to a meeting, one often cancelled, and that’s when a word is true: when it insists on the meeting.
(Translated by Edmund Keeley, published in The Greek Poets: From Homer to the Present, Norton, 2010)
Yannis Ritsos’ output as a poet was enormous. He published more than a hundred collections of poetry, and often wrote with great speed, sometimes producing three collections in a single year. Such protean fluency can interfere with the reception of a poet in his own culture, and it can also inhibit or distort the reception in translation. How do you choose? How much o…


My new book, Sway, Versions of Poems from the Troubadour Tradition, will be published by Gallery Press in October. This one is a riff rather than a version, taking as its starting point a line by the 12th century trobairitz, Beatriz, Countess of Dia.

Riff for Beatriz
Ab joi et ab joven m’apais

I feed on joy and youth    the rest
forget    all texts
abandoned     I feed
with joy     I feed on you or would
were you here    were I there
by the lake    in the wood    where the
nightingales are    I hear them
the buds along the branches roar
the frost withdraw    I feast on the season
that you may come to me
like light to the trees    I set
my pilgrim heart to roam
I am here   your loosened armour  your
Saracen hands   I feed
on spices and desert air
the rest is argument    discourse
the lines unwinding
the lines bound like the twigs of a broom
to sweep you away and pull you back
my dust is yours together we blow through the meadows
I was here but now
a stir of language in the trees     bird…