Sunday, June 14, 2009

BBC and Poetry

BBC Radio 3 is a wonder. No commercials, great classical music -- and poetry every morning (for six weeks, at least) at breakfast.

The Man and I always turn on Radio 3 on the weekends. Slowly sipping coffee while listening to concertos and debating the day ahead is our favourite way to start the morning. Lately, our ritual taken on an added significance with the BBC's poetry series. Read by the poets themselves, time seems to stop as we pause in whatever we're doing and cock our heads towards the radio, waiting for the words to fall through the air towards us.

Yesterday's selection was 'Shanky' by Katrina Porteous:


Shanky is all England:
A barn-conversion.
Strangers in four-by-fours. Forgotten

Names: the Butty Meadow. Shanky Hall.
The nugget of a chapel.
Faith in ruins.

Down the Long Nanny Burn
A green gate leans.
Dark, witchy hawthorns

Point along the leat
To Shanky Mill,
Its bricked-up windows, walls

Empty, its rafters open
To the swifts, the rain;
The knotted fabric of the farm

Shrunk, first, to one man
Alone in his tractor cabin,
Radio on; then

To no one
But the nostalgic, who like it here
At nightfall, when

Black cows wallow in the burn
And the low sun
Floods everything golden.

Last week, we listened to the hypnotic voice of England's new poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, as she read her new poem 'Premonitions':


Dedicated with love to the memory of UA Fanthorpe

We first met when your last breath
cooled in my palm like an egg;
you dead, and a thrush outside
sang it was morning.
I backed out of the room, feeling
the flowers freshen and shine in my arms.

The night before, we met again, to unsay
unbearable farewells, to see
our eyes brighten with re-strung tears.
O I had my sudden wish -though I barely knew you -to stand at the door of your house,
feeling my heartbeat calm,
as they carried you in, home, home and healing.
Then slow weeks, removing the wheelchair, the drugs,the oxygen mask and tank, the commode,
the appointment cards,
until it was summer again
and I saw you open the doors to the gift of your garden.

Strange and beautiful to seethe roses close to their own premonitions,
the grass sweeten and cool and green
where a blackbird eased a worm into the lawn.
There you were,
a glass of lemony wine in each hand,
walking towards me always, your magnolia tree
marrying itself to the May air.

How you talked! And how I listened,
spellbound, humbled, daughterly,
to your tall tales, your wise words,
the joy of your accent, unenglish, dancey, humorous;
watching your ash hair flare and redden,
the loving litany of who we had been
making me place my hands in your warm hands,
younger than mine are now.
Then time only the moon. And the balm of dusk.
And you my mother.

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