YOU READ THE GREAT VERSES:
You read the great verses, in the bath;
an improving way to sustain a soak.
Two wonderful poems by Philip Levine.*
How does he do it? So much emotion,
profundity, in such plain, simple lines?
He writes about his sister, his brother.
You’d love to write about your brother:
how he looked after your mother
for all those years, while you frittered away
your life, dreaming of writing masterpieces.
How she died, and left a void, into which
he fell. How he is still bravely clambering
out of it. But how can you write about him,
while he’s alive? And he’s several years
younger than you. . .
You’d love to write about your sole
surviving uncle. Just how and why
he is The Most Irritating Man in The World.
The eccentricities, peculiarities;
the leech-like existence. But how can you
write about him, while he’s alive? He’s well
into his eighties, but you just know he’ll
outlive you, out of sheer, malign perversity. . .
So, here you are, the first weeks of January;
a new year beginning. Here you are,
still frittering your life away, dreaming
of writing like Philip Levine. Yes, here you are:
a man who writes poems about
a man who reads poems, in the bath.
- * “Listen Carefully” and “What Work Is” by Philip Levine.
Followers of this blog will be familiar with my habit of reading anthologies of poetry whilst relaxing in a warm bath. They will also be aware of how this led to me writing a sequence of seven poems, all entitled “The Great Verses”. Although the sequence could have continued indefinitely, I decided to bring it to an end, towards the end of last year. “You Read The Great Verses” is a new poem, intended to stand alone, although it obviously has a tangential relationship to the sequence of seven poems. It is partly a tribute to the American poet Philip Levine, and fans of his work may notice a similarity of style. This is deliberate, on my part, reflecting the fact that the man in the poem is “. . . dreaming of writing like Philip Levine”.