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Four poems.

The poetry in this issue comes from Poetry Review, which was one hundred years old in May. For today's reader this doesn't just mean a terrific literary 'back-story'. The weight of past 'greats', from Hardy and Eliot to Ginsberg and Beckett, Larkin and Berger, generates a kind of momentum - which we celebrate in the A Century of Poetry Review, which will be published by Carcanet in October. The Review may be a hefty vehicle to steer, but its role as what the Guardian calls poetry's 'magazine of record' means that it remains the periodical most poets want to appear in, and to read. Functioning as a kind of build-your-own encyclopaedia, it's shaping the canon of the future.

So PR affords a sort of short-cut for anyone interested in poetry, but perhaps lacking time or inclination for detailed study. It's a way to access a vibrant part of contemporary culture. But the magazine, and the work it publishes, are of course more than that. Poetry Review understands that poetry may be many things to many people: samizdat semaphore, cultural debate, the expression of a variety of voices or, perhaps above all, a form which allows the exploration of major moral, political and epistemological questions. Recent issues, for example, have focused on the risks and gains of politicised culture and on the new eco-poetics. Moreover, since it is neither necessarily fiction, nor as answer-led as the essay, the poem can 'tell the whole truth but tell it slant', as Emily Dickinson has it. In doing so it can show the reader how to make sense for him- or herself of the range of often-highly-determined texts with which contemporary culture surround us.

Though these poems are taken from a recent issue (98:4, The Ghost in the Machine), they are representative, in their seriousness and range, of the magazine as a whole (even though, naturally, we have a spread of gender and cultures in every issue).

Fiona Sampson

Night of love

Ingeborg Bachmann

Translated by Michael Lyons and Patrick Drysdale
In a night of love after a long night
I have learnt to speak again and I wept
because a word came out of me. I have again learnt to walk,
walked up to the window and said hunger and light
and night was fine by me for light.

After an overlong night
slept peacefully again,
trusting in this,

I spoke more easily in the dark,
spoke on through the day,
ran my fingers over my face,
I am no longer dead.
A bush, from which fire struck in the night.
My avenger stepped out and called himself life.
I even said: let me die, and meant
without fear my more cherished death.

(from Ich weiss keine bessere Welt [c] Piper Verlag 2000)

Poppy day

John Burnside
The butcher arrives with a love song
he learned from his father.

Out on the kill floor, veiled in a butterslick
circumflex of marrowfat and bone,
he rinses off the knife and goes to work,
his voice so sweet, the children come to hear

the beauty of it, slipped between a vein
and what the veal calf thought would last forever.

Barely a shudder rises through the hand that holds the blade
 and yet he guides it down
so gently, it falls open, like a flower.

And still the children come, to hear him sing,
his voice so soft, it's no more than a whisper.

The note produced

Paul Farley
The sixty-four foot organ pipe,
the low C, shuddering Jesus Christ,
the engine room that makes cathedrals
dive, dive, dive, fathoms of flue

that drill into the bedrock, shift
knuckles and long bones in the crypt,

and you can feel the bottom line
right where the ribs all congregate,
a shiver trapped and brought to life.

Sand tale

John Kinsella

covering all

- Tracy Ryan
Tracy and I are less than two years apart in age.
We have similar but different life experiences of growing up.
We both emerged in the same corner of the world.
I did high school in the country, she did a bit of primary school
in the country. We both spent a lot of time in Perth
when Perth was different. She was from a suburb
bordering the hills, I was from an inner southern river
suburb that bordered hundreds and hundreds
and hundreds of acres of bush, as well
as a swampy limb of the river
that became a creek. Old Bateman's farm
was down there, and cows got stuck
in the silty riverflats. Tracy spent
most of her time in her suburb,
I spent a lot of my time
out of the city. At the farm,
or maybe north to see my father. Sand
was big in the city but rare on the farm. Red-brown dirt
up there. Not sand that'd pour through your fingers.
Not sand that was black and let water run
through like there was no end to the earth.
Not sand that was yellow as if it had been dyed,
sickly and sweet at once. It would set rock hard.
Being hit by a rock of that could break your skull.
Not white sand that would grow nothing
but looked and felt so clean. Sandpits.
Pleasure. Fetish. Exhuming the lost,
lifted out as easily slipped in and away.
Hungry, but ready to give it up. Brought in
from the beaches: the thin river beaches
in need of topping up. At night, early in the morning,
shovel and sacks, robbing the public,
the behest, the dyadic self.
The flat discs of jellyfish: moon translucent,
never quiet: you see nothing but sand caked on their
eating parts. Or the spotted mottled brown
jellyfish with its bunched-up, thick
tentacles, cloying beads of sand. That's what
comes of endosymbionts, tossed up in their armadas.
Their multiplicity is sandlike and yet
we draw few analogies from it. Like brown jellyfish
in the hourglass. As if humour is everything
in childhood, and we're not serious and bleak
drying on the sand, digging so it will collapse,
so it will give way. The edifices to be knocked down,
eaten by breeze and slight tidal shift of the river.
Though in winter the jetties gulp for breath,
sand in cracks floats out. Sand of the river,
slowly making its way down
to the river mouth. Sand that sets
when you come out of the murky
river, a Swan River Whaler sighting,
and all your tension about swimming lessons
sets as a new skin that dries and cracks and even
peels away. That sand too. But there was no
real sand up at the farm. If it poured
it was as dust, up there, in the valley. Clouds
that swarmed and rolled and choked.
The fine film that covered
like a lyrical aftertaste. Gritted your eyes,
but you didn't need to pick the grains out,
finer, it wept away. But where
I went to school in Geraldton - coastal town
where sand plains are farmed against the lack of rain,
where you travel inland to search out the stony country
of the next people, the Yamaji elder telling his mate
that he's crossing over just about now,
on the road to Mount Magnet.
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Article Type:Poem
Date:Jun 22, 2009
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