Monday, September 08, 2014

Robert Sheppard: The Blickling Hall Poem (re: History or Sleep Selected Poems)

Here's another candidate for first poem, 'The Blickling Hall Poem'. (See earlier meditation on it here.) When I sat down to select poems for my Selected I knew Tombland wasn't going to make it but I thought this poem would. It didn't. (I did, however, become the first poem in a collaboration with Scott Thurston, called Turns, which was published in 2003.) It was written in 1980, I recall, as part of long text rattled off in snatched calm moments when my parents were visiting. The poem was influenced by Harry Guest's 'Elegies', then appearing. In the end I opted for the rediscovered 'Round Midnight', which I excluded from Returns (1985). You can read that here

The Blickling Hall Poem

Tranquillity is only a style, whose glyph
is struck at a moment’s rest,
phrasing the violence into pattern.
We found the secret garden, banked
in by trees, away from the order
of the parterre. We watched the wind
rocking the treetops, though the air
was still on our faces as we kissed
in the tiny summerhouse. You cannot stop
for long in this miniature world, closed
in by beech-hedges, as in the order
of a poem. A solitary sundial,
surrounded by lawn and brick-path,
centres it. It has no motto;
has only, perhaps, the slanting daylight
cut on a shadow’s fin, and moving
across its still surface.

NB When I posted the above I'd forgotten that I'd already done so, quite interestingly here, in a post to celebrate my 50th birthday, in which I contrast this 'earliest' poem with my most recent (as of 14/11/2005), and write about the conditions of writing both.  

NB 2021. I may not have selected it, but Kevin Gardner and John Greening did for their anthology Hollow Palaces. Read about that here, and see me read the poem on video: Pages: Robert Sheppard: The Blickling Hall Poem (re: History or Sleep Selected Poems) .