Sunday Poem – Fiona Sampson

Good morning everybody!  Today I am spending the day on the sofa in my sleeping bag, trying to recover from a horrible cold.  Normally I tend to ignore colds and just carry on doing what ever I’m doing however, I desperately need to not be full of snot and wrongness, because I’m reading at the Royal Exchange on Tuesday as part of the ‘Carol Ann Duffy and Friends’ series with the lovely Jackie Kay as the guest poet.  Apparently its sold out as well, so really don’t want to be standing up there in front of all those people with a red nose – and spots!  Spots!  I hardly ever get spots and this week I have five!  A sign if I ever needed one that it is time to loll about on the sofa and make the hubby wait on me hand and foot.  He was doing quite well this morning – he remembered to carry a little table down for me to put my tissues, books, cup of tea etc on and he made my breakfast and my cup of tea, but now he’s gone upstairs and seems to have forgotten his duties. 

My last poetry reading of the year is this Saturday (the 8th)  – I’m going over to Leeds to read at the Flux Gallery with Ian Parks and Helen Mort amongst other – I’m hoping to bump into some of my Leeds poetry friends over there – it will be nice to see some of them before Christmas. 

On the 9th December, my lovely friend Jennifer Copley, who is also the co-tutor on the residential course that we are running in February 11-13th 2013,  is launching her new pamphlet “Mr Trickfeather”, published by Like This Press at the Beach Hut Gallery in Grange Over Sands.  She will be reading at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm and in between apparently there will be mince pies and things!  I’ll be coming back from Leeds that morning, so I will stop by on my way back to pick up my copy.

Yesterday, we had our second session with the Writing School, which is run by my publishers, The Poetry Business.  I think we meet 8 times altogether over 18 months.  There are some great writers in the school, and I’m looking forward to getting to know them a bit better.  I didn’t feel really with it yesterday though, because of this stupid cold, but I’m looking forward to the reading tasks this month, which was one of the main reasons I signed up.  With one other person from the group we have to read and discuss Geoffrey Hill, Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage and Billy Collins – ooh and a ‘landscape poem’ from the Norton anthology and with another partner we swap our ‘recommended read’ which we nominated at the beginning of the course – so I’m swapping Nikolai Madzirov with Susan Wick’s translation. 

Other exciting news – I got my copy of The North with three poems from my pamphlet in and a conversation between myself and David Tait.  I rather self obssessively read the conversation on the way back home on the train – awful isn’t it?

And I picked up another 20 copies of ‘If We Could Speak Like Wolves’ so if anyone wants one to hand out as Christmas presents get in touch and I’ll post one out for a fiver!

That was a long read to get to the Sunday poem today!  But I think you’ll agree it’s going to be worth the wait.  Today’s Sunday poem is by Fiona Sampson, from her new collection ‘Coleshill’, published by Chatto, which isn’t even published yet, so I’m very happy that I managed to get this poem.  I first met Fiona three or four years ago at a residential course at Ty Newydd.  Alan Jenkins was the other tutor – and it was one of the best weeks I’ve ever had. 

Fiona was up in Cumbria a couple of weeks ago reading from her new collection for A Poem and A Pint – I might have raved about her very cute puppy which she brought with her as well.  I was a bit of a rubbish host to be fair.  First of all, I nearly poisoned Fiona trying to cook fish for lunch and not cooking it properly.  Then we were talking so much we were nearly late for the reading.  However, I did manage to deliver her to the venue, kind of on time and she got a really good response from the audience, and sold most of the books she’d brought with her, which was nice. 

I really love the new poems – they seem to be taking a completely new diretion from the first two books – they seem to be looking outwards to the world rather than inwards – and I am saying this from hearing them once as well, rather than seeing them on the page – but there are also a few poems dealing with the splitting of the self which I’m interested in.

I love the turn in this poem – the ‘Oh, waking.  I would like to use Oh in a poem.  I think I’ve used ‘O’ in one before, but that is different from ‘Oh’.  And the mysterious girl who is crossing the Green, but also waking up on a pillow ‘barred with light’  and the ‘I’ of the poem is somehow intimately connected with this girl – at first we think it is someone the ‘I’ has seen on the tube, but by the end, I start to think the girl is a split self from the I, or maybe another version of the I, a past version?  I don’t know exactly, and I like not knowing. 

Anyway, here is Fiona’s poem

The Art of Fugue by Fiona Sampson

A curtain brims;
its white lip appears,
dashing and slovenly
like the girl on the Tube
with her bedroom hair.

I miss that girl
crossing the Green
in heels and feather trim,
whom I so nearly
and never was.
                              Oh, waking
is a rising to light;
something humming
deep and dirty
moves through a suspended life,
in the dawning bedroom

the jacket on a chair-back
is a gesture
                       suddenly stilled,
and the girl crossing the Green
turns her head on a pillow
barred with light.


3 comments on “Sunday Poem – Fiona Sampson

  1. Oh! I like this poem, very much. I am NOT a music expert but I know that fugue is a music term, and I’ve come across its analogous use in poetry a couple of times – the way this poem is structured works beautifully. Thanks Fiona and Kim.

  2. I like this poem too. Fugue is also a term in psychiatry where the ‘client’ becomes mentally frozen in a kind of limbo for a period of time. That’s what I saw in the ‘suspended life’ and the ‘gesture suddenly stilled’, but i could be misinterpreting.
    Hope the cold’s soon better Kim!

    1. Interesting interpretation Kathleen
      I didn’t know this term was used in psychiatry. I know Fiona did a lot of work with poetry in mental health settings, so maybe you are on to something.

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