Poem introduction

The so-called peasant poet, John Clare, fascinated me by his use of Northamptonshire dialect in his poetry and notebooks, by his magical realisation of the natural world, and by the company he chose to keep. I was reading his notebooks and read this excerpt from a typical if slightly grumpy day: “Finished planting my ariculas—went a botanising after ferns and orchises and caught a cold in the wet grass which has made me as bad as ever—got the tune of “highland Mary” from Wisdom Smith a gipsey and pricked another sweet tune without name as he fiddled it.” Clare’s friend, the gypsy, Wisdom Smith, leapt into me from pages of John Clare’s notebooks, and wrote a series of sonnets about the poet and the gypsy. My book, the gypsey and the poet: Wisdom Smith and John Clare, is their story, imagined into life in a series of sonnets.

The Invisible Gift

John Clare weaves English words into a nest
and in the cup he stipples rhyme, like mud,
to clutch the shape of something he can hold
but not yet hear; and in the hollow of his hearing,
he feathers a space with a down of verbs
and nouns heads-up. There. Clare lays it down
and nestles over its forming sound: taps and lilts,
the steady knocking of the nib on his hand until
it hatches softly beneath him. And when he peers
below his palm, he spies its eyes, hears its peeps,
but does not know what to think. He strokes
its tottering yolk-wet crown; feels a nip against
his thumb, buds of muscle springy at the wing, and all
the hungers of the world to come for this small singing.


from The Gypsy and the Poet (Carcanet, 2013), © David Morley 2013, used by permission of the author and the publisher

Sponsor this poem

Would you like to sponsor this poem? Find out how here.

Recordings

David Morley Downloads

1Patrìn

£0.89

2Fiction

£0.89

3Clearing a Name

£0.89

4The Goodnight

£0.89

5The First Circle

£0.89

6St Lucy's Day

£0.89

7You Were Broken

£0.89

8from Kings

£0.89

9Whitethroat

£0.89

10Goldcrests

£0.89

11Chorus

£0.89

12Nightingales

£0.89

13Pallid Swift

£0.89

14Bears

£0.89

15from Fresh Water - Port Meadow - Dragonflies

£0.89

16Abandoned Christmas Tree Plantation

£0.89

17Spinning

£0.89

18The Invisible Gift

£0.89

19Magpies

£0.89

20Mad

£0.89

21English

£0.89

22The Hedgehog

£0.89

23A Steeple-Climber

£0.89

24Bender

£0.89

25My Children

£0.89

26Hunters

£0.89

28The Act

£0.89

27Harebells

£0.89

29The Gyspy and the Poet

30The Way In

£0.89

29The Gypsy and the Poet

£0.89

Books by David Morley