Five Poems I Wish I Had Written

Episodes

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01Seamus Heaney's 'The Underground'20170925

"Poet Don Paterson reflects on Seamus Heaney's 'The Underground'.

Don Paterson is an award-winning poet, editor and teacher, but for all his technical ability and the recognition that has been paid to his work Paterson is acutely aware of awe and sometimes envy when he looks at the work of other writers. Here he applies his wit and skills of technical analysis to discussing the five poems he wishes he had written.
Tonight, Seamus Heaney's 'The Underground' .

The Underground

There we were in the vaulted tunnel running,
You in your going-away coat speeding ahead
And me, me then like a fleet god gaining
Upon you before you turned to a reed

Or some new white flower japped with crimson
As the coat flapped wild and button after button
Sprang off and fell in a trail
Between the Underground and the Albert Hall.

Honeymooning, moonlighting, late for the Proms,
Our echoes die in that corridor and now
I come as Hansel came on the moonlit stones
Retracing the path back, lifting the buttons

To end up in a draughty lamplit station
After the trains have gone, the wet track
Bared and tensed as I am, all attention
For your step following and damned if I look back.

from Station Island (Faber, 1984), copyright (c) Seamus Heaney 1984,.

"

01Seamus Heaney's 'The Underground'20170925

Poet Don Paterson reflects on Seamus Heaney's 'The Underground'.

Don Paterson is an award-winning poet, editor and teacher, but for all his technical ability and the recognition that has been paid to his work Paterson is acutely aware of awe and sometimes envy when he looks at the work of other writers. Here he applies his wit and skills of technical analysis to discussing the five poems he wishes he had written.
Tonight, Seamus Heaney's 'The Underground' .

The Underground

There we were in the vaulted tunnel running,
You in your going-away coat speeding ahead
And me, me then like a fleet god gaining
Upon you before you turned to a reed

Or some new white flower japped with crimson
As the coat flapped wild and button after button
Sprang off and fell in a trail
Between the Underground and the Albert Hall.

Honeymooning, moonlighting, late for the Proms,
Our echoes die in that corridor and now
I come as Hansel came on the moonlit stones
Retracing the path back, lifting the buttons

To end up in a draughty lamplit station
After the trains have gone, the wet track
Bared and tensed as I am, all attention
For your step following and damned if I look back.

from Station Island (Faber, 1984), copyright (c) Seamus Heaney 1984,.

01Seamus Heaney's 'the Underground'20170925

Poet Don Paterson reflects on Seamus Heaney's 'The Underground'.

Don Paterson is an award-winning poet, editor and teacher, but for all his technical ability and the recognition that has been paid to his work Paterson is acutely aware of awe and sometimes envy when he looks at the work of other writers. Here he applies his wit and skills of technical analysis to discussing the five poems he wishes he had written.
Tonight, Seamus Heaney's 'The Underground'.

The Underground

There we were in the vaulted tunnel running,
You in your going-away coat speeding ahead
And me, me then like a fleet god gaining
Upon you before you turned to a reed

Or some new white flower japped with crimson
As the coat flapped wild and button after button
Sprang off and fell in a trail
Between the Underground and the Albert Hall.

Honeymooning, moonlighting, late for the Proms,
Our echoes die in that corridor and now
I come as Hansel came on the moonlit stones
Retracing the path back, lifting the buttons

To end up in a draughty lamplit station
After the trains have gone, the wet track
Bared and tensed as I am, all attention
For your step following and damned if I look back.

from Station Island (Faber, 1984), copyright (c) Seamus Heaney 1984,.

01Seamus Heaney's 'the Underground'20170925

Poet Don Paterson reflects on Seamus Heaney's 'The Underground'.

Don Paterson is an award-winning poet, editor and teacher, but for all his technical ability and the recognition that has been paid to his work Paterson is acutely aware of awe and sometimes envy when he looks at the work of other writers. Here he applies his wit and skills of technical analysis to discussing the five poems he wishes he had written.
Tonight, Seamus Heaney's 'The Underground'.

The Underground

There we were in the vaulted tunnel running,
You in your going-away coat speeding ahead
And me, me then like a fleet god gaining
Upon you before you turned to a reed

Or some new white flower japped with crimson
As the coat flapped wild and button after button
Sprang off and fell in a trail
Between the Underground and the Albert Hall.

