Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 9 June 2008

  • Yesterday When I Was Young

    in memory of Dusty Springfield 

    Mimosas, dear, forcing lemony scent
    into a cold reactionary March wind,
    I bought them on the day you died
    to raise a yellow torch in memory
    of how your voice addressed our needs
    in every shade of love that’s blue
    and shared with us its aching entreaty
    to find a little sunshine after rain,
    a sanctuary from bruises dealt
    invisibly across the soul.
    Today, your death-day, you are on the air
    posthumously, your husky R&B
    slow-burners building in their rise and fall
    smokily pitched delivery.
    Your life returns with every anguished catch
    in phrasing, you the bouffant blonde,
    the patron saint of mascara

    wreathed in a boa, lending signature
    to how the song hinged on a frantic sob
    to make the pain definitive…
    I keep on hearing retros of your voice
    as though you’re still singing familiar hits
    six hours after your death. Big purple clouds
    arrive, dispensing hints of flashy showers.
    You’ve gone away, like someone takes the train
    with no-one knowing, no address,
    no destination, no reporting back
    about pure music on the other side.
    We listen to you in Freedom, First Out,
    and hold you near this way and celebrate
    a torchy diva’s dramas, feel the hurt
    in your vocal authority,
    and hope you’re healed in passing, wish you where
    the light in its entirety shines through.

    by Jeremy Reed  

    from This Is How You Disappear (2007)

    This Is How You Disappear is Jeremy Reed's most autobiographical book to date, and one in which he celebrates the dead and missing friends who were the formative and enduring influences on his life as a poet.  Using the elegy to imaginatively recreate the often extraordinary individual characteristics of his subjects, Reed's personal book of the dead is one that burns with his customary dynamic for dazzling imagery, glows with compassion for the suffering, and sparkles with a visual retrieval of detail so acute it hurts. With the title taken from the first line of a Scott Walker song, 'Rawhide', This Is How You Disappear is elegiac poetry at its most brilliant.

    Jeremy Reed was born in Jersey, Channel Islands, and read for his PhD at the University of Essex. He is widely acknowledged as the most imaginatively gifted British poet of his generation, praised by Seamus Heaney for his 'rich and careful writing' and by David Lodge for his 'remarkable lyric gift'. His Selected Poems were published by Penguin in 1987. Subsequent collections have been Nineties (Cape, 1990), Dicing for Pearls (1990), Pop Stars (1994), Sweet Sister Lyric (1996), Saint Billie (2001) and Duck and Sally Inside (2004), all from Enitharmon Press.  He has also published Heartbreak Hotel (Orion, 2002), a verse biography of Elvis Presley.

    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.