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Requested poems from Poetry Please number 8

I would like to take this opportunity to make mention of the website of the Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org) where you can find not only the text of all ten of the chosen poems, but a splendidly wide range of poems all available to you on-line. You can, of course, find a great selection of poetry books at The Glass Key bookshop in Montmorillon.

Eighth in the series of most requested poems for the Poetry Please programme on Radio 4 is The Listeners by Walter de la Mare:

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
  Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
  Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
  Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
  ‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
  No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
  Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
  That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
  To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
  That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
  By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
  Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
  ‘Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
  Louder, and lifted his head: –
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
  That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
  Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
  From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
  And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
  When the plunging hoofs were gone.

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Requested poems from Poetry Please – number 9

Poem number nine in the Radio 4’s Poetry Please most requested list is Remember by Christina Rossetti:

Remember me when I am gone away,
     Gone far away into the silent land;
     When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
     You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
     Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
     And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
     For if the darkness and corruption leave
     A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
     Than that you should remember and be sad.

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Favourite poems from Poetry Please

Having just read an article about the ten poems most requested by listeners to Radio 4’s Poetry Please I thought that, over the next several days, I would post the ten poems on The Glass Key blog. A book, Poetry Please: The Nation’s Best-Loved Poems has recently been published by Faber.

Poem number ten is To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell:

Had we but world enough and time
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand for the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust;
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

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The Gift of Darkness by V.M. Giambanco

46116_GiftOfDarkness_JKT.indd  Twenty-five years ago in the woods near the Hoh River in Seattle three boys were kidnapped and one did not survive.  A quarter of a century later the two survivors and the brother of the third boy are bound into a complex plot of murder and revenge.  Homicide detective Alice Madison working with a combination of dogged police work and inspired intuition, slowly unravels the mystery and exposes a killer with an unstoppable thirst for revenge.

This is Jeffery Deaver country and Deaver fans – of whom there are many – should go for this in a big way.  For me the characters are a bit stock-in-trade from the drawer marked Thrillers, but the plot rattles along the tracks at a fair old speed.  Periodically, and for no discernible reason, the text breaks into the present tense in a way I found odd.  These tense changes are not linked to the carefully orchestrated flashbacks which punctuate the narrative and provide welcome detail to clarify the actions and motivations of the characters in the novel.

Alice Madison is an engagingly complex hero and I feel sure we may well meet her again in another novel.  The other characters are a little two dimensional and do not really come to life in the way that they should.  Once started you wont be able to stop reading, but there is something ultimately unsatisfying about the book – it is dark, but not deep enough.

V. M. Giambanco was born in Italy and has worked in films for many years.  She lives in London.

The Gift of Darkness by V. M. Giambanco will be published by Quercus in June

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A Poem to mark the birthday of Christopher Hampton

SOMETHING HAS TO BE DONE

After hearing of yet another Israeli attack on Palestinian towns – Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem.

‘Something has to be done’.
That much we know.
The world won’t wait
while sitting over late
coffee we prevaricate.
‘Something has to be done’.

Even to reiterate
suggests a kind of desperate
Cassandra-voice.
For if the world won’t wait,
how can we let it go
while the hate-seeds grow,
driving us down pathways
into a dead-end dark
where the claustrophobia
of closing doors breeds panic,
and the voices that would speak
alternatives are silenced?

– Christopher Hampton, 2003.

To be published in ‘What Remains: New and Selected Poems’ September 2013

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Dagger in the Library – 13 possibles

The judging panel for this year’s Dagger in the Library Award have announced the longlist for the 2013 award. The thirteen authors in contention this year are Belinda Bauer, Alison Bruce, S.J. Bolton, Peter May, Gordon Ferris, Tania Carver, Elly Griffiths, Christopher Fowler, Michael Ridpath, Jane Casey, Phil Rickman, Alex Gray and Frances Brody. The shortlist will be announced at Crimefest on 31st May, with the eventual winner being revealed at the Daggers Gala Dinner on 15th July. More information on the Daggers in the Library page.

