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 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 poem we feature this month is by Richard Meier, who last year won the inaugural Picador Poetry Prize. This rewarded him with the opportunity to have his first collection edited by Don Paterson and published by Picador. Our choice is the title poem from his new collection, entitled Misadventure, which is now available at Foyles.
Paterson was also chair of the judging panel that selected Meier as its winner. He said, "While there was so much to admire in the work of everyone on the shortlist, in the end it was Richard Meier's quiet strangeness, the uncanny precision of his ear, and the tenderness and clarity of his address that made us want to read his poems again and again; and each time we returned to them we found there was more to discover, more to be moved by."
Meier studied at Chetham's School of Music, before going on to complete a Masters in Psychoanalytic Studies; he now works in the policy department of a mental health organisation. His poems have previously been published in a number of poetry magazines; he also had work selected for the 2002 Oxford Poets Anthology.
Nothing again to show for his week's work
he rises early on the Saturday vowing
I will achieve one thing today
and drives up to the plant-hire by the station.
Back home and all set up, he squeezes the handle
of the high-pressure patio cleaner. There,
to his surprise, a fat dash where he'd fired.
He squeezes it again, more firmly; draws
a line so clean, so neat, from one side to
the other, he's a Moses, then from slab
to slab he paces, making sure to judge
the distance to perfection: not too close -
the jet, he learns, is strong enough to unpick
mortar - not too far lest it merely tongue
the surface. Finished, he stands to admire
the patio newly-laid, the shining stone.
But seeing his mud-stippled feet, he turns
the nozzle on them and - amazed - beholds
a brand new pair of tennis shoes emerge,
with snowy laces; then puts one foot up,
like someone being shod, to clean his sole,
each pimple and impression, then the other,
then sets about his shins, his calves - he's soaked
anyway - to purge dirt from each trouser-leg
and bellywards, as if the vigour might
unlard him, then across his heart, as if
the keenness of the water could absolve it;
and higher, to the brain, its dump of dud
connections where, quite reasonably, he places
the nozzle in his mouth and pulls the trigger
© Richard Meier 2012
Earlier Poems of the Month
February: Water-Gardens by Sean O'Brien
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