Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 19 November 2007

  • Atlas

    There is a kind of love called maintenance,
    Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;

    Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
    The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

    Which answers letters; which knows the way
    The money goes, which deals with dentists

    And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
    And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

    The permanently rickety elaborate
    Structures of living; which is Atlas.

    And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
    Which knows what time and weather are doing
    To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
    Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers
    My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
    My suspect edifice upright in the air,
    As Atlas did the sky.

    by U.A. Fanthorpe

    from U.A. Fanthorpe & R.V. Bailey, From Me to You: Love Poems (Enitharmon, 2007)

    U.A. Fanthorpe and R.V. Bailey write: ‘Wordsworth speaks of the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings. This seems an apt description of these love poems. They are not important resonant pieces of writing: they simply happened when one of us felt like writing to the other other, quite often when one of us was away from home. Some of them coincided with Valentine's Days or birthdays, but that was more a matter of good luck than foresight. Quakers, rightly, maintain that Christmas Day is only one important day of all the 365 important days of the year. It's the same with love poems: they are appropriate at any time, and can be written, incidentally, to dogs, cats, etc., as well as humans. [...] The pleasant thing about writing such poems, apart from having someone to write them for, is that there is no particular restriction as to subject matter. In Christmas Poems, UA felt the draughty awareness of the diminishing cast of subjects, from donkey to Christmas tree. With love, on the other hand, the sky's the limit.'

    U.A. Fanthorpe was born in 1929. She was Head of English at Cheltenham Ladies' College, and then ‘became a middle-aged drop-out in order to write', publishing her first collection, Side Effects, in 1978. Her seven volumes of poetry are all published by Peterloo Poets, and her Selected Poems was published by Penguin in 1986. In 1994 she was the first woman to be nominated for the post of Professor of Poetry at Oxford. She was awarded the CBE in 2001 and the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 2003, when her Collected Poems (Peterloo) were published.

    R.V. Bailey was born in Northumberland and has worked as cafeteria assistant, librarian, information officer, teacher, counsellor, and latterly as director of undergraduate courses in Humanities at the University of the West of England, Bristol.  She is the other voice in poetry recordings by U.A. Fanthorpe (Awkward Subject, Double Act, Poetry Quartets 5), and has published a pamphlet, Course Work (Culverhay Press, 1997) and a full collection with Peterloo, Marking Time (2004).

    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.