Monday, February 24, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Jean Sprackland

One of the books I ordered in that lovely break between Christmas and going back to work was Jean Sprackland's recent collection, Sleeping Keys. I had previously enjoyed Jean's collection, Tilt, which won the Costa Poetry Prize, so I was looking forward to this one, not least because houses were on my mind, having spent nearly a year searching for a new house.

This collection is full of houses - leaving them, observing empty and abandoned houses, watching the building of houses. For instance, the title poem, Sleeping Keys, refers to that collection that we all have in the back of a drawer somewhere, of keys whose purpose is no longer quite remembered (but if you are like me, you are reluctant to throw out, in case they should suddenly be needed). There is Moving the Piano, in which the clamourous room fades/to a tinnitus of dust and dead wasps. Sprackland's keen observations lift ordinary tasks out of the mundane, for instance in Clearing the Drain where the clear water surges, blinding/and purging like white light. And Taking Down the Scaffolding ends What love you need/to dismatle the structure you're standing on

You can read a full poem from the collection at Jean Sprackland's website here (and there are poems from earlier collections, too). Or even better, buy the book!

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tuesday Poem: The Night Watch Song of the Charlotte Jane

The Night Watch Song of the 'Charlotte Jane'

'Tis the first watch of the night, brothers,
And the strong wind rides the deep;
And the cold stars shining bright, brothers,
Their mystic courses keep.
Whilst our ship her path is cleaving
The flashing waters through,
Here's a health to the land we are leaving,
And the land we are going to!

First sadly bow the head, brothers,
In silence o'er the wine,
To the memory of the dead, brothers,
The fathers of our line -
Though their tombs may not receive us,
Far o'er the ocean blue,
Their spirits ne'er shall leave us,
In the land we are going to.

Whilst yet sad memories move us,
A second cup we'll drain
To the manly hearts that love us,
In our old homes o'er the main -
Fond arms that used to caress us,
Sweet smiles from eyes of blue,
Lips which no more may bless us,
In the land we are going to.

But away with sorrow now, brothers,
Fill the winecup to the brim!
Here's to all who'll swear the vow, brothers,
Of this our midnight hymn:-
That each man shall be a brother,
Who has joined our gallant crew:
That we'll stand by one another
In the land we are going to!

Fill again, before we part, brothers,
Fill the deepest draught of all,
To the loved ones of our hearts, brothers,
Who reward and share our toil-
From husbands and from brothers,
All honor be their due,-
The noble maids and mothers
Of the land we are going to! -

The wine is at an end, brothers;
But ere we close our eyes,
Let a silent prayer ascend, brothers,
For our gallant enterprise -
Should our toil be all unblest, brothers,
Should ill winds of fortune blow,
May we find God's haven of rest, brothers,
In the land we are going to.

James Edward Fitzgerald (1818 - 96)

On Saturday night I headed over to Tommy Chang's in Lyttelton for a gathering of Lyttelton poets. The publicity material for this event stated "Poetry has been a part of the Port’s character since James Edward Fitzgerald composed ‘The Night Watch Song of the Charlotte Jane’ as he sailed across the world in 1840 to pioneer a newspaper in a wooden shack on Norwich Quay simply called ‘The Lyttelton Times’, the tradition is still going strong today." So I thought I would post the Night Watch Song of the Charlotte Jane for my Tuesday Poem this week. The "Charlotte Jane" was one of the "first four ships" to bring settlers to the fledgling settlement of Canterbury in 1850. (I think the publicity material had the date wrong!)