1 minute reading time (244 words)

SMALL POEMS FOR WASHING UP WITH

There's something special about small poems – the ones that slip into your head so you can take them round with you invisibly....       

I find washing up with a poem in my head particularly satisfying. Poems are also good for dusting, polishing, hoovering, and long walks over the hills.

If I'm cross, and don't want to speak about it, a bit of a poem will do it for me. Usually the end.

For example  – 'we should be careful of each other, we should be kind / While there is still time.' That's Larkin, of course (the end of 'Mowing'). 

Or 'In Nature there's no blemish but the mind. / None can be called deformed but the unkind' from Twelfth Night.

But a whole small poem has a special something, like a little fish alive and wriggling.

This one has been following me around lately. It's by Elinor Wylie (from Angels and Earthly Creatures, 1929) and full of grief, though doesn't leave me feeling exactly sad. More moved by a sadness shared.

Perhaps, in fact, it's a love poem, rather than a grief poem. Or perhaps they're one and the same. Because whoever it was written for – there they are in the poem about their absence! 

In fact, there they are forever, or for as long as this little poem slips into people's heads.


Little Elegy

Withouten you
No rose can grow;
No leaf be green
If never seen
Your sweetest face;
No bird have grace
Or power to sing;
Or anything
Be kind, or fair,
And you nowhere. 


MORE ON SMALLS
SO WHO WROTE ‘FERISHTAH’S FANCIES’?
 

Comments 4

Guest - Davina on Sunday, 22 April 2018 12:01

It's also the last poem in the collection, and that gives it a special significance. She'd finalised the order of the poems in Angels and Earthly Creatures on 15 December 1928, and died the following day; she was only 43. It's a beautiful poem and well-crafted, too, in the way she doesn't let the couplets become predictable.

It's also the last poem in the collection, and that gives it a special significance. She'd finalised the order of the poems in Angels and Earthly Creatures on 15 December 1928, and died the following day; she was only 43. It's a beautiful poem and well-crafted, too, in the way she doesn't let the couplets become predictable.
Maria Castro Dominguez on Sunday, 22 April 2018 14:40

Thanks Helen for your beautiful post and sharing such a poignant love poem. I´ve always loved small poems and they work wonders when I`m going through difficult times, like now.

Thanks Helen for your beautiful post and sharing such a poignant love poem. I´ve always loved small poems and they work wonders when I`m going through difficult times, like now.
luigi coppola on Wednesday, 25 April 2018 18:08

I love Kay Ryan (Token Loss, Silence, Dog Leg come to mind), Tennyson's The Eagle, AR Ammons' Sad Song, Ogden Nash's Fleas, My Own Epitaph by John Gay, First Fig by Edna St. Vincent Millay, Justice by Langston Hughes.

But 'On Going to Meet a Zen Master in the Kyushu Mountains and Not Finding Him' by Don Paterson is hard to beat.

I love Kay Ryan (Token Loss, Silence, Dog Leg come to mind), Tennyson's The Eagle, AR Ammons' Sad Song, Ogden Nash's Fleas, My Own Epitaph by John Gay, First Fig by Edna St. Vincent Millay, Justice by Langston Hughes. But 'On Going to Meet a Zen Master in the Kyushu Mountains and Not Finding Him' by Don Paterson is hard to beat.
Helena Nelson on Wednesday, 25 April 2018 18:12

You can only read 'On Going to Meet a ZM in the KM and NFH' once. No need to learn it either. Wouldn't get you through much of the washing up....;-)

You can only read 'On Going to Meet a ZM in the KM and NFH' once. No need to learn it either. Wouldn't get you through much of the washing up....;-)
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Sunday, 18 August 2019