The craft of poetry at work

I subscribe to this site: New Writing, which is a part of the Contemporary Writers site. All British Council initiatives to encourage writing and spot new writers, poets and novelists alike. I discovered Henry Shukman in the September Themes series.

The Poetry Book Soceity has this to say about Henry Shukman:

Henry Shukman’s work finds poetry in the most unlikely of places; a Japanese skijumper, a trawlerman’s Friday night out, moving house. Without unnecessary verbal tricks or flourishes he creates poems that help us remember, help us understand better our own lives. A momentary description, a word or phrase perhaps, is all it takes in a Henry Shukman poem to open our eyes to the extraordinary nature of every life.

Here are two poems that I am stunned by. Truly, the craft of poetry at work.


A last wade through the fields. Home
comes up to your waist. I know this view:
the camouflage of woods,
a single plane crawling into evening.

My wife, who doesn’t want to leave,
takes solace in a tub under that red roof,
longing for a mutual longing – a cottage
sunk in grey hills, an oceanic window.

The larks are going crazy.
Swallows skim the grass like fish.
A train sighs to Oxford, unseen,
and the grass hisses, stay, stay.

The Call

All these years and I still don’t understand
how it works, how the signal gets through
the bones of my hand, the bricks of this house,
the bank building opposite, and across miles
of suburb and field, pylons and roads,
hills and four rivers to precisely you,
in another city, another house, another room,
hunched by the bath with your phone in your hand,
sobbing. You can’t bear to feel so split,
you gasp. Downstairs you hear
a chair scrape, a man’s voice.
He laughs, in dialogue with another ghost.
But I understand how light works.
Earlier your back gleamed like a guitar.
The last leaves on the sycamore
flickered like a school of mackerel.
Later I will go out in a leopard-coat of light
without you: just me and the trees baring themselves
for winter, and the marbled paving stones,
and my empty hand shining.

© Henry Shukman 2007

Note: The poems sited here are with the intention to inform not for commercial purposes. You may not redistribute, sell or place these materials on any other web site without written permission from the British Council.


One thought on “The craft of poetry at work

  1. I see that you appreciate good poetry. If by any chance you have an Orkut account, please visit “The Northern Lights Poetry Review” community.

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