Lifesaving Poems: Piotr Sommer’s ‘Morning on Earth’

2013-11-11 15.05.46

Morning on Earth

Morning on earth, light snow, and just when

it was so warm, practically spring.

But the thermometer in the kitchen window

says seven degrees,

and pretty sunny.


the electric company man I like,

and no sign of the gas man

I can’t stand.

And all of a sudden two Misters M. —

one I’ve fallen for, the other

a bit of a hotshot —

coming back, both nine years old,

just passing the jasmine bush,

a huge bouquet of sticks.

Behind the door

the dog’s excited, nothing’s

at odds with anything.

Piotr Sommer, from Continued (Bloodaxe, 2005)

Every November, until I got cancer in 2006, I used to hold my own private Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in my office at home. I would look at the programme I had been sent and use it as an excuse to buy books of the poets I had not heard of. Sometimes I found myself buying more books of the ones I had heard of, for balance. Then I would invite them round to my house to read to me. They did not always reply, so I ended up doing the readings myself.

The hall was always packed, and the wine and nibbles free. The gossip was not as good as at Aldeburgh, but I would make up for this by doing my impression of Ted Hughes having an argument about Protestantism with Tom Paulin. Everyone laughed.

Occasionally there were issues. One very famous American poet didn’t like the height of the podium, and another refused to be on the same bill as — but that would be telling.

After every single reading Michael Laskey would put his arm around me, tell me thank you so much for coming, then ask did I want to drink red or white. He never failed to ask after my family.

The most fun I had was with Piotr Sommer. He didn’t really want to talk about poetry. He was much more interested in ecology, what it was like to live so near the sea (I said I didn’t know), and how come English poets took themselves so seriously? I didn’t know how to answer this question either, but he seemed not to notice, or care, browsing my bookshelves and CDs, letting out the odd snort of laughter as he went. He seemed to like my taste in wine though.

I gave him a lift to the station (it was the least I could do), telling him to send my love to Aldeburgh as I waved him off. ‘You send my love to Aldeburgh,’ he said. ‘You’re going to see them before I do.’ And with that he vanished.


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