Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Birthday Letters


Me and poetry have never been friends. It'd be all "Fancy words, triple entendre and incomplete sentences!" and I'd be like "No! Speak English you fool, I can't understand a word you're saying!"

Then I discovered Ted Hughes. His writing makes me swoon. I am envious of his ability to find the perfect phrase, expressing what he means with the fewest of words. 

Birthday Letters was published the year that he died and explores his relationship with Sylvia Plath. Here is one of my favourites from the book.

Who will remember your fingers?
Their winged life? They flew
With the light in your look.
At the piano, stomping out hits from the forties,
They performed an incidental clowning
Routine of their own, deadpan puppets.
You were only concerned to get them to the keys.
But as you talked, as your eyes signalled
The strobes of your elation,
They flared, flicked balletic acrobatics.
I thought of birds in some tropical sexual
Play of display, leaping and somersaulting,
Doing strange things in the air, and dropping to the dust.
Those dangers of your excess!
With such deft, practical touches - so accurate.
Thinking their own thoughts caressed like lightning
The lipstick into your mouth corners.

Trim conductors of your expertise,
Cavorting at your typewriter,
Possessed by infant spirit, puckish,
Who, whatever they did, danced or mimed it
In weightless largesse of espressivo.

I remember your fingers. And your daughter's
Fingers remember your fingers
In everything they do.
Her fingers obey and honour your fingers,
The lares and Penates of our house.

No comments: