Poem introduction

I spent some time working with the choreographer, Sue McLennan, and her dancers and I began to think of the intelligence within dance, within the body. And in this poem I imagine the most famous of all dancers speaking about physics which she feels and apprehends through her body.

Pavlova's Physics

Everything in my body
has been processed
through at least one star
(except for the hydrogen).

I want to speak to you about it;
I want you to know how much
I understand - and more and more
reveals itself in waves

I'm really a wise kid,
the kind that gets on and doesn't
need to go to college to do it,
secretly learning to peel back

the potent leaves of mathematics
while boning up on Greek at night.
For all that, the consciousness
is an outdated barn of a thing,

a slow phenomenon compared
to the speed of the senses.
Today even I'm entranced
by the marine symmetry of my body

but, believe me, this world
is a place of bizarre consequences
where matter can appear
out of nothing and where

the light of stars is ancient
history when it gets here:
we can never understand
what we're living through at the time.

You can show me your piece of warm
thigh the length of Florida
and I'm telling you, I'm affected
by the way you look at me but I need

more dimensions than geography allows.
I'm falling forward, tumbling
into increasing disorder; yes, disorder
is increasing in the universe

and will keep increasing until
the whole shebang becomes a place
where it is remembered
only the alert rodents swam.

From Her Book, (Faber & Faber, 2000), copyright © Jo Shapcott 2000 used by permission of the author and the publisher.


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3Pavlova's Physics





8Of Mutability




12La Serenissima

13Piss Flower


15Gherkin Music

16Sinfonietta for London


18Shapcott's Variation on Schoenberg's orchestration of Bach's Prelude and Fugue in E Flat major, 'St Anne'



21Night Flight to Muncaster


23The Gods Under the Floor

24Religion for Boys

25Track 25

26The Second Lie

27Gwaithla Brook


29Hanter Hill

30Huntington Castle

31Gwaithla Road

32Cefn Hir



35To Muzot from Gladestry

36Song in the Shed


38Old Radnor


40Caety Traylow

41Burl Hill

42Rilke Spotted above Gilwern


44Road Not Available

45Born Off

46Gilwern Lane

47Over the Col

48Wye Marches

49Gilwern Dingle


51Gwaithla Garden

52Mountain Ash

53The Third Lie

54Rosa gallica

55Rosa hemisphaerica

56Rosa foetida

57Rosa centifolia

58Rosa nitida

59Rosa arvenis

60Rosa pimpinellifolia

61Rosa glauca

62Rosa sancta

63Rosa sempervirens

64Rosa damascena

65Rosa canina

66Rosa elegantula

67Rosa multiflora

68Rosa mutabilis

69Rosa moschata

70Rosa foliolosa

71Rosa stellata

72Rosa odorata

73Rosa pteracantha

74Rosa Mundi

75The Fifth Lie

Books by Jo Shapcott