The Irish poet

 

‘Something looks different,’ the book says. ‘Have you been shaving again?’

‘You can talk,’ I say. ‘As it happens, you’re right. I’ve had a clear out.’

‘Let me guess, that disgusting cardigan you bought off eBay a year ago?’

‘The less said about that the better. But it did go in a bin liner, yes. With a whole ton of poetry.’

The book looks at me for a moment. I notice, not for the first time, that it has stolen my favourite jacket.

‘Poetry?’ it says. ‘You got rid of poetry?’

‘You heard me. I got rid of some poetry. Oxfam. Every little helps.’

‘Wrong shop,’ the book says, shaking its head.

‘In pedant mood again, I see.’

The book sits for a moment, taking in my news. I notice that my jacket looks rather better on the book than it does me.

‘Go on then. Who? Who d’you get rid of?’

‘You know I don’t do names,’ I say, shaking my head.

‘Simon Armitage? Don Paterson? What about that Lithuanian you keep going on about but never read. Did you get rid of him?’

‘Her.’

‘Her, then.’

‘And she is Estonian.’

‘Pedant.’

‘Touché.’

‘You’re welcome.’ There is a silence. ‘So go on then. Who? Rilke? C.K. Williams? Dana Gioia?’

‘None of the above. You may as well stop now. I’m not going to tell you.’ There is another silence. The book and I look at each other.

‘Men,’ I say, finally.

‘You what?’

‘Men. Everyone you mentioned was a man.’

‘Was it.’

‘It was.’

‘I need to work on that,’ the book says. ‘I’m going to work on it.’

There is another silence. I notice the book is also wearing my favourite hat.

‘Who, then? Elizabeth Bishop?’

‘Don’t be absurd. You are not listening. I am not going to do the names.’

‘I saw The Names once,’ the book says. ‘Supporting Kevin Hewick, if memory serves. Under a pub in West Hampstead.’

‘I may have got rid of too much,’ I say. ‘It’s hard to say. There was one Irish poet…’

‘Not Tom Paulin? You love Tom Paulin. Even I like Tom Paulin.’

‘It was not Tom Paulin. But there was one…’

‘Paul Muldoon?’

‘Do mind if you let me finish? I was just saying, there was one that I put in the bin liner, that I sort of feel guilty about, not because of the actual poems, I haven’t read them or felt the urge to in years, but because of their reputation. It felt a bit like getting rid of one of my hands, you know, something, someone that’s always been there. I still don’t know how I feel about it.’

‘Sounds like you’re confused. That you might be making a trip up to Oxfam to buy them back.’

‘Maybe.’

‘Look. Just answer me this. Were you keeping them because you loved their work or because they made you look well-read?’

‘The latter. I said goodbye to them a long time ago. I just hadn’t realised it.’

‘Well there you are then,’ says the book. ‘Look at all that space you have now. For books you actually like.’

 

5 Comments

  1. Your post resonates Anthony. I have just tackled a shelf of books which have been the Non-negotiables for a few decades. I’m moving and I have to let go of a lot. I realised that I was keeping the books because of where I bought them when a young teen. I discovered the love of secondhand and antiquarian books at D M Beach’s bookshop which used to be at the cathedral gate in Salisbury. So I have disturbed my book universe and like yourself, I don’t know how I feel about it; the word ‘monumental’ drops down as I finish writing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the surreal atmosphere of your chats with the book. I had a clear out of poetry books recently, including some big names. I took a large pile to my poetry group first and no-one wanted any of them. Which made me feel at once guilty (for now the books really did have to go to Oxfam) and vindicated.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Let me guess Anthony… (it feels like -42 here this morning)

    Burning Down The House

    I google the poems
    Of Patrick Kavanagh and
    Nearly burn down the house!

    He has me gazing
    At the horse-tilled fields,
    And reaching out to steady
    Old men tripping on a curb!

    Together we’re riding along on
    The bony back of Kerr’s ass;
    We’re off to Inniskeen!

    But then his mother’s wet-
    Clayed smile brings
    Me back to now!

    And I hear the ratatat
    Of tacks driven in a shoe,
    Like a red-hot stovepipe, clinking!

    I run to shove the damper in, just
    As the stove begins to dance
    Towards the open door!

    The lights are on, the meter’s
    Whirring, my telephone is ringing,
    And the messages remain unanswered!

    By God, just think of
    Where we might have gone,
    Down that country road!

    Liked by 1 person

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