Friday, 22 March 2013

The Poem's the Thing

The second visits to The Poem's the Thing in Kirkwall and Stromness last week saw us looking at three poems about pigs Why? I hear you ask!

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. WN Herbert's latest book of poetry had just come in to the library. It's called Omnesia and as I was flicking through it a poem Facts About Pigs caught my eye. Aha, I thought, I know other poems about pigs. There's Ted Hughes's View of a Pig and Les Murray's Pigs. That'll do. 

WN Herbert
A very diverting discussion ensued. Which poet got under the crackling to view the pig from the pig's point of view? Which was distancing himself from the pig - and from something else - death, perhaps? What about the relationship between humans and pigs? Hard to say anything but, Awhh, to the picture above. My colleague Louise found it and posted it on the Orkney Library & Archive facebook page. But the poems we read were somewhat darker, though not without humour. 

Ted Hughes
But to go back to the original question, why pigs. Without really thinking it through, was I trying to demonstrate that poetry can be about ANYTHING? Possibly.
Les Murray

So what could we follow the pig poems with? Seagull, anyone? We read Edwin Morgan's Gull, a chilling, spine tingling poem about a gull landing on the poet's window sill.

... He eyed my furniture, my plants, an apple.
   Perhaps he was a mutation, a supergull.
   Perhaps he was, instead, a visitation
   which only used that tight firm forward body
   to bring the waste and dread of open waters,
   foundered voyages, matchless predators,
   into a dry room. I knew nothing ...

Edwin Morgan
A scary gull for sure and much admired in the group. A cousin perhaps of this bold thief?

We also read Kathleen Jamie's poem, The Longhouse. You can read it here. 

... This is what happens.
This is why we loosed our grip and fled

like the wind-driven smoke
from the single lum
in the crooked roof that covers
both women and beasts, a roof
low and broken like a cry

It was a sombre set of poems, I guess! But the discussion was far from sombre. 

Kathleen Jamie

In Stromness we ended our discussion 
of the pig poems with one member's reading
of DH Lawrence's poem Snake
A suitably intense end to an interesting and
engaging discussion. 

Check out the Scottish Poetry Library's excellent
website for information about Scottish poets and

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