Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Virginia Woolf's Birthday - two poems


Virginia Woolf was born on the 25th January 1882 - 130 years ago today. So here's a (sad) poem for her birthday from my collection Tattoo ~ Tatú (Arlen House, 2007).

I'm reading Virginia's short fiction at the moment. Hmm. Finding it a bit impenetrable. But I will soldier on.

See below for a just added second poem for Virginia by Adam Wyeth.

Virginia’s Last Walk

The day collapsed on me:
there was nowhere to go
but full forward,
so my feet stepped on,
surer than I that
there was no way back.

I loaded the pockets
of my smock with
stone on grey stone,
and stood on the bank
smelling the river-stink,
watching the churn of weeds.

A wood-pigeon broke
from a high branch,
and I lifted my head
to the slap-flutter of wings,
the flash of a purple throat –
a momentary distraction.

I eased myself into the Ouse,
let its wet fingers mangle me,
and the weight of my dress
pull me down and down.
The river swallowed me,
closed in over my head.

The day had collapsed:
I had nowhere to go
but full, fast forward,
so my feet stepped on,
surer than I that
there was no way back.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Addendum:

Adam Wyeth just posted this in the comments (at least I am presuming it was Adam Wyeth!!!). It is wonderful:


Who’s Afraid

The stone knew nothing.
Any one of them could
have been selected.
But this one had a particular
shape and feel that she liked.

*

In the golden country
amid the South Downs,
she runs –
needing to unravel
barbed wire knots
that tear her mind.
Then stops – beneath
a large beech tree –
pulls paper and pen
from her flowery pocket,
swiftly scribbles.
In the middle of a tunnel
the only way out
is to walk through everything.
But the light grows dim,
she runs out of paper.
It is final then.
She makes her way down to the river,
stops to pick up a heavy stone
and forces it into her pocket.

17 comments:

Órfhlaith Foyle said...

Beautiful poem Nuala. I know what you mean about her fiction. I gave up on Jacob's Room and The Lighthouse gave me headaches but I did persevere. A great writer.

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Yes, I always mean to go back to Mrs D and TTLighthouse.
She was a great non fic writer!
And there are good lines in the stories but overall they are just a bit dense and removed.

Adam said...

A fellow Aquarian like myself! Lovely poem Nuala! I now the area well, near where I grew up... I once met a man in Rodmell, a blacksmith in his late nineties who knew the Woolf's and was part of the search party who found her body, he remembered she always wore glamorous hats... Six degrees of separation! I wrote a poem years ago about it, but was never fully happy with it. I think yours is better! Here's my attempt!

Best,
Adam

Who’s Afraid

The stone knew nothing.
Any one of them could
have been selected.
But this one had a particular
shape and feel that she liked.

*

In the golden country
amid the South Downs,
she runs –
needing to unravel
barbed wire knots
that tear her mind.
Then stops – beneath
a large beech tree –
pulls paper and pen
from her flowery pocket,
swiftly scribbles.
In the middle of a tunnel
the only way out
is to walk through everything.
But the light grows dim,
she runs out of paper.
It is final then.
She makes her way down to the river,
stops to pick up a heavy stone
and forces it into her pocket.

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Oh wow, Adam, that is so great to read. I am going to copy n paste it into the blog post. Thank you!!!!

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Adam Wyeth - is that you!? I was so excited about the poem I forgot to comment on the story. How brilliant that was to meet the blacksmith. Thanks for sharing. N x

Adam said...

Thanks Nuala! Yes it is me! Mr. Wyeth!

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

I figured it had to be. Thanks again for sharing the poem. I love it. N x

Emily said...

Nuala, wonderful poem, and Mr. Wyeth, also love your poem! Isn't it fantastic that she is still within living memory?

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Isn't it? Yes!
Thank you, Emily :)

Jessica Maybury said...

Tatú was the first thing of yours I read, and I love it still. Such a surprise, bought on a whim; I knew nothing about Irish poetry then (not that I know anything now).

The Lighthouse is brilliant, with that dinner scene in the middle, meandering from mind to mind.

Ah, Virginia. Perhaps I should watch the Hours for her.

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Ooh yes, it's a long time since I read or saw The Hours. I would like to revisit too.
Thanks for the random purchase of Tattoo :)

Rachel Fenton said...

Loved this in Tatú - and with Adam's - just a feast. Thanks both for these.

Apparently I look like Virginia...

I do like her short fiction. It isn't reader friendly but it is accurate to the mind, I think. I like that she said the only fiction she was ever jealous of was that by Katherine Mansfield - a fave of mine. And, apparently you don't panic when you drown, just climb an invisible ladder, so much harder with your pockets full of stones....I wonder what the surface of the water looked like from beneath.

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Thanks for the comment, Rachel.
I am persevering with her stories. There are some beautiful lines and insights. They are jsut not very story-like. N x

Doireann said...

What a treat! I really enjoyed both poems. As always, it amazes me how two poets can write two beautifully different poems on the same theme. I am reading Woolf's writer's diary at the moment, it's very absorbing.

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Go raibh míle, Doireann.
I'm curious now about her diaries. I read the book about her servants and it very nearly turned me off her completely. Such a snob!!

Doireann said...

Nílim ach tuairim is leath-shlí tríd go dtí seo! There's plenty of the tra-la-la attitude in it about social engagements, etc... but it's such an amazing insight into her writing process, insecurities, etc. It's very heavily edited too, and I can't help but wonder about the elements that are missing.I am enjoying it though, I always love to read about other writer's processes.

Donna OShaughnessy said...

After watching "The Hours" four times and then reading the same book, I ventured into Ms Woolf's fiction. It was indeed difficult but evey no and then a well turned phrase made me laugh...or cry.

Your poem is indeed sad and so beautiful. What indeed went through her head that day ? How lonely she must've been