Peterloo Poets

Poetry Publishers 1972 - 2009




SYMES, Gordon

Names For Shadows



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Poems by Gordon Symes


Gordon Symes was born and raised in Shropshire on the Welsh border. He won n Exhibition in classics to Worcester College, Oxford, where he contributed to various University periodicals. A wartime infantryman and Intelligence Officer, he contributed poems, short stories and critical pieces to a number of literary journals (in the U.S.A. and India as well as this country) during the 1940s and early 1950s, and was offered, though unable at the time to accept, a Rockefeller ‘Atlantic Award in Literature’.

After some years of other kinds of bread-and-butter writing, he began writing and publishing poetry again in the later 1960s. This work has appeared in many leading periodicals and anthologies, has been broadcast (radio and television) and won awards at both Stroud and Cheltenham Festival Poetry Competitions.

A selection of Gordon Symes’s poems, which does not include any of the poems in the present volume, appeared in Treble Poets 3 (Chatto & Windus, 1977). Names for Shadows is Gordon Symes’s first full collection.



He sucked moments to see
What stays on the tongue,
Sweet salt pure false right wrong.

He squinted at the sun through grapeskins,
Languaging easily into birth
Good heavens from good earth.

Mad many puzzled that one,
Mining for meanings,
Pinning irresolution
With a profound pun.

He was content to frame
An attic-ful of local views.
Pretty bubbles of order and pity
Another kept sending up like prayers.

A lady talked to the bees.

A castaway posted a bottle.

He picked at a sore quick.

Her lover’s spine was tilted.

But one, the furthest in time,
Nearest in blood, found names
For the growling shadows, sang them backwards,
Took the right steps over embers,
And healed by numbers.


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