National Poetry Day

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As it is National Poetry Day I am putting a Kathleen Raine poem Exile on my blog, which I read in Victor Gallancz very personal anthology of writings From Darkness to Light. She was a wonderful writer, I think amongst the finest British poets. I do not share her beliefs, but she had the ability to express hers in words which are so spare, where no word is unnecessary.


Then, I had no doubt
That snowdrops, violets, all creatures, I myself
Were lovely, were loved, were love.
Look, they said,
And I had only to look deep into the heart,
Dark, deep into the violet, and there read,
Before I knew any word for flower or love,
The flower, the love, the word.
They never wearied of telling their being; and I
Asked of the rose only more rose, the violet
More violet; untouched by time
No flower withered or flame died,
But poised in its own eternity, until the looker moved
On to another flower, opening its entity.

I see them now across a void
Wider and deeper than time and space.
All that I have come to be
Lies between my heart and the rose,
The flame, the bird, the blade of grass.
The flowers are veiled;
And in a shadow-world, appearances
Pass across a great toile vide
Where the image, flickers, vanishes,
Where nothing is, but only seems.
But still in mind, curious to pursue,
Deep within their inner distances,
Pulled the petals from flowers, the wings from flies,
Hunted the heart with a dissecting-knife;
But the remoter, stranger
Scales iridescent, cells, spindles, chromosomes,
Still merely are:
With hail, snow-crystals, mountains, stars,
Fox in the dusk, lightning, gnats in the evening air
They share the natural mystery,
Proclaim I AM, and remains nameless.

Sometimes from far away
They sign to me;
A violet smiles from the dim verge of darkness,
A raindrop hangs beckoning on the eaves,
And once, in long wet grass,
A young bird looked at me.
Their being is lovely, is love;
And if my love could cross the desert self
That lies between all that I am and all that is,
They would forgive and bless.

Kathleen Raine

Today’s photograph is from 1972 in the Rockies in Alberta, quite opposite really to the poem but an image I must have wanted to capture at the time, the freezing cold water tumbling down from the mountains and tall pines. It was taken on my Zenith on Ektachrome.

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