FROM A BENEDICTION
Poems by Olivia Byard
Olivia Byard lives in Oxford where she is a part-time tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a reviewer of poetry for the Oxford Times. Her poetry, which has been championed by Anne Ridler and John Bayley, has appeared in a wide range of leading national magazines and newspapers. From a Benediction is Olivia Byard’s first full collection.
‘I have been reading the poetry of Olivia Byard, and have recently taken a large bunch of her poems for Quadrant, the Australian magazine of which I am the literary editor. Olivia Byard’s work seems to me to be genuinely gifted and full of real promise for the future. She has come late to poetry but her work has the pressure of real experience and depth to it. I am really very enthusiastic about her work’.
‘It seems to me that among those writing poetry today Olivia Byard has one of the most genuine vocations. Her poetry is often deeply felt. It is generally, indeed, poetry about felt experience, rather than about ideas or words. Yet it is not crudely confessional writing: characteristically it has a poetic idea, an imaginative concetto, at its heart. In this respect, her poetry is superior to much that is currently published’.
Whores in Amsterdam
I could not squeeze past their glass to join them,
even in nightmare, so I held back, shy,
while they sat or prowled, divided by reflections
from the milling crowds. Did they dream
of suburban homes before time could weave lace scars
across their thighs and find them sprawled
in cheap cubicles down dirtier alley ways,
pleading for glances from passing vagrants,
as their elder sisters did? Couldn’t they reckon
the future? For now, their bodies proud,
they strutted; ultra-violet picking out in white
each frill of négligé, each curved hip:
like frothy sugar icing on birthday cake.
They seemed not to crave display:
bored as they were by ogling men,
until one, more brave, was plucked in,
a fish from murky water, and swallowed whole
down the business end where beds gaped anatomically
and toilets waited patiently for tit-bits.
Curtains closed on this finale and we left.
Why did I come, and why return next day
en route to the Oudekerk? Why gaze
at my reflection in empty panes,
stork bundles of laundry, the carpet stains?
Was it to learn the limits of my own dark side,
what, if pressed, I could or could not, do?
Or even hide?
FROM A BENEDICTION
Price £7.95 per copy post free (£5.30 post free to Associate Members)
Cover illustration: ‘Snare’ by Paula Rego
Publication: AUTUMN 1997 (59 pages laminated paperback)