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FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF HISTORY

My granddaughter and I paused before Turner’s

‘War: the Exile and the Rock Limpet’

in the collection of the artist’s work

at Tate Britain, Millbank, beside the Thames.

The exile is Napoleon Bonaparte

on St Helena. He stands – in signature

outfit including the hat – arms folded,

contemplating obscure life in a rock pool.

A guard, musket shouldered, stands some paces off.

The sun rises or sets on a swirling, volcanic coast.

‘Was Napoleon really that tall?’ she asked.

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BLOOMSBURY

‘O, there you are,’ Mr Bloom said, turning from the fire.

ULYSSES, James Joyce

 

Joyce read his poems to Lady Gregory

in Dublin. She was impressed and gave him five pounds

to help fund his escape to Paris

from the ‘coherent absurdity’ (his words)

of Catholicism. She wrote to Yeats –

her close friend and patronee, who had lodgings

a five minute walk from Euston – to meet him

off the Holyhead train at six a.m.,

give him breakfast,

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OTHER PEOPLE’S FLOWERS: ‘Twelve Poems’ by Clive Watkins

David Selzer and I first got to know each other in 1965 through the University of Liverpool Poetry Society. Under David’s energetic leadership, in 1966 the Society brought a young Seamus Heaney and a young Michael Longley from Northern Ireland to read to us. This was some months before Seamus Heaney’s first collection, Death of a Naturalist, appeared from Faber, and at this point Michael Longley had published no more than a single pamphlet. Neither had read outside Northern Ireland. The third of the notable young Northern Irish poets to emerge during those years, Derek Mahon,

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‘THE CARIBBEAN EXPERIENCE’

Our present government, unfairly perhaps,

is often caricatured as self-serving,

racist and incompetent – and yet,

with a rather modest investment

of taxpayers’ money, has published

a report which may revolutionise

our study of history, showing

not just the costs but the benefits

to victims of great crimes: ‘There is a new

story about the Caribbean

experience which speaks to the slave period

not only being about profit

and suffering but how culturally

African people transformed themselves

into a re-modelled African/Britain.’

 

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FROM THE TERRACE

Begun the year of Waterloo, finished

in that of Peterloo, built on rents

and sugar, this – according to Pevsner –

‘modest’ Palladian mansion sits

on a slope, a belvedere. Mature trees

overhang the erstwhile stable block,

now a spa. The hotel is a venue

for weddings – featured in ‘Bride of the Year’ –

and funerary teas, like today’s in sun.

 

From the terrace, and over the ha-ha,

sheep graze in broad fields hedged with hawthorn,

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APHORISMS AND INDEMNITY: AN IDEA OF AMERICA

For Clive Watkins

 

‘The maker’s rage to order words…’

THE IDEA OF ORDER AT KEY WEST, Wallace Stevens

 

There, as we drove past the Heritage Centre

that once was a medieval  church, on the steps,

among the shoppers and the trippers,

there on a provincial, English street

was a busker with a blue guitar.

 

And I thought of the poem by Wallace Stevens,

who did not drive, and walked to work each day –

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