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Gargoyles by Thomas Bernhard

First published in 1967, Gargoyles (Verstörung) is Austrian novelist and playwright Thomas Bernhard’s second novel.  Even in his earliest novels, he had already begun to use the metaphors of physical and mental illness to explore the decay of his homeland. Gargoyles, a dark, broken bildungsroman, was the first of Bernhard’s novels to be translated and the first to gain him national recognition. Set in the haunting fairy-tale landscape of rural Austria, the narrator is a young man home from university who follows his father, a country doctor, on his rounds through the area surrounding a remote mountain gorge. Each patient they visit suffers from a different nightmarish ailment by which the father means to expose the boy—an idealistic student of science and rationality—to the ubiquity of sickness, brutality, and death. “It would be wrong to refuse to face the fact,” his father cautions him, “that everything is fundamentally sick and sad.” This unsentimental education in Bernhardian values culminates with a visit to Hochgobernitz castle and its owner, the mad Prince Saurau.  There follows a hundred-page monologue by the prince about his own descent into madness and his fraught relationship with his own son, who is studying abroad. Bernhard shares with Kafka and Beckett the ability to extract more than utter gloom from his haunting landscape. While the external surface of life is unquestionably grim, he somehow suggests more – the mystic element in experience that calls for symbolic interpretation; the inner significance of states that are akin to surrealistic dream-worlds; man’s yearning for health, compassion, sanity.  The book is a singular, surreal study of the nature of humanity.

Published by The University of Chicago Press in 1986 and translated from the German by Richard and Clara Winston.  Originally published as Verstorung in 1967.

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The Broken Shore by Peter Temple

The Broken Shore by Peter Temple

First UK publication by Quercus in 2006, issued by them in paperback in 2007 and re-issued in 2009.

Cashin walked around the water tanker.  It had been crudely sprayed black with aerosol paint.  But before that rust had set in where markings had been erased, probably with a steel brush on a grinder.  The rust was bubbling the new paint. ‘Where’d you get this?’ he said.                                                                                    Bern flicked his cigarette end.  ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘you go in the McDonald’s drive-in, you ask the kid where’d you get the mince?’

I am a latecomer to Peter Temple, but The Broken Shore was certainly worth the wait.  Born in South Africa in 1946, Peter Temple moved to Australia in 1980.  He has worked extensively as a journalist and editor, for newspapers and magazines in several countries.  He has also taught journalism, editing and media studies at a number of universities.  His Jack Irish novels (Bad Debts, Black Tide, Dead Point, and White Dog) are set in Melbourne, Australia and feature an unusual lawyer-gambler protagonist.  He has also written a number of stand-alone novels as well as The Broken Shore and its semi-sequel Truth.  He has won five Ned Kelly Awards for crime fiction, the most recent in 2006 for The Broken Shore, which also won the Colin Roderick Award for best Australian book and the Australian Book Publishers’ Award for best general fiction.  The Broken Shore also won the Crime Writers’ Association Duncan Lawrie Dagger in 2007.  Temple is the first Australian to win a Gold Dagger.

Recovering from serious injuries, both physical and emotional, sustained in the pursuit of a criminal, detective Joe Cashin, the protagonist of The Broken Shore, has been posted to the countryside where he grew up, on the southern coast of Port Phillip Bay near Melbourne.  An elderly, but once important, businessman is beaten up and left close to death on his estate.  Two young Aborigines are traced trying to sell an expensive watch that sounds as though it is the one worn by Charles Bourgoyne, the now deceased businessman.  To everyone except Cashin the case is shut almost before it has opened, but to Cashin there are too many unanswered questions and he doggedly continues to seek the truth.  Through his investigation Cashin uncovers a web of deceit as he moves ever closer to uncovering the facts.

The novel has a depth and breadth that makes it a hugely enjoyable read, not simply as an excellent example of the crime genre (and it is certainly that), but also because, through the wealth of incidental detail, the development of the characters and the setting of them in what feels to be a real place, Temple is able to touch on several important themes: racial prejudice, police corruption and ecological vandalism being three.  Temple writes with a sure touch and his characters come off the page as ‘real’ people each with a history and a body of felt experience.  Characters such as Rebb, the itinerant swaggie whom Cashin befriends, are developed by Temple into something more than cameos; they have an essence, a reality that is rare to find in a crime novel.  I am reminded of the Lew Archer novels of Ross McDonald where again you find a similar development of characters in depth and a prose style to match.

If there are other novels by Temple even half as good as The Broken Shore then I really look forward to reading them.Image