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Our Poem of the Month, in association with Picador



Each month, we bring you a poem from one of the many talented poets on their list, ranging from first-timers to some of the most widely read poets in the English language. (You can read earlier Poems of the Month by clicking on the links at the bottom of the page.

Picador logoPicador are one of the UK's foremost publishers of poetry, with a list that features, amongst many others, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Sean O'Brien, Jackie Kay, Annie Freud, Paul Farley, Ian Duhig, Robin Robertson and Clive James.

The Drowned Book by Sean O'BrienThis month's poem has been chosen to mark Picador's 40th anniversary. It's taken from one of the undoubted highlights of Picador's history, Sean O'Brien's acclaimed collection, The Drowned Book, which became, in 2007, only the second book (after Ted Hughes' The Birthday Letters) to win both of the major UK literary prizes dedicated solely to poetry, the TS Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize.

The year before O'Brien published an acclaimed verse translation of Dante's Inferno and many of the poems in The Drowned Book take their emotional and stylistic cues from that work.

O'Brien returns to the elegaic form that has served him so well and many of the poems are written in memory of artists and fellow poets.

The Guardian described the collection as "powerful, resonant and thought-provoking, delivered by a formidable wordsmith at the very height of his powers" and the Sunday Times commented that "O'Brien conducts readers with firm and reliable hands through his underworld of random malevolence and widowed expectation".

 

Water-Gardens

Water looked up through the lawn
Like a half-buried mirror
Left out by the people before.

There were faces in there
We had seen in the hallways
Of octogenarian specialists,

Mortality-vendors consulted
On bronchial matters
In rot-smelling Boulevard mansions.

We stood on their lino
And breathed, and below us
The dark, peopled water

Was leaning and listening.
There on the steps of the cellar,
Black-clad Victorians

Were feeding the river with souls.
They left us their things,
Reefs of blue ware

In the elder-clumps,
Tins full of rust in the shed,
And on the bookshelves

English poets, all gone damp
With good intentions, never read.
Their miles of flooded graves

Were traffic jams of stone
Where patient amphibian angels
Rode them under, slowly.

The voices came back
From sinks and gratings,
The treasure seekers

Gone downstairs, while all the time
In King Death's rainy garden
We were playing out.

 

© Sean O'Brien from 2007

 

Earlier Poems of the Month

 

January: Petal by Richard Meier

December 2011: Fiere by Jackie Kay

November 2011: Holus-Bolus by John Kinsella

October 2011: Virgil's Bees by Carol Ann Duffy

September 2011: Cassandra by Glyn Maxwell

August 2011: Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins

July 2011: The Hum by Rachael Boast

 

Other poetry titles by Sean O'Brien

November
(Paperback)
Sean O'Brien
 
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Night Train
(Paperback)
Sean O'Brien; Birtley Aris
 
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The Silence Room
(Paperback)
Sean O'Brien
 
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£7.95
 

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Ellipsis: Comma Modern Shorts: v. 1
(Paperback)
Sean O'Brien; Jean Sprackland; Tim...
 
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£7.95
 

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Down River
(Paperback)
Sean O'Brien
 
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£8.99
 

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