Honeymooning, moonlighting, late for the Proms,
Our echoes die in that corridor and now
I come as Hansel came on the moonlit stones
Retracing the path back, lifting the buttons

To end up in a draughty lamplit station
After the trains have gone, the wet track
Bared and tensed as I am, all attention
For your step following and damned if I look back.

from Station Island (Faber, 1984), copyright (c) Seamus Heaney 1984,.

02Elizabeth Bishop's 'Large Bad Picture'20170926

"Poet Don Paterson reflects on Elizabeth Bishop's 'Large Bad Picture'.

Don Paterson is an award-winning poet, editor and teacher, but for all his technical ability and the recognition that has been paid to his work Paterson is acutely aware of awe and sometimes envy when he looks at the work of other writers. Here he applies his wit and skills of technical analysis to discussing the five poems he wishes he had written.
Tonight, Elizabeth Bishop's 'Large Bad Picture'.

Large Bad Picture

Remembering the Strait of Belle Isle or
some northerly harbor of Labrador,
before he became a schoolteacher
a great-uncle painted a big picture.

Receding for miles on either side
into a flushed, still sky
are overhanging pale blue cliffs
hundreds of feet high,

their bases fretted by little arches,
the entrances to caves
running in along the level of a bay
masked by perfect waves.

On the middle of that quiet floor
sits a fleet of small black ships,
square-rigged, sails furled, motionless,
their spars like burnt match-sticks.

And high above them, over the tall cliffs'
semi-translucent ranks,
are scribbled hundreds of fine black birds
hanging in n's in banks.

One can hear their crying, crying,
the only sound there is
except for occasional sighing
as a large aquatic animal breathes.

In the pink light
the small red sun goes rolling, rolling,
round and round and round at the same height
in perpetual sunset, comprehensive, consoling,

while the ships consider it.
Apparently they have reached their destination.
It would be hard to say what brought them there,
commerce or contemplation.

"

02Elizabeth Bishop's 'Large Bad Picture'20170926

Poet Don Paterson reflects on Elizabeth Bishop's 'Large Bad Picture'.

Don Paterson is an award-winning poet, editor and teacher, but for all his technical ability and the recognition that has been paid to his work Paterson is acutely aware of awe and sometimes envy when he looks at the work of other writers. Here he applies his wit and skills of technical analysis to discussing the five poems he wishes he had written.
Tonight, Elizabeth Bishop's 'Large Bad Picture'.

Large Bad Picture

Remembering the Strait of Belle Isle or
some northerly harbor of Labrador,
before he became a schoolteacher
a great-uncle painted a big picture.

Receding for miles on either side
into a flushed, still sky
are overhanging pale blue cliffs
hundreds of feet high,

their bases fretted by little arches,
the entrances to caves
running in along the level of a bay
masked by perfect waves.

On the middle of that quiet floor
sits a fleet of small black ships,
square-rigged, sails furled, motionless,
their spars like burnt match-sticks.

And high above them, over the tall cliffs'
semi-translucent ranks,
are scribbled hundreds of fine black birds
hanging in n's in banks.

One can hear their crying, crying,
the only sound there is
except for occasional sighing
as a large aquatic animal breathes.

In the pink light
the small red sun goes rolling, rolling,
round and round and round at the same height
in perpetual sunset, comprehensive, consoling,

while the ships consider it.
Apparently they have reached their destination.
It would be hard to say what brought them there,
commerce or contemplation.

02Elizabeth Bishop's 'large Bad Picture'20170926

Poet Don Paterson reflects on Elizabeth Bishop's 'Large Bad Picture'.

Don Paterson is an award-winning poet, editor and teacher, but for all his technical ability and the recognition that has been paid to his work Paterson is acutely aware of awe and sometimes envy when he looks at the work of other writers. Here he applies his wit and skills of technical analysis to discussing the five poems he wishes he had written.
Tonight, Elizabeth Bishop's 'Large Bad Picture'.

Large Bad Picture

Remembering the Strait of Belle Isle or
some northerly harbor of Labrador,
before he became a schoolteacher
a great-uncle painted a big picture.

Receding for miles on either side
into a flushed, still sky
are overhanging pale blue cliffs
hundreds of feet high,

their bases fretted by little arches,
the entrances to caves
running in along the level of a bay
masked by perfect waves.

