Anthony Howell: New England and the Maritimes

Anthony Howell is a poet and novelist whose first collection of poems, Inside the Castle was brought out in 1969. In 1986 his novel In the Company of Others was published by Marion Boyars. He was invited to the International Writers Program, University of Iowa in 1971. His Selected Poems came out from Anvil, and his Analysis of Performance Art is published by Routledge. In 1997 he was short-listed for a Paul Hamlyn Award. His versions of the Silvae of Statius have been well received and Plague Lands, versions of Iraqi poet Fawzi Karim, were a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for 2011. The Step is the Foot – his analysis of the relationship of dance to poetry – is published by Grey Suit Editions. He is a Hawthornden fellow and has recorded poems for The Poetry Archive. His two most recent booksof poems are From Inside and Songs of Realisation published by The High Window Press.

You find out more about Anthony and his work here: https://anthonyhowelljournal.com

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Late Summer, 2012. Anthony, a poet from London, England, looks at the American and the Canadian landscape with an amused if quizzical eye as he travels from an animal refuge in New Hampshire up the coast to New Brunswick, Canada.

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PASSING UNDER

Jazz in the ear, trees in the eye.
Mind-blowing acres of space.
Some of the trees are ghosts.
Victims of the spruce bud-worm.
Passengers drop into sleep.
The poem haunts the shadow of a rock.

The glimpse of a word throws a lariat
Around the sight of a culvert
Leading a wilderness under
The lanes for all motorised traffic.
Did we just speed over one?
Each moose culvert costs a million.

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CATALPA

The tree’s affinity with the orchid;
The way up each one was
Or snap-dragons for that matter.
The lightest dresses for summer
And to the pool or down
To the lake for dragon-flies.

The tree, the catalpa, the catalpa-tree.

The big leaves, the lightest
Of summer dresses

All the way up.

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ADAGIO

Weighed down
By their own heads
They amble as slowly as
Geiger counters
Over the pasture.

Others whose heads
Move independently
Of their frames, peer
In the direction of
The past, not so much

Overcome by nostalgia
As alert to the approach
Of a stranger who
Sneaks up on them from
Behind. That’s the way

They feel about it,
The beasts who
Have turned to present
Their haunches as he
Inches towards them,

Slow as the shadow
Of a summer cloud
Floating on forested
Ridges. Watch it trace
Each furry contour.

Beasts fatigued by
Their bodies collapse
Onto grass or carpet,
Creating soft stumbling
Blocks as the lights go off,

And back in Legal
Seafood there were
Some heavy fish turning
A leisurely spiral,
Within a tower of glass.

 

A FOREST BEGINS UNDERNEATH

And the pond hums before sunset. Leaves let through
Or don’t let through the light and as the stain
Sinks the pond darkens. Argent sky, ink tree, humming…
And the emu elevates, but now where has he gone?

The ink darkens impossibly, the slate shines
All the water before the lowering stain. Again a periscope
Is raised. Bright yellow waistcoats beat about.
Croaks cough in response. Notes from the pond’s oboes.

Swifts hit the skin. Black ducks double underneath
Now the stain reddens, clouds, reddens again.
The pond greens, daisies shimmer in their firmament.
A banner flaps by a stupa. The stain gone into

A nest of cloud eyes the pond orange
While trees embrace its after-effect and a vane
Turns behind a wooded hill, winnowing the glow
As clouds turn roses in the pond overseen by an emu.

THE SECRET OF PAINTING THE SUMMER

Each tree is a separate entity.
This fir that I swim towards, for instance,
Built like a pagoda by the lake’s edge,

Comprises a finite number of needles,
While two silver birches lean toward each other
To the right and behind these some other deciduous tree

Elbows its way up between its darker neighbours;
All here fore-grounded by the clumps of three low bushes,
With a sapling poking up through one of them.

There’s a dead trunk still upright behind the birches
And some bleached corkscrew of a creeper floating
At a crazy angle between its lower branches

And the bracken below. Accept no collective noun.
Paint each particular frond on the fern.
Distinguish between green, green and green.

LLALLION

Proud of neck, intact,
It isn’t easy to be a llama

With no appropriate mate, apart
From some old maids grazing toothily

In the next pasture. Kept
To himself, he can get pesky.

Such a noble creature, in his grey
Pantaloons and swaying shag.

Spits at any biped or interfering dog;
His natural hare lip

Split to bare his potential nip.
And why wouldn’t you spit?

THE MYSTIC MOOSE

Nobody takes me seriously when I suggest a zoo.
What about a Lame Moose Society?
Moose rescues must be out there along with
Custody battle pigs and divorce llamas.

I’m not after a glimpse from a fleeting car
On the highway side of the swamp.
Prefer to get up close, perhaps to some
Overweight brother stuck in a moose-gate.

Worst case scenario, that fibreglass fellow,
Adjunct to many a snap,
Brandishing the platters of his antlers
On the sort of ramp we Brits reserve for tanks.

Why did the moose cross the road?
He didn’t. Above him, it simply unrolled
All the way to New Brunswick.
Where can one acquire a moose’s hoof?

The mystic moose, the moose epiphany
I can only imagine. On its hind legs maybe,
Revealing its stigmata. Crucified moose, astonishing
The moccasin-shod worshipper of nature.

Pray to the great moose poet
Or at least quiz her about her restaurant and the bookshop.
Make no mistake. While moose lit
Drips with indigenous lore, moose steak

Has to be eaten to be believed.
The internet said they were bigger in the Yukon.
They would be. Am I going to go on
Making bad jokes until I see one?

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