Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 14 July 2008

  • Snake, Swimming

    Slim, not a whisper through liquid but still
    Silently moving, elegant as silk and slender,
    That yellow neck-ring poised above the water -
    You move alongside, yet distant, vulnerable,

    So that we too try to stay still,
    To watch you watching us, there in the river
    As if this moment might go on for ever
    Until you find those reeds, hospitable

    Sheltering substance, close-packed, over the still
    Moving and menacing tracks that cover
    Where you might go, your sole endeavour
    To sound out any agent that might kill.

    You are with me now, unappeased, still
    Fixed in my being, giving a shiver
    Along the spine and spreading all over,
    Magnificent, and lost, and beautiful.

    by Anthony Thwaite

    from Collected Poems (2007)

    Anthony Thwaite's Collected Poems, published as he reaches seventy-seven, give readers an opportunity to see gathered together all the poems he wants to preserve from the sixteen collections he has published since his debut in the Fantasy Poets series in 1953. Although his roots are partly in the Movement, he has developed a distinctive style - once described as 'cunningly modulated eloquence' - and a range of concerns which have defined his poetry from the beginning: memory, history, archaeology, travel (he has lived in Japan and Libya, writing of them with subtlety and affection), the intricacies of relationships, and now the frustrations of age. Through his own voice and those he has adopted (most memorably in 'The Letters of Synesius' and Victorian Voices), he has made a significant contribution to the literature of the last half-century, elegantly and perceptively setting the curiosities of the present against the layers of the past.

    Anthony Thwaite was born in 1930. He spent his childhood in Yorkshire, the USA (1940-44) and school in Somerset. After national service in Libya he read English at Oxford. He then married and went to Japan for two years, where he taught English Literature at Tokyo University.  Since then he has been a BBC radio producer, literary editor of the Listener and the New Statesman, co-editor of Encounter, and in 1986 was chairman of the Booker Prize judges. He is a literary executor of Philip Larkin and the editor of his Collected Poems and Selected Letters.  He is a regular reviewer for the Guardian and other journals. In 1990 he was made an OBE for services to poetry.

    Founded in 1967, Enitharmon Press publishes fine quality literary editions. While specialising in poetry, we also publish fiction, essays, memoirs, translations, and an extensive list of artists’ books.

    Please note: We'll be taking a break from sending out Weekly Poems over the summer. The service will resume again in the autumn.