On the middle of that quiet floor
sits a fleet of small black ships,
square-rigged, sails furled, motionless,
their spars like burnt match-sticks.

And high above them, over the tall cliffs'
semi-translucent ranks,
are scribbled hundreds of fine black birds
hanging in n's in banks.

One can hear their crying, crying,
the only sound there is
except for occasional sighing
as a large aquatic animal breathes.

In the pink light
the small red sun goes rolling, rolling,
round and round and round at the same height
in perpetual sunset, comprehensive, consoling,

while the ships consider it.
Apparently they have reached their destination.
It would be hard to say what brought them there,
commerce or contemplation.

Don Paterson is an award-winning poet, editor and teacher, but for all his technical ability and the recognition that has been paid to his work Paterson is acutely aware of awe and sometimes envy when he looks at the work of other writers. Here he applies his wit and skills of technical analysis to discussing the five poems he wishes he had written.
Tonight, Elizabeth Bishop's 'Large Bad Picture'.

02Elizabeth Bishop's 'large Bad Picture'20170926

Poet Don Paterson reflects on Elizabeth Bishop's 'Large Bad Picture'.

Don Paterson is an award-winning poet, editor and teacher, but for all his technical ability and the recognition that has been paid to his work Paterson is acutely aware of awe and sometimes envy when he looks at the work of other writers. Here he applies his wit and skills of technical analysis to discussing the five poems he wishes he had written.
Tonight, Elizabeth Bishop's 'Large Bad Picture'.

Large Bad Picture

Remembering the Strait of Belle Isle or
some northerly harbor of Labrador,
before he became a schoolteacher
a great-uncle painted a big picture.

Receding for miles on either side
into a flushed, still sky
are overhanging pale blue cliffs
hundreds of feet high,

their bases fretted by little arches,
the entrances to caves
running in along the level of a bay
masked by perfect waves.

On the middle of that quiet floor
sits a fleet of small black ships,
square-rigged, sails furled, motionless,
their spars like burnt match-sticks.

And high above them, over the tall cliffs'
semi-translucent ranks,
are scribbled hundreds of fine black birds
hanging in n's in banks.

One can hear their crying, crying,
the only sound there is
except for occasional sighing
as a large aquatic animal breathes.

In the pink light
the small red sun goes rolling, rolling,
round and round and round at the same height
in perpetual sunset, comprehensive, consoling,

while the ships consider it.
Apparently they have reached their destination.
It would be hard to say what brought them there,
commerce or contemplation.

Don Paterson is an award-winning poet, editor and teacher, but for all his technical ability and the recognition that has been paid to his work Paterson is acutely aware of awe and sometimes envy when he looks at the work of other writers. Here he applies his wit and skills of technical analysis to discussing the five poems he wishes he had written.
Tonight, Elizabeth Bishop's 'Large Bad Picture'.

03Michael Donaghy's 'The Hunter's Purse'20170927

"Poet Don Paterson reflects on Michael Donaghy's 'The Hunter's Purse'.

Don Paterson is an award-winning poet, editor and teacher, but for all his technical ability and the recognition that has been paid to his work Paterson is acutely aware of awe and sometimes envy when he looks at the work of other writers. Here he applies his wit and skills of technical analysis to discussing the five poems he wishes he had written.
Tonight, Michael Donaghy 'The Hunter's Purse'.

The Hunter's Purse

is the last unshattered 78
by 'Patrolman Jack O'Ryan, violin',
a Sligo fiddler in dry America.

A legend, he played Manhattan's ceilidhs,
fell asleep drunk one snowy Christmas
on a Central Park bench and froze solid.
They shipped his corpse home, like his records.

This record's record is its lunar surface.
I wouldn't risk my stylus to this gouge,
or this crater left by a flick of ash -

When Anne Quinn got hold of it back in Kilrush,
she took her fiddle to her shoulder
and cranked the new Horn of Plenty
Victrola over and over and over,
and scratched along until she had it right
or until her father shouted

'We'll have no more
Of that tune
In this house tonight'.

She slipped out back and strapped the contraption
to the parcel rack and rode her bike
to a far field, by moonlight.

