Wednesday 11 March 2015

Alice Oswald's The Thing in the Gap-Stone Stile (Faber, 1996)

Some favourite passages:

All life's ribbon frozen mid-fling.

Oh I am
stone thumbs,
feet of glass.

Work knocks in me the winter's nail.

I can imagine
Pain, turned heron,
could fly off slowly in a creak of wings.

from "Pruning in Frost"

And evening is come with a late sun unloading a silence,
tiny begin-agains dancing on the night's edge.

from "A Greyhound in the Evening, 
After a Long Day of Rain"

The glass house is a hole in the rain,
the sun's chapel,
a bell for the wind.

opening stanza of "The Glass House"

                                ...I don't want to know 
whether I've lost my heart to my resilience;

from "Sonnet"

I am bound to a star,
my own feet shoving me swiftly.


and my two eyes are floating in the fields,
my mouth is on a branch, my hair
is miles behind me making tributaries
and I have had my heart distracted out of me

from "Bike Ride on a Roman Road" 

                                ...people, latticed

by words but through the lattice loving.

from "Ballad of a Shadow"

I never absolutely told
the curl-horned cows to line up their gaze.
But it happened, so I let it be.

from "The Thing in the Gap-Stone Stile"

...and you can feel by instinct in the distance
the bigger mountains hidden by the mountains
like intentions among suggestions. 

end of "Mountains"

The remaining passages all come from the long poem, "The Three Wise Men of Gotham Who Set Out to Catch the Moon in a Net":

A man came down, whose purpose was to catch
the watermoon--whatever flower or fish
the light took shape as, shifting and dividing. 
He was a butcher. He came shouting by
as if the art of thinking were a pommel
to pound the world into conformity;


                                                  ...the wind
had found a cave of whispers in his coat....


Now he has hitched his heartbeat to the oars.
He rows by breathing....

* haiku trees, staggering to keep up
the impetus of an extended instant....


Three times the moon was shattered like a bowl
and slowly mended by the moon.

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