Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 22 June 2015

  • A Calvinist in Love


    I will not kiss you, country fashion,
    By hedgesides where
    Weasel and hare
    Claim kinship with our passion.

    I care no more for fickle moonlight:
    Would rather see
    Your face touch me
    Under a claywork dune-light.

    I want no scent or softness round us
    When we embrace:
    We could not trace
    Therein what beauties bound us.

    This bare clay-pit is truest setting
    For love like ours:
    No bed of flowers
    But sand-ledge for our petting.

    The Spring is not our mating season:
    The lift of sap
    Would but entrap
    Our souls and lead to treason.

    This truculent gale, this pang of winter
    Awake our joy,
    For they employ
    Moods that made Calvary splinter.

    We need no vague and dreamy fancies:
    Care not to sight
    The Infinite
    In transient necromancies.

    No poetry on earth can fasten
    Its vampire mouth
    Upon our youth:
    We know the sly assassin.

    We cannot fuse with fallen Nature’s
    Our rhythmic tide:
    It is allied
    With laws beyond the creatures.

    by Jack Clemo


    A reminder that the deadline for submissions to the Poetry Centre’s International Poetry Prize is 31 August. There are two categories: Open and English as a Second Language, and First Prize in each category is £1000. The competition will be judged by Bernard O’Donoghue and Hannah Lowe, and you can enter by visiting this page.


    As part of the MCS Arts Festival Oxford (20 June-5 July), the highly-acclaimed poet Roger McGough will be reading on 30 June. You can find more details on the festival site. On 27 June, the festival will also host a youth poetry slam, featuring a wide range of students from across Oxfordshire, and an Illumination Poetry Workshop with Penny Boxhall, Tuesday 30th June, Old Library, University Church of St Mary the Virgin.

    ‘A Calvinist in Love’ is copyright © Jack Clemo. It is reprinted from Selected Poems (Enitharmon Press, 2015) by permission of Enitharmon Press.

    Notes from Enitharmon Press:

    Jack Clemo (1916-1994), English poet and author whose physical sufferings – he became deaf about 1936 and blind in 1955 – influenced his work. Clemo’s formal education ended when he was 13. His early poems reflect the stark landscape of the clay-pits in their austere intensity. Important in his writings are the themes of Christianity and conversion, erotic mysticism and marriage, and the role of suffering in attaining happiness. He married Ruth Peaty in 1968, and she inspired his later poetry, which shows a softened acceptance of sex and love. During his lifetime Jack Clemo was considered one of the most important poets Cornwall has produced but as with many major poets his work fell into obscurity after his death in 1994. This Selected Poems represents his return to prominence. You can read more about the book on the Enitharmon website.


    Writing about his work
    in The Independent, John Mole commented that Clemo was ‘a remarkable and original writer... [whose] charged, evangelical language has a strenuous urgency, a mixture of austere beauty and an often remorseless emphasis on the “striving flesh”, the “storm-flash of grace”.’

    'William Blake dreamed up the original Enitharmon as one of his inspiriting, good, female daemons, and his own spirit as a poet-artist, printer-publisher still lives in the press which bears the name of his creation. Enitharmon is a rare and wonderful phenomenon, a press where books are shaped into artefacts of lovely handiwork as well as communicators of words and worlds. The writers and the artists published here over the last forty-­five years represent a truly historic gathering of individuals with an original vision and an original voice, but the energy is not retrospective: it is growing and new ideas enrich the list year by year. Like an ecologist who manages to restock the meadows with a nearly vanished species of wild flower or brings a rare pair of birds back to found a colony, this publisher has dedicatedly and brilliantly made a success of that sharply endangered species, the independent press.' (Marina Warner.) 

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