It skips. The penny I used for ballast slips.
O'Ryan's fiddle pops, and hiccoughs
back to this, back to this, back to this:
a napping snowman with a fiddlecase;
a flask of bootleg under his belt;
three stars; a gramophone on a pushbike;
a cigarette's glow from a far field;
over and over, three bars in common time.

"

03Michael Donaghy's 'The Hunter's Purse'20170927

Poet Don Paterson reflects on Michael Donaghy's 'The Hunter's Purse'.

Don Paterson is an award-winning poet, editor and teacher, but for all his technical ability and the recognition that has been paid to his work Paterson is acutely aware of awe and sometimes envy when he looks at the work of other writers. Here he applies his wit and skills of technical analysis to discussing the five poems he wishes he had written.
Tonight, Michael Donaghy 'The Hunter's Purse'.

The Hunter's Purse

is the last unshattered 78
by 'Patrolman Jack O'Ryan, violin',
a Sligo fiddler in dry America.

A legend, he played Manhattan's ceilidhs,
fell asleep drunk one snowy Christmas
on a Central Park bench and froze solid.
They shipped his corpse home, like his records.

This record's record is its lunar surface.
I wouldn't risk my stylus to this gouge,
or this crater left by a flick of ash -

When Anne Quinn got hold of it back in Kilrush,
she took her fiddle to her shoulder
and cranked the new Horn of Plenty
Victrola over and over and over,
and scratched along until she had it right
or until her father shouted

'We'll have no more
Of that tune
In this house tonight'.

She slipped out back and strapped the contraption
to the parcel rack and rode her bike
to a far field, by moonlight.

It skips. The penny I used for ballast slips.
O'Ryan's fiddle pops, and hiccoughs
back to this, back to this, back to this:
a napping snowman with a fiddlecase;
a flask of bootleg under his belt;
three stars; a gramophone on a pushbike;
a cigarette's glow from a far field;
over and over, three bars in common time.

03Michael Donaghy's 'the Hunter's Purse'20170927

Poet Don Paterson reflects on Michael Donaghy's 'The Hunter's Purse'.

Don Paterson is an award-winning poet, editor and teacher, but for all his technical ability and the recognition that has been paid to his work Paterson is acutely aware of awe and sometimes envy when he looks at the work of other writers. Here he applies his wit and skills of technical analysis to discussing the five poems he wishes he had written.
Tonight, Michael Donaghy 'The Hunter's Purse'.

The Hunter's Purse

is the last unshattered 78
by 'Patrolman Jack O'Ryan, violin',
a Sligo fiddler in dry America.

A legend, he played Manhattan's ceilidhs,
fell asleep drunk one snowy Christmas
on a Central Park bench and froze solid.
They shipped his corpse home, like his records.

This record's record is its lunar surface.
I wouldn't risk my stylus to this gouge,
or this crater left by a flick of ash -

When Anne Quinn got hold of it back in Kilrush,
she took her fiddle to her shoulder
and cranked the new Horn of Plenty
Victrola over and over and over,
and scratched along until she had it right
or until her father shouted

'We'll have no more
Of that tune
In this house tonight'.

She slipped out back and strapped the contraption
to the parcel rack and rode her bike
to a far field, by moonlight.

It skips. The penny I used for ballast slips.
O'Ryan's fiddle pops, and hiccoughs
back to this, back to this, back to this:
a napping snowman with a fiddlecase;
a flask of bootleg under his belt;
three stars; a gramophone on a pushbike;
a cigarette's glow from a far field;
over and over, three bars in common time.

03Michael Donaghy's 'the Hunter's Purse'20170927

Poet Don Paterson reflects on Michael Donaghy's 'The Hunter's Purse'.

Don Paterson is an award-winning poet, editor and teacher, but for all his technical ability and the recognition that has been paid to his work Paterson is acutely aware of awe and sometimes envy when he looks at the work of other writers. Here he applies his wit and skills of technical analysis to discussing the five poems he wishes he had written.
Tonight, Michael Donaghy 'The Hunter's Purse'.

The Hunter's Purse

is the last unshattered 78
by 'Patrolman Jack O'Ryan, violin',
a Sligo fiddler in dry America.

A legend, he played Manhattan's ceilidhs,
fell asleep drunk one snowy Christmas
on a Central Park bench and froze solid.
They shipped his corpse home, like his records.

