Poem Friday: Lynley Edmeades’ ‘Imperial’ Sometimes an object in a poem reverberates with such exquisite frisson





There goes London with its scattered lights.

Like a bag of marbles spilt out onto concrete,

they’ve rolled towards fissures, pooled together

in conduits. They are the arteries

of this land-bound leviathan.

From the air, I can see it’s almost finite,

and feel the way a child might,

when her marbles have been counted, put away.


Author’s bio: Lynley Edmeades is currently writing a doctoral thesis on sound in avant-garde American poetry, at the University of Otago. Her poems, reviews and essays have been published in New Zealand and abroad. She lives in Dunedin.

Author’s note: I wrote this poem while I was living in Belfast. It was prompted by a conversation with poet Sinead Morrissey, in which she applauded the power of first lines. Put your readers straight in there, she said. No ideas but in things.

Paula’s note: Sometimes an object in a poem reverberates with such exquisite frisson the hairs on your arm do stand on end. In Lynley’s poem, marbles promote a grid of shivers—from the allure of the physical toy to the dips and peaks of childhood. That time of endless summers and wild darings. To overlap the potential of this ‘thing’ with the aerial view of London at night is genius. Magic slips from one to the other. The allure of night. The way a city’s particulars are soaked up into the unknowable dark (or apprehended from a different point of view). The way the city borders are at the edge of psychological unease. Then you get taken back to the moment of the child where the smallest moment can be utterly sharp. The game is over. Fleeting yet intense. What I love about this poem (and indeed other poems by Lynley) is the way ear, heart and mind are in harmony—words are deft on the line, images are fresh, simplicity partners complexity.  And the way, in this example, one word, ‘Levethian,’ can unsettle and add to the subtle discomfort (the engagement with the long-ago child, loss, larger-then-life cities, the unknown). Or the the way the poem catches hold of that child trespassing on the glittering lights of night. The complexities and possibilities of this small poem are enormous. I have barely started.

2 thoughts on “Poem Friday: Lynley Edmeades’ ‘Imperial’ Sometimes an object in a poem reverberates with such exquisite frisson

  1. John Stevens

    Living to the south of London, I’ve seen it countless times from the air. Marbles? Yes, a fruitful image. I shall soon be visiting Dunedin for the first time — great excitement! — so let’s see how the image works there. My guess is that it hold most true where a city is large and dwarfs the natural landscape. Landscape and seascape seem to rule in NZ.



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