Poet's Pick April 7
Ivor Gurney: "To His Love"
Selected by Peter Sirr
National Poetry Month 2015

Letter from the Editors

Dear Readers,

Our thanks to Peter Sirr for today's Poet's Pick!

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Don Selby & Diane Boller
Editors


Peter Sirr's Poetry Month Pick, April 7, 2015

"To His Love"
by Ivor Gurney (1890 - 1937)

He's gone, and all our plans
   Are useless indeed.
We'll walk no more on Cotswold
   Where the sheep feed
   Quietly and take no heed.

His body that was so quick
   Is not as you
Knew it, on Severn river
   Under the blue
   Driving our small boat through.

You would not know him now ...
   But still he died
Nobly, so cover him over
   With violets of pride
   Purple from Severn side.

Cover him, cover him soon!
   And with thick-set
Masses of memoried flowers—
   Hide that red wet
   Thing I must somehow forget.

 

* Peter Sirr Comments:

Some poems just won’t go away. They lodge themselves permanently in your responsorial system and keep on calling themselves out. ‘To His Love’ is like that. Maybe it’s because it seems to be several poems at once. In its form, its cadence, it’s a classic kind of lyric gesture, a form for celebration. Yet from the beginning words and form work against each other, the content and even the line-breaks disrupting our expectations. It’s a war poem yet it’s deeply embedded in a pastoral tradition: we’re in the Cotswolds with quietly feeding sheep, boating on the Severn, but we are also in a bloody scene of battle, the body – ‘that red wet / Thing …’ shockingly destroyed. The poem deploys its double time-scheme of remembered past and unspeakable present to devastating effect, beginning with a quiet statement of loss but reserving the full disclosure until the very end. It turns from the present, refusing to let horror have the last word, and likewise it refuses to let the spirit be deflected into riot or scream. I think this is what I find most moving about it: how quiet it is. The poem’s very gentleness, its determination not to raise its voice is what makes it unforgettable.


About Peter Sirr:
Peter Sirr was born in 1960 and lives in Dublin where he works as a freelance writer, teacher, and translator. The Gallery Press has published his seven collections since Marginal Zones (1984), most recently The Rooms (2014), Nonetheless (2004) and The Thing Is (2009), both shortlisted for the Irish Times Poetry Now Award. Winner of the Patrick Kavanagh and O'Shaughnessy Awards, Peter Sirr is a member of Aosdána. 


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