I have previously shared Sophie Hannah’s Rubbish at Adultery, though please note that you have to follow a link to read the whole poem. I was obviously feeling a little copyright sensitive and only typed up one stanza, in that ever fluid concept of “fair use”. On that note, this time round I have decided that sharing a whole poem is constitutes fair use, in the context that it’s an excerpt from a collection. Obviously if it turns out any of the actual poets disagree, then I will drop down to a smaller excerpt and, where possible, link to elsewhere online with the full poem.
Half of the top ten search terms to my blog actually relate to Rubbish at Adultery. I wondered if this meant that it’s a school set text? I’d love to find out. Maybe it’s just very popular.
This time, I’m sharing a poem from Hannah’s 1999 collection Leaving and Leaving You. It’s another collection of clever and funny, well constructed poems. I’m probably doing her a disservice, as I often subconsciously consider her “themes” as “conceits” instead. (Though this just illustrates that my brain uses the word conceit incorrectly in a literary context) For example, a dark joke about a pupil misspelling a key word in writing about his holiday in “Your Dad Did What?” provides four verses on the topic. She sometimes manages to write a lot about not a lot.
Some favourites include Nobody Said You Had to Come – eight stanzas addressed to a poetry class attendee who appears to have nothing to say and no desire to write: “You tell me firmly several times, to check I’ve understood, / That nothing I can say or do could make your poems good. / I am an optimist but I agree the chance is slight, / So why did you come to this workshop if you didn’t want to write?”, and the title poem about leaving a place and a person: “Though you stand beside what I’m leaving and forgetting, / I’m not leaving you, not if motive makes the act.”
The collection also contains Ruining the Volunteer – apt, I think, in these days of unpaid interns and work experience.
However the poem I’m actually sharing is, I’m afraid, another relatively sombre one:
For the first time I find it quite unnerving
That people’s names are handed on to things.
No bench, so far, has proved itself deserving
Enough to bear your name. No hospice wings
Or students’ union buildings will inherit,
If it has anything to do with me,
A name no other man could even merit
Let alone any slice of brick or tree.
I could be Lord Mayor with a town to listen
To my new street names; you would still be gone.
Now, as myself, with power to rechristen
No roads, there’s still a tribute going on:
Though I call nothing by your name, I do
Practically nothing but call after you.
See the intro/roundup.