Saturday, March 13, 2010

Poems on Aging - brought to you by Carol Anne Duffy and The Guardian

Today's Guardian newspaper (UK)  features poems on aging. Britain's Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, introduces a variety of poems that she invited "senior poets" to submit. It's Mothers' Day weekend in the UK and so Duffy uses the occasion to praise aging. Or is it merely acceptance? I know my latest book has many poems that take how to deal with aging as their jumping off point. It's a subject I've always been obsessed with. I remember turning seventeen my senior year of high school and noticing that my knuckles were changing, my fingers no longer the fingers of a child. This realization depressed me. I've never been very good with change - although there's been plenty of it in my life.

I love "sulk of a wet summer" and "weight of wet silk" are my favorite images here -- really the music of this poem is what calls me back again and again. Gillian Clarke is in her seventies, I wonder if this is a poem that comes from age? I hope to be writing in my seventies - and still growing blue hydrangeas.

Blue Hydrangeas, September
By Gillian Clarke

You bring them in, a trug of thundercloud,
neglected in long grass and the sulk
of a wet summer. Now a weight of wet silk
in my arms like her blue dress, a load
of night-inks shaken from their hair –
her hair a flame, a shadow against light
as long ago she leaned to kiss goodnight
when downstairs was a bright elsewhere
like a lost bush of blue hydrangeas.
You found them, lovely, silky, dangerous,
their lapis lazulis, their indigoes
tide-marked and freckled with the rose
of death, beautiful in decline.
I touch my mother's skin. Touch mine.

Born 1937 in Cardiff, Clarke is a poet, playwright, editor and translator. Her most recent book is At the Source (2008). She is the national poet of Wales and lives on a smallholding in Ceredigion.

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