Tuesday, July 16, 2019

What I couldn't include

Jenetta, a long-time reader of the blog, commented about my new book EVEN WHEN THEY KNOW in the comments section of my last blog post (Clinging on). She was talking about the poetry in the book and how she couldn't relate to Jane and Joe quoting poetry and connecting through it, and I responded there.

It brought back for me the whole issue of not being able to include the poems the characters refer to in the text of my novel. The poems were certainly in the draft, but the cost of including them all was prohibitive, and when publication loomed I had to choose which were the most important, and therefore worth paying for. And then, whether or not I could afford the price quoted.  I don't begrudge the poets (or the beneficiaries of their estates) the fees, it's just that I could not afford them. Two people were very generous and allowed me to quote poems without paying for them.

There was one poem I really wanted but there was not even a price. It's called Home and is by Warsan Shire. It is the most powerful poem I've seen on the subject of refugees and I commend it to you. I wrote to the poet's agent for permission to include it but the response was that they were not giving permission to anyone to use it. If you look for it online you will find it. Indeed, here is a link to the text of the poem and the poet herself reading it on Youtube.

I try hard not to have living poet's work on my blog without permission. Here, for one week only, are the other three poems I would have liked to have included in the text of my novel. All the poets are dead, and yes, it's completely arbitrary that I choose to show you their work and not the work of living poets.

Firstly, here's the one parodied by Joe when Jane falls and crushes some marigolds.

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

William Carlos Williams

Here is one that Jane refers to in her journal:
Late Fragment
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Raymond Carver

And here's another that Jane refers to in her journal:

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver

Lastly, there was a verse from a Bob Dylan song, Mama You've Been on my Mind, I didn't even try to get permission for, because I thought it would waste time and energy and result in a blank:

Perhaps it’s the colour of the sun cut flat
And coverin' the crossroads I'm standing at
Or maybe it's the weather or something like that
But mama you've been on my mind.

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