Poems by Richard Godden
Richard Godden was born in 1946 and taught literature in the Department of American Studies at the University of Keele. In 1984 he was the winner of the York (Penguin) Poetry Prize for a sequence of poems that appears in this, his first volume. Breathing Exercises is sub-titled ‘an argument’. The ‘argument’ in these poems is about voice; ranging from the relative simplicities of words overheard to the overlays of irony and the political and historical forces separating people from their own voices. These distinctive, crafted poems are sure to provoke both pleasure and thought.
Not in Memoriam
My study’s full of suicides on ice -
high divers, hypothermic ditherers,
lost in the lower reaches of some fall
from their own height. I catalogue by note.
“Sod off” (spelled out in Phenobarbital,
love’s wristlet on a pillow). “I do not care
to see my life pass by my thickening eye
again”. “I am a perch for foul mouthed birds”.
“Band aid my heart” (this from a single wrist).
Their punch lines, said, unsaid, at parapet
or mantel, might have saved them: no rule can tag
the cold green breath which parts the fur on gas,
to stand like lark song, shimmering and scared.
Its call is to the scaffolding on words,
where absolute and commonplace confer
in sorts of songs, as sharp as everyday.
The third time throat commits its edgy air
to rusting pipes, stale waters and the dark,
leaving the notes propped up above the earth,
immense as breath, preserved by our translation.
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Cover illustration: Vincent van Gough, ‘The Potato Eaters’ (April 1885). Lithograph, printed in black. Collection, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. A. A. Rosen. Photograph © 1985 The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Publication: SPRING 1986 (72 pages laminated paperback)