About the poet
Anne Ridler (1912-2001) moved in literature throughout her life; she was the daughter of writers...
Choosing a Name
My little son, I have cast you out
To hang heels upward, wailing over a world
With walls too wide.
My faith till now, and now my love:
No walls too wide for that to fill, no depth
Too great for all you hide.
I love, not knowing what I love,
I give, though ignorant for whom
The history and power of a name.
I conjure with it, like a novice
Summoning unknown spirits: answering me
You take the word, and tame it.
Even as the gift of life
You take the famous name you did not choose
And make it new.
You and the name exchange a power:
Its history is changed, becoming yours,
And yours by this: who calls this, calls you.
Strong vessel of peace, and plenty promised,
into whose unsounded depths I pour
This alien power;
Frail vessel, launched with a shawl for sail,
Whose guiding spirit keeps his needle-quivering
Poise between trust and terror,
And stares amazed to find himself alive;
This is the means by which you say I am,
Not to be lost till all is lost,
When at the sight of God you say I am nothing,
And find, forgetting name and speech at last,
A home not mine, dear outcast.
from Collected Poems (Carcanet, 1997), copyright © Anne Ridler 1997
Anne Ridler Reading from her Poems