Monday 29 May 2023

How to read a poem


No use pining for days that can’t loop back -

when doves were haikus on the window sill

and sparrows wrote sonnets between two skies

traffic was a boat song. Birds have a knack

with poetry. All the centres must keep still

always at every turn, movement, sunrise.


The frames, the faces spin out of your range

you’ll find nothing is where you kept it last

they were emptied as you left, emptier

now – beakers, flasks, rooms, whole neighbourhoods. Change

doesn’t believe in notice, comes down fast

a hammer on a nail head. No birds here.

No haiku, boatsongs. A silence that breaks

rather than calms. Circles that throb and ache. 

If I try hard I know I'll be able to do it - write a sonnet with all its constituent parts intact, the anapestiferous or the iambic da-dumbing da-dumbing their way through the whole thing like one of those battery powered little toy band man when the triple As are finally failing. But I rarely try. The idea is to let the lines write themselves in whatever schemes and configurations that comes together. That feels more natural, so that's what I usually go with. 

Of course I can't specify how they are to be read - where to pause, where the voice should rise and pierce, just like a series of fireworks projectiles.  I don't want to. I don't want them to be fireworks.  I want my poems to be like a dandelion breath of words, whisper soft. No fanfare, no drama, no declaiming, just  normal speech that's felt rather than heard. That's my ideal, the ultimate dream - I don't know how close I've got to it. I feel I'm closer than when I started out, almost 12 years ago now. 

So yeah, that's what I'm telling you now. Read it however you want, you don't have to be able to declaim, recite, know the basic rules of elocution or rhetoric or anything else for that matter. You don't have to bother with iambic and enjambment and rhyme schemes or anything else. No contexts, no hidden meanings. Think of dew falling, or snowflakes, or autumn leaves rustling, the scent of wild grass.  That's all. Natural, unobtrusive, low key, like a friend's arm round your shoulders, supportive and welcome, there when you want it but not forceful,  a part of your own frame and universe, undemanding, super comfortable, easy going. Spontaneously removed the minute it feels you squirm.  Have the most wonderful week.


  1. Hari OM
    I'm a larrikin; sometimes I read poems backwords just to see what happens. YAM xx

    1. Often makes more sense that way too! <3 :)

  2. Someone (Rumi:?) said that poetry is the language of the heart. And that is what I read them with.

    1. Correct, the only and the best sense organ for the job.

  3. whispers soft, dandelion breath - even your descriptions are poetry. I truly hope someday we can meet in person because I think talking with you will be poetry. And we'll be sympatico.
    Come to TX and we'll laugh. Meanwhile I enjoy your blog posts and poetry. Cheers my friend.

    1. Ooh, thanks for the invite! I hope to take you up on that, would be totally lovely to get together over a coffee.