Hello and welcome

Sujata Bhatt - 22 January 2007

Hello everybody!
My name is Sujata Bhatt, and I will be the Poetry Archive's virtual writer in residence from today until April 2nd.
I was born in India, grew up there, as well as in the U.S., and currently live in Germany. As you can imagine, English is not the only language I am concerned with. For the past few years, besides focusing on my own work, I have been translating various German poets into English.
This residency will, of course, be greatly influenced by your questions and comments. So please do write!
I thought it might be useful (and fun) to start a 'poem of the day' feature. There are so many poems on the Poetry Archive website, sometimes one doesn't know where to begin.

Poem of the Day:

Listen to Harold Pinter's poem 'It is Here'. The poem is quite short so you probably have time to listen to it more than once. Enjoy Pinter's brilliant reading! As you can see in the accompanying biographical information, Pinter started out as a poet, and recently has decided to devote himself to poetry again.

Instead of me commenting on this poem, I would like to know what you think of it. How is your perception of the poem affected by listening to it? If you wish, do compare it to his other poems on the site: 'Cancer Cells', 'Later' and 'Episode'.

That's all for now. I look forward to hearing from you!


23 Jan 2007
Poem of the day: Read and listen to Gillian Clarke's poem, 'The Piano'.

(By the way, I hope that yesterday you also read Pinter's poem, 'It is Here', although I only spoke of listening to it.)

It can be fascinating to follow the links between certain poems and poets already set up by the Poetry Archive. For example, on the page where you can read Gillian Clarke's 'The Piano' there is a link (beneath the question 'where next?') to a poem by George Szirtes, simply called 'Piano'. These piano poems are completely different, and yet, a few crucial words and one image appear in both. Amazing!
I'd like you to discover the surprises in these poems on your own. And of course, I'd like the poems to speak for themselves. So I'll refrain from making any further comments at this point.
Please feel free to write your thoughts, impressions etc. Do suggest poems you would like to share as well as topics you would like to discuss.
bye for now, Sujata Bhatt

My favourite piano-poem is a song by Tom Waits: The Piano Has Been Drinking - Not Me. But I like the two poems you suggested, too.

I never thought I liked Gillian Clarke's poetry but that one is really good. The first two lines are terrible though - the cheesy image and hackneyed language/alliteration of bus sighing through sleeping suburbs; and the zoomed in snapshot detail of a click of keys and a step on stairs, sort of metonymy for the action of getting home feels pretty cliched too. It gets so much better though. I love the way the wing image makes you read the scales in line 8 as part of some mythical creature or monster, setting you up for the revelation of line 10. The penultimate stanza is brilliant - especially the metronome of tennis. A great ending brings the poem back to the central image - hands - and expresses, with that enviable poetic precision, both the idea that he plays so furiously it were as if he had more than two hands and the image of the listener needing more than two hands to catch the waterfall.

I liked the Szirtes poem too. There are some great images here, like the butterfly wing in netting, the grinning three-legged creature. I don't understand the crescent of her one hip - is that the cut-away? Learning to play the piano is definitely like trying to play a femme fatale; a lot of coaxing, frustration and, in the end, you give up or lose the opportunity.

PS Tom Waits is awesome

For some reason I can't type in line breaks in this box, so I've posted elsewhere a couple of John Fuller poems that also morph musical instruments in slightly fantastic ways:


I read Pinter's "It Is Here" and as someone who is more familiar with his plays than poetry, it was a wonderful surprise. I did a scene from his play "Betrayal" once between the two ex-lovers and let me tell you, the pauses mean almost more than the lines. In this poem, you can almost hear the pauses, how what you don't hear is really the most important part. I think Hemingway may have said something to that effect once...anyhow, the poem just reminded me of the play a lot since in both, a connection exists within the characters that communicates so clearly it is beyond words whether that be in silence (as in Betrayal) or in just a breath in the poem.

I also wanted to recommend Frank Bidart's "Love Incarnate".
I cannot get it out of my head.

Hello, Fiete, William, H. and Ali!

Thank you all for writing. I'm going to reply to all of you separately.

--Sujata Bhatt

Thanks, Fiete, for reminding me of 'The Piano has been Drinking--Not Me'. It's one of my all time favourites too. And yes, I'm a big Tom Waits fan. Have you seen the film DOWN BY LAW?
Lately, I've been listening to a lot of EARLY Bob Dylan songs and have been absorbed in the words. Poem-songs. They are the best, when they work on all levels. Do write again!--Sujata Bhatt

William, thank you for the detailed response to the two piano poems. Yes, perhaps the opening lines of Gillian Clarke's poem are a bit quiet. I wonder whether she intended it to be like that. The ordinary event of a son coming home at night is transformed when he starts 'shuffling/ through the music'. And the speaker's sudden emotional intensity is shared by the reader. You've described it very well. Yes, I like the butterfly image in the Szirtes poem too. In the end I imagined it as a giant butterfly. Although the woman image also stayed with me. And I pictured a very tall, wide-hipped woman. And somehow the contrasting, or almost contradictory images didn't disturb me. I wish I could play the piano. It sounds like you can. Do stay in touch. --Sujata Bhatt

Dear H., I'm immensely grateful to you for posting the John Fuller poems on your site. It took a while for my computer to locate the site but it finally worked with the yahoo search machine.
For those who are interested: the site address is: http://www.rhinocerotic.blogspot.com
And the poems referring to 'morphing musical instruments' are TRIO, CONCERTO FOR DOUBLE BASS, and an extract from SONATA--all by John Fuller. Well, based on these poems I've decided that I must read more of John Fuller! (I don't know how I missed out on his work.) I think it's obvious to everyone that there are many, many poets who are still not on the Poetry Archive site, and who definitely should be on it. I can only hope that the Poetry Archive continues to grow...and thrive. Thanks again. Sujata Bhatt


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