Monday, April 16, 2018

Poet Lore 2017 Pushcart Nominee - Andrew Motion

Poet Lore has 8 poets and 17 poems nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize! We spoke to nominee Andrew Motion about his poem “The Edge of the World Twice.” Read it here and see what Motion has to say about it. From the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of Poet Lore.



The first time I reached the edge of the world
I lay in the prow of my ship and looked down.
The water beneath me was now so shallow
I could very easily have dipped my fingers
and dragged them through the ocean floor.

As it was I preferred simply to take notice
of the way our gentle bow-wave magnified
the least yellow pebbles and white stones,
a single knobbly and sick-looking boulder
flying a flag of bright green oily seaweed,

and the miniature collapses of sand-grains
where a timid creature fleeing my approach
buried itself and waited for the threat to pass.
You have to see this, I called over my shoulder,
forgetting for a moment that I was now alone.


Or to put it another way
I might well be
and today the day
wind switches from the north
to north-north-east,
which makes my wicker basket
leap a yard into the air
and creak
exactly like the collie’s bed
whenever she treads round
then round again
and settles down to sleep.

Be that as it may.
A little change is all it takes
to let me climb away
and find immediately below
the moss-starred tiles
and chimney stack of home,
which as it shrinks and fails
appears to crowd my eye
like matter in a microscope
with my collie outside now
and barking in the yard.

While I consider that
and what it means,
I see the garden table
where my children sit,
which tells me among other things
I must be traveling through time
as well as space.
The boys as usual convulse
at something that escapes me,
but my daughter,
she is silent,
staring hard into the laurel bush
as though she meant to seize
that shadow slinking off the leaves
because she really thinks
it might be mine.

Then all this also falls,
or maybe I should say
it rises from my sight,
and after that the flight
begins in earnest.

Deer I notice
plunging through deep bracken,
and a farmer in his field
as shadows lengthen
calling home his cows.

Afterwards a mill-wheel
and the river driving it,
which sometimes shines like mercury
and sometimes darkens
with reflections of the roofs
heaped up like dirt on either side.

In this way daylight fades
but never quite gives out.
when I approach the coast at last
and hear long waves
hiss-hissing on a sandy beach
like human hands
arranging tissue paper,
I still struggle to believe
that sunset is already
hammering the water.

Only now does it occur
I should have left much sooner
I should have left tomorrow.
But I am where I am—
and for all the good it does me,
I continue looking down.
I wonder
which is one more thing among the many.
Are those lights below
reflections of the sun,
or are they—magical—
the fire of phosphorescence?

*     *     *

Poet Lore: Can you talk about how your poem navigates time?

Andrew Motion: ‘The Edge of the World Twice’ derived from an impulse (and then another one, which attached itself to a different little narrative) to explore the ways in which our sense of time passing intensifies as we get older. Intensifies, that is, to a point where our dismay at not having that much time left is held in more or less equal balance with our pleasure (admittedly sometimes mangled with regret) in remembering the times which comprise our past. The mingling of these feelings (and the tension that inevitably remains between them) is often painful, but it also gives our existence its salt and savour.

Andrew Motion was the UK Poet Laureate from 1999–2009; he is now a Homewood Professor at Johns Hopkins and lives in Baltimore.

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