Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 26 November 2007

  • -wards

    The snow falls thickly,
    a strong wind moves
    the white-fronted geese flying south,
    grey wings out of cold,
    calling in half song,
    half bark.

    An early moon, knife-edged,
    shining indiscriminately,
    cuts light on anyone.

    The train takes me north,
    scooping into the cold
    air, sharp and clear,
    where there is no sound,
    not one -
    the fields unravelling,
    the trees running backwards
    in my wake,
    behind.

    by Judy Kendall

    From The Drier The Brighter (Cinnamon, 2007)

    Like many of the poems in The Drier The Brighter, '-wards' plays around with the graphic surface of the poem, in particular the font and punctuation. The more extreme experiments with punctuation and use of space elsewhere in the collection are here more muted and mainly appear in the title which is in italics and begins with a hyphen. These typographical choices highlight the transitory state of the voice and content of the poem - left hanging, neither 'to-wards' or 'back-wards', but in transit, like the voice in the poem, disorientated, not knowing which way is forward or backward. Is the speaker moving forward or are the fields outside the train running backwards?

    The poem also owes a debt to Chinese parallelism. Each idea is repeated, often in successive lines, and sometimes in the same line. 'The snow falls thickly' (l.1) refers to winter weather, movement, and extremity. This is followed by a parallel line containing three more indications of winter weather (wind), movement (moves) and extremity (strong). This use of parallelism also reinforces the idea of movement as lack of movement - being caught in movement, and not in arrival.

    Judy Kendall is a poet and translator whose recent poetry collection The Drier The Brighter came out with Cinnamon Press in 2007. She has spent several years teaching in Japan and Africa but now works as a lecturer in Creative Writing and English at Salford University.

    Cinnamon Press is a young, fast-growing small press based in North Wales and publishing writers from Wales, the UK and internationally, as well as the poetry journal Envoi. The list is mainly poetry, but also includes some fiction and cross-genre books.