A SLEEP OF DROWNED FATHERS
Poems by Donald Atkinson and Paintings by Polly de Falbe
Donald Atkinson was until 1986 a teacher and director of youth theatre in comprehensive schools. He now divides his time between writing and the care of a forest garden. He has five children and nine grandchildren. His poems have appeared in The guardian, Poetry Matters, Poetry Review, The Rialto, Stand, and The Times Literary Supplement. In 1988 he won the 1st (£1000) prize in the Peterloo Poets Open Poetry Competition, sponsored by Marks & Spencer and judged by Carol Ann Duffy, E.A. Markham and Kit Wright. Later in the same year he won joint 1st prize in the Times Literary Supplement & Cheltenham Festival Poetry Competition with the poem ("Wailing begins at he house-wall...") that constitutes the first section proper of this, his first collection. The judges of that competition included: A.S. Byatt, Fleur Adcock and Tom Paulin.
A Sleep of Drowned Fathers tells the story of a family unhappy in its own way, yet for all that, holy. From "complicity of sex and pain" it forges a single inclusive image; an ikon at once domestic and of the world we live in.
“I admire A Sleep Of Drowned Fathers immensely and am very moved by it. It is written with love; and the poetry is in the pity. This poem is clearly and achievedly public, and it is not like anything else. It is one complex image, and full of power. The Christianity and the sexuality are both particular and universal.”
It Were Better For Him
Arms flung round your bruised neck like a charm,
I drag you down, through spirals of thickening
waterlight, to the ocean’s utmost floor.
There, like the buried-at-sea enchained,
I rock you ‘in the cradle of the deep’ -
someone’s favourite ballad, was it yours?
We’re lapped by lilt of tides, cat-lick of the moon’s
tongue on our eyelids, open-and-shut. Eyes
of chrysoprase at the ebb closing, wide-
staring at the full. It’s my love, you know
that keeps us here like this, not punishment.
I’ll see your bones corralled yet, those eyes made pearls.
The brittle fish that swim this bowl of tears
are working on it. See, your flesh gives
under my weight, you’re starting to dissolve.
Will it take a thousand years, the seas run dry
or I turn to stone by this labour?
When the day comes, go decently disguised.
Confused in grains of sand, slip through my
fingers dregs of you unrecognised:
so my dust bites not your last as it goes.
Salt of the sea will change you. Yellows to brown,
purples to green, crimsons to blue: you’ll be
rainbowed elsewhere and different. I here,
a millstone son, condemned to lie, till
alkahest of mercy solve this hard love.
A SLEEP OF DROWNED FATHERS
Price £7.95 per copy post free (£5.30 post free to Associate Members)
Cover illustration: by Polly de Falbe
Publication: 1989 (63 pages laminated paperback)