Most mornings my husband and I, (which sounds like the Queen, but I can assure you is not) read poems to each other. It’s a lovely way to start a day of mostly words and brings a focus back to the interior after reading the newspaper.
It takes a while to get through collections this way. You could call it slow poetry. At the moment we are reading Emma Neale’s Tender Machines and Vincent O’Sullivan’s Selected Poems, Being Here. They are Dunedin based poets at different ends of their poetry careers, but what treasures are contained in both books. Vincent’s cool, sardonic, intensely observational eye and Emma’s brilliantly executed white hot wordplay as she explores family life in all its intensity and moves into global and environmental concerns.
The book we have finished and both laughed and wept over from the first page to the last is The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy. It’s an amazing collection of poems with a wide variety of subjects: love poems; moving elegies to her mother; rollicking drinking poems; angry political poems and. throughout, bees hover, fragile life-givers, whose existence along with ours is threatened. And apart from the bees holding all these poems together is the way every poem sings a love of words, with internal rhymes, alliteration, repetition, but in a way that is completely natural, sometimes angry, sometimes joyous. If you know someone who is mystified by poetry, try them with some of these poems. Yes, she’s a popular poet who may not appeal to readers who laud the esoteric and experimental, but she writes intelligent poems about important subjects and issues, the stuff of life. In a short poem, ‘Spell,’ Duffy says, ‘I think a poem is a spell of kinds, / that keeps things living in a written line.’ Her poems are charming in the true sense of the word, burrowing into your brain and, most importantly, your heart as you breathe them in.
A few lines from the tremendously moving poem, ‘Water’, about her dying mother.
What a mother brings
through darkness still
to her parched daughter.’