Thursday, 3 September 2015

Three poems about books by Philip Harvey

Winter Reading

Air freighted from Gloucester, a new
Medbh McGuckian: American-style margins,
Smelling of light binder’s glue and young birch.
In one poem she writes of an island
"where prayer books are left open in church."

Gold, old, and uncut after Page 41,
It is actually nice to finish the job
Which another reader in 1884
And the makers of the vellum volume began,
Surgically extracting the book inside the author.

Bedtime, just abouts, the little girl and I
Read Eloise, Madeline, some Alison Lester,
Scribbled on, retaped, unreplaced,
Every word sounded out at perfect pace.
By weekend she’ll draw books full of heroines.

Come icy Sunday, maybe the monolithic
Silver album of Antarctic explorers. They sit in kit
Reading Herodotus while the camera develops.
They had no book then, none in existence,
To describe the exposure they experienced.

And here’s my favourite Penguin Chekhov.
O that lonely buffoon Ranevskaya’s brother
With nothing better to do in his life
Than give a speech to his bookcase –
What a clot! But, what were the titles?

The Last Words of Everybody

‘You have not been invited to hear
The last words of everybody.’
Thomas Merton, Elegy for James Thurber

For every tyrant born before interviews
Rows of galleys await the bad news.
The little generals still receive late reviews,
        the last words of everybody.

Each star-turn transmutes to an archetype:
Athletes, actors, atheists with a gripe.
This week’s brain food is next week’s tripe,
        The past words of everybody.

Now not all that is silicon glitters.
The slog of blog, the litter of twitter,
Permanent feeds lead to verbal squitters,
        The blasted absurds of everybody.

Every book is a new brick in babel,
Download the sequel to the fable,
Check the alphabets as they cross the table,
        The vast words of anybody.

It’s the trust in your own voice gets your vote,
A quiet caption fits like a coat.
Don’t miss the boat, best turn the remote
        On the last words of everybody.

Full Text

The book that possesses me still rests
Where it went, the cover ordinary in the light
And the day could be whatever we want.

Then this other book I found nearby
Says so much about the first chapters
That it is like starting over, the time

It takes to remember first entrances.
In the footnotes of this borrowed book
Are all the thoughts of an older man

Who had never in his life gone further
Than the townships of his own region
But talked in the translations of ancients.

Picture books are so much more expensive
And I wonder who can spend their time
So scrupulously perfecting the print colours

To add evidence to the shelves of rooms
Of commentaries that prove conclusively
We move from darkness into light.

The reviewer missed the point completely
Of the book that now I can’t put down
And when I raise my view from the page

There is a train carriage full of passengers,
Many of whom are homesick for a country

The other passengers have never visited.

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