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John Birtwhistle

Imprint: Anvil Press Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (96 pages)
(Pub. Sep 2013)
Out of Stock
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    Lines Pinned to a Study Door

    When first I read, in cunning Chaucer’s line
    The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne
    I took the gist for poetry and mine,
    The reader’s smile so troublesome to earn.

    The entrance to your hospital engraves
    An ageless maxim of Hippocrates –
    ars longa vita brevis – as it braves
    The cure for this, our bodies’ brief disease.

             One phrase distills our art and oath,
             A lifelong study for us both.

    Seated Figure of an Old Lady

    after Celia Paul’s paintings of her mother

    So still, your frailty becomes a monument.
    It is as though I already mourn whom I protect
    By drawing this thin curtain to sift the light for you,
    Still in the window where you would write to friends.

    The room is open at the page ‘Help thou mine unbelief ’.
    You are sitting for the light that veils as it clarifies
    And finds by variation all the riches of a single theme,
    The artist mother bringing figure from ground.

    Wreathed in the thought of children’s faithlessness,
    You can hear from the yard that the blackbird sings.

    Like many good poets, John Birtwhistle publishes sparingly. In his first collection for more than twenty years, he produces a dazzling array of poems on a range of historical, political and personal subjects. These lucid, witty, tender  poems,  by  turns  serious  and  comic,  are  full  of felicitous surprises and unexpected turns of imagination.

    John Birtwhistle was born in Scunthorpe in 1946. His poetry has been recognized by an Eric Gregory Award, an Arts Council bursary, Arts Council creative writing Fellowships, a Fellowship at the University of Southampton and a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. He has had three concert libretti set and performed: David Blake’s ... read more
    Praise for John Birtwhistle [Birtwhistle's] work is consistently both shaped and calm, and energised by the various tides it travels.
    Carol Rumens

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