Carcanet Press recently asked Kate to record answers to five questions about her reading and writing habits. In this video she likens her own slow methods to growing – and pruning – fruit trees and reads from the sequence of poems about her grandmother Muriel, writer and broadcaster. Also in a blog entry for Carcanet, 15 July 2020, she reflects on the reluctance we have to recalling childhood once we are separated at a great distance by age, geography and circumstance.
Gerald Adler and Manolo Guerci, the editors of this book published today, admired Waterloo Sunrise, poem in 6 parts, commissioned in 2017 for the Waterloo Festival, and asked if they could include it with its proem – introductory section – with a short essay entitled Light Over Water. Because the proem was simply meant to herald the first performance it doesn’t appear elsewhere. It seems a good moment to upload the proem for a wider audience!
When there was only water
When there was no stretch
between the strand and Lower Marsh,
no span, no bearer over water except a wiry waterman,
at dawn, perhaps, the senses tuned to river flow, fish dance,
bird oratorio, meddled mud and silt and weed,
faint strains of a kind of blue,
notes made before this place was Waterloo.
But chances are today – however close
we hug the bank, or high we stand mid-river,
however keen our watch, bird eyed,
above the water flecking pearl and bottle green –
our senses won’t be primed for sunrise,
we’ll be unready for its marvellous surprise.
On the bridge attention flicks
from seated gull to sidling crow to hissing 176.
The city plays its engines loud, thumping on
until a break – the lifeboat’s motor
cuts out coming into dock – silent passage –
Look! The sun is lifted from its oven, to be blown.
Red blob of glass, red bulb, balloon, it wobbles
on a stem of light, lets light trail down.
Just as gold leaf is laid, brush tipped with grease, it shivers
as it flattens on the river. Threads of gold
snag on the drying wings of cormorants,
Egyptians angled on a boat.
A lorry passes with UNUSUAL in giant lettering,
a giant tweet. As if to emphasise that sunrise is.
The London Magazine has republished online the first poem Kate published in a literary magazine. It presently shares a page with poems also first published in The London Magazine by Keats and Ted Hughes.
‘At the Root of the Wind is Strife (according to Empedocles)’ has been Highly Commended in The Observances and will appear in the 2016 Forward Prize Anthology to be published in September 2015.
It’s not every day the river
offers up a bucket but here’s a pail,
pale blue. For an hour we fill it
with the river’s clutter, handles, pipes,
blue and white china, tumbled
glass, a cap badge.
Loaded, and we stink of mud, we turn to go
back along the beach but the beach has gone.
The tide’s sneaked up behind a bend
close by us, slip-slapping on the river-wall.
It snaps at your red boots,
and since you are a metre tall,
its hunger makes me also feel small, endangered,
startled as an animal, driven to scale
the weed-hung wall.
You swing yourself over the parapet
and pointing to the bucket in displeasure,
chatter like a marmoset. I have it, yes,
but to follow you and bring it too
I’ve jettisoned the best
part of your treasure.
Published in the Times Literary Supplement on 12 February, this is one of three poems from The Observances to catch the light of day just before the book is out.
The Rialto 82, due early Spring 2015, will include ‘Every Book is a Long Walk’ under the influence of Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks.
This poem appears in the forthcoming issue of Ambit, January 2015.
It is based on a tiny self-portrait by Leon Cogniet, newly arrived at the Villa Medici in Rome on a scholarship, reading the first letter from home. The painting is in Cleveland Museum of Art and can be found if you google. Cogniet later became director of the Ecole de Beaux Arts, the most prestigious French art school, and encouraged his sister Marie Amelie to head a teaching studio where women might also train as figurative artists, learning to draw from the life model as men were allowed to do.
Kate’s poem ‘Salvage’ has been selected for Best British Poetry 2013 (Salt Publications, Nov 2013) available now from bookshops. Meanwhile the new Ambit 215, published end of January 2014, includes her poem ‘Bouquet’, marking a young woman’s loss of her lover in WW1. Kate will be at the Ambit launch at The Sun and Thirteen Cantons, Gt Pulteney Street, Soho, on Thursday 30 January.