This record's record is its lunar surface.
I wouldn't risk my stylus to this gouge,
or this crater left by a flick of ash -

When Anne Quinn got hold of it back in Kilrush,
she took her fiddle to her shoulder
and cranked the new Horn of Plenty
Victrola over and over and over,
and scratched along until she had it right
or until her father shouted

'We'll have no more
Of that tune
In this house tonight'.

She slipped out back and strapped the contraption
to the parcel rack and rode her bike
to a far field, by moonlight.

It skips. The penny I used for ballast slips.
O'Ryan's fiddle pops, and hiccoughs
back to this, back to this, back to this:
a napping snowman with a fiddlecase;
a flask of bootleg under his belt;
three stars; a gramophone on a pushbike;
a cigarette's glow from a far field;
over and over, three bars in common time.

04Sylvia Plath's 'cut'20170928

Poet Don Paterson reflects on Sylvia Plath's poem 'Cut'.

Don Paterson is an award-winning poet, editor and teacher, but for all his technical ability and the recognition that has been paid to his work Paterson is acutely aware of awe and sometimes envy when he looks at the work of other writers. Here he applies his wit and skills of technical analysis to discussing the five poems he wishes he had written.
Tonight, Sylvia Plath's poem 'Cut'.

Cut
For Susan O'Neill Roe

What a thrill -
My thumb instead of an onion.
The top quite gone
Except for a sort of a hinge

Of skin,
A flap like a hat,
Dead white.
Then that red plush.

Little pilgrim,
The Indian's axed your scalp.
Your turkey wattle
Carpet rolls

Straight from the heart.
I step on it,
Clutching my bottle
Of pink fizz.

A celebration, this is.
Out of a gap
A million soldiers run,
Redcoats, every one.

Whose side are they on?
0 my
Homunculus, I am ill.
I have taken a pill to kill

The thin
Papery feeling.
Saboteur,
Kamikaze man

The stain on your
Gauze Ku Klux Klan
Babushka
Darkens and tarnishes and when

The balled
Pulp of your heart
Confronts its small
Mill of silence

How you jump -
Trepanned veteran,
Dirty girl,
Thumb stump.

05Robert Frost's 'Design'20170929

"Poet Don Paterson reflects on Robert Frost's 'Design'.

Don Paterson is an award-winning poet, editor and teacher, but for all his technical ability and the recognition that has been paid to his work Paterson is acutely aware of awe and sometimes envy when he looks at the work of other writers. Here he applies his wit and skills of technical analysis to discussing five poems he wishes he had written.
Tonight, Robert Frost's poem 'Design'.

Design

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth--
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches' broth--
A snow-drop spider, a flower like froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?--
If design govern in a thing so small.

"

05Robert Frost's 'Design'20170929

Poet Don Paterson reflects on Robert Frost's 'Design'.

Don Paterson is an award-winning poet, editor and teacher, but for all his technical ability and the recognition that has been paid to his work Paterson is acutely aware of awe and sometimes envy when he looks at the work of other writers. Here he applies his wit and skills of technical analysis to discussing five poems he wishes he had written.
Tonight, Robert Frost's poem 'Design'.

Design

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth--
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches' broth--
A snow-drop spider, a flower like froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?--
If design govern in a thing so small.

05Robert Frost's 'design'20170929

Poet Don Paterson reflects on Robert Frost's 'Design'.

Don Paterson is an award-winning poet, editor and teacher, but for all his technical ability and the recognition that has been paid to his work Paterson is acutely aware of awe and sometimes envy when he looks at the work of other writers. Here he applies his wit and skills of technical analysis to discussing five poems he wishes he had written.
Tonight, Robert Frost's poem 'Design'.

Design

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth--
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches' broth--
A snow-drop spider, a flower like froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?--
If design govern in a thing so small.

05Robert Frost's 'design'20170929

Poet Don Paterson reflects on Robert Frost's 'Design'.

Don Paterson is an award-winning poet, editor and teacher, but for all his technical ability and the recognition that has been paid to his work Paterson is acutely aware of awe and sometimes envy when he looks at the work of other writers. Here he applies his wit and skills of technical analysis to discussing five poems he wishes he had written.
Tonight, Robert Frost's poem 'Design'.

Design

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth--
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches' broth--
A snow-drop spider, a flower like froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?--
If design govern in a thing so small.