Sunday Poem – Philip Morre

Tonight’s post might be quite long.  Lots has happened this week – on Thursday I spent a lovely day in Ilkley and met up with the team behind the Ikley Literature Festival to talk through my events and stuff that I’ll be getting up to at this year’s festival.  It was a really great meeting in that I came away feeling even more enthusiastic about the residency, less terrified and ready to get down to some serious planning for the various workshops I’m doing.  If you would like to have a look at the programme, you can find it on the festival website as a PDF here.

One of the slightly bonkers things that will be going on in Ilkley is a run followed by a writing workshop.  I met up with poet Keith Hutson and we went for a run to work out a suitable route.  Before I arrived at the hotel where we will be setting off from, I had it in my head that it would be a road run, just because that is what I’ve been doing a lot of, but then I realised (I don’t know how this passed me by) that of course we are right on the edge of Ilkley Moor, and unless there are gale force winds, it would be criminal not to get up onto the moor.  So the first 2km of the run will be pretty steep, and up hill all the way – but it will be worth it when we get to the top because the views are really amazing.  And going up means you have to come down, so after the hard work it will be a nice easy run back.

I’m also running a workshop where participants will be writing new work inspired by poets at the festival.  Lorna Goodison is coming and I haven’t come across her work before so I broke my book ordering ban (I’m currently trying to save every penny to help with house move) and ordered her book from Carcanet.  And then I thought I might as well order Louise Gluck’s new book as well – I don’t know her work very well but she was featured in the Poetry Book Society bulletin and the poem that was in there was really beautiful.

The other exciting thing that happened this week was that Amy Wack, my editor at Seren, sent through a draft copy of the cover of my book which made it seem really real which was actually much less terrifying than when it didn’t seem real, if you get what I mean.  Having a cover helps me to think of it as a book, a proper book and it is a can’t-sleep-because-it’s-too-exciting experience.

This week I also booked in three readings for 2015, my first three readings from the book which is also pretty exciting – one in Liverpool, one in Halifax and one in Cardiff.

I’ve had a nice weekend as well – yesterday I was up in Grasmere at Ian Duhig’s workshop who was brilliant as usual and was incredibly kind and supportive and interested and interesting.

The only other things I’ve been doing this week include a rehearsal with ‘Soul Survivors’ – the soul band I’ve recently started playing trumpet for on Monday, teaching a tuba lesson on Tuesday and my new business cards and flyers arrived for the brass quintet I’m running – the South Lakes Brass Ensemble arrived on Wednesday.  If you know anybody who would like an amazing brass ensemble to play at their wedding – send them my way – more information at our rather sparse (at the minute) blog here

Related to the brass ensemble I’ve also spent a bit of time this week sending emails to hotels to try and get in to play at a few wedding fayres.  I’m waiting to hear back from a couple of wedding fayres – I find this bit of time intensely interesting – the time when you are getting something off the ground, just putting hooks out and seeing what will catch.  I’m not a Marketing or Publicity expert of course so I just have to do what I think and learn from what works and what doesn’t.

Apart from all this, I went running on Tuesday (about six miles), to a spinning class on Wednesday and Friday and today I did about 8 and a half miles – very slow but my first time doing over 7 and a half miles so am pleased that I did it.  I’ve also been battling with house stuff.  I don’t know how anybody manages to actually buy and sell a house in this country.  I’ve never known anything like it.  Everyone I deal with seems incompetent and inept.  I don’t know how people don’t just give up.  It is too depressing to go into, but suffice it to say, we are still not in our new house and who knows when we will be.  Probably just as I go back to work they’ll give us the keys to the house which has a condemned boiler, needs rewiring, damp proofing, a new bathroom, pointing etc….I already have some friends lined up who have said I can use their bathroom so at least I won’t smell when I inflict my presence on all the children again!

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Philip Morre, who I’ve never met, but who made contact with me rather randomly by email after seeing my poem ‘The Fall’ in The TLS.  He wanted to know if he could translate it into Italian and had a couple of questions about the poem before he could do so.  He also brought my pamphlet and then sent me a copy of his fantastic book which was a lovely surprise to receive in the post, and this is where I found the Sunday Poem.  Philip lives and works as a translator in Venice.

I have also just discovered that Philip has a website and a delightfully outspoken blog – I’ve just read the last couple of entries and laughed out loud quite a few times.  You can find this here

In fact the blog is called ‘Blogrant’ and when you click on ‘Blogrant’ you will see that the title at the top of the page says ‘The unwelcome opinions of Philip Morre’.  Anyway, read the poem below before you get to the blog.

This poem is one of those poems which has a line which I kind of fall in love with – the very first line.  It is one of those lines that you could use to start people off on a free-writing exercise – I don’t mean that it sounds like a workshop poem – I mean the line has the lovely climb and fall, a pivoting movement to it that seems to work very well in workshops to encourage people to spin off on their own writing – another example of this to show what I mean was a line that Ann Sansom once gave as a free writing exercise ‘It was the beginning of Spring’ which to me has a lovely falling quality to it – as if it is inevitable that you just carry the line on.

This poem is deceptively simple but right from the first line I think it wrongfoots the reader in an enjoyable way – I thought it was going to be sad, then by the end of the first stanza I realised the poem had a touch of humour to its voice.

In stanza 2 there are the lovely sounds of the ‘saddled stallion’s faraway eyes’ and I think that touch of humour, or wryness is in this verse too.  By stanza 4, the poem throws us back into the tone of that first line with another cracking line ‘it assumed all the sorrows of the ocean’.

I think the last stanza is my favourite – that lovely wistful ending with its unanswered question is paced perfectly – a deceptively simple poem that is rather clever and very sure footed.

If you would like to order Philip Morre’s collection ‘The Sadness of Animals’ which is a kind of selected, compiling new work and previously published work from pamphlets copies are available from John Sandoe, Heywood Hill and Slightly Foxed in London, the Albion Beatnik Bookshop in Oxford or directly from


The Sadness of Animals –  Philip Morre

Surely we imagine the sadness of animals:
the hangdog  dog in the piazza less likely
in mourning for a late selfish mistress
than concerned who will look to his dish,
or at his age whether sex is history.

And the saddled stallion’s faraway eyes
are not seeking that track through the hills
to rampant savannah where, carefree,
his sisters cavort in cabals.  He can just see
(and then vaguely) the roofs of the stables.

But once off Waisai and its soft-coral reef
a gloomy medusa, draped purple and pink
on the current as if tossed on a chair-back,
loomed over us, barely in motion.

For that instant, though we knew it a
rubbery insensate processor of plankton,
it assumed all the sorrows of the ocean,
in a glassy precipitation of grief.

I swear that the tears fogged our masks.
This morning the colt jumped the whitewashed
rail.  And the dog? Oh, the dog still mopes
in the piazza – who can say if he weeps?





6 comments on “Sunday Poem – Philip Morre

      1. Awwww thanks Kim 🙂 I was being a little bit pedantic, but I am terrible at pointing out what I think are errors. If it’s any consolation I nearly had a word with the guy at the Park Run on Saturday because his apostrophe wasn’t clear enough! Luckily for him I was shattered! x

  1. I’d give lot to have an eye and a feel for an image like that of the medusa like a sort of weightless fabric, fallen or thrown over the back of a chair. Startling and exactly right. Thanks for another great post.

  2. I just wanted to say that Louise Gluck is fantastic. The Wild Iris is a classic collection – if you like what you have read by her so far you should definitely find that!

    Also, lovely poem above, which very curiously reminded me of Randall Jarrell’s ‘Eighth Air Force’, a favourite poem. Something about the tone/wistfulness.

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