Great Poetry Circle

Great Poetry Circle

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Selection of Great Poetry and some from Tommy Stroller - choose your category - and see my other sites -

More Birthday Poems

Tommys 70th Birthday PoemsPosted by Graham Thompson Mon, August 06, 2018 13:46:26

Usambara Time

The cocks crow at 3pm,

they don't crow for anything.

A guest has come

but the host has gone out with his cows.

The guest sits outside waiting

never knowing if the host will come,

and observing the women doubled-up

like caterpillars, hoeing in their fields.

The ragged scissors of banana fronds

rustle and stir in the mountain wind.

Far below the plains seem close,

& above the clouds -

like a quarter-opened book whose binding

is uncertain, but whose pages can mirror

the scattered glyphs of clouds,

dark duplicates that run across

the alien mountain bush.

A child's cry is carried on the wind, the bati* groans

upon the fractured mud of walls,

and everywhere the same dank stink of piss,

human and animal, drenching both homes and earth.

And the blood red soil nurtures less and less

of these people and their religion:

untended ancestral shrines open to the rain, a home

only for rats, not spiritual sacrifice.

No birds sing here now, not even any woman's song.

It's half past three and I'm still waiting

For the host to come.

Note: Usambara Mountains are in north-east Tanzania.

*bati is the corrugated metal roofs on adobe houses.


Twisting angular bony hands

And fingers creating form out of nothing

As if even in moments of self-forgetfulness

Art had still to be fulfilled.

He destroys the human form with the vicious strokes of a pencil

Only to recreate it again in his own spritual image.

Comfort, love, affection - all our killed

By a lust, a meaningless sexuality

Which makes even the hesitant touch

Between one individual and another

An act of sabotage.

And all there is left is a perverse adulation

And constant masturbation both of art

And his own body.

And yet an innocence steals in

To this embrace:

A dream of attachment to one other

Captured forever in a fixture

Beyond corrosion of feelings and sad time:

Even if the woman is elsewhere in her dreams

The man is complete in his taking.


The Voice

I have broken the seal on the manuscript. I am writing across the floor.

The river unwinds its grief in huge meanders. The sky waits to appoint us.

Leaving is a three cornered hat: you me him. A crucifix around my neck. Never stop leaving me.

My bed is surprisingly empty, but my imagination is more than full now you’ve gone. I have spent the night sober, alone, and in my room. I was too happy to get drunk, too full of you to see another, and too, too mad to be allowed out alone. But I’m so glad the only thing I lost was my mind!

And to think that men do all these strange and fierce things all for the sake of that small hole in the wall of femininity.

My need for you can never be quenched by your presence. It’s a need that waters the deserts of your absence. Parts of me were healed by you, other parts torn open revealing many unsolved mysteries and the ulcers of my unfulfilled dreams. You were like an anarchist maid: dusting and cleaning everything, but refusing to replace the furniture in its accustomed place. My bed is now on the floor and no longer in the air. My new clothes have all been sent to the jumble. And my heart has a new pair of socks.

Memories are only as painful as the original was beautiful.

There are some moments in the brief and slim novels of our lives which make us feel more than fictional characters, and only just less than gods.

You are not on the credits, but I swear I hear your voice on the record. How come? Is this some strange kind of doppler effect or are you really singing behind me as I write?

We are all the double agents of the heart. We are never sure at any one time whom we are betraying, and who we are being betrayed by.

I long to be eternally jealous and yet never possess you.

She has gone.

She has stopped leaving me.

Why is it love always transforms me into a poor imitation of the loved one? She is still in my voice, still in my movements. Surely the whole world can see my falsity. Irony walks the corridors of these worn out days. Everyday I wake and pretend again you are reassembling me from the broken pieces.

Is it a smile or a grimace on the lips that wait for my kiss?

Is it laughter or tears that wait behind those envied lids.

A photograph of your voice.

The broker of broken dreams.

I am writing to the ghost of my fiction.

The Hanged Man

Graubolle Man – dug

from the side of the turf covered earth

your twisted arrow body points back

to the depths where you were discovered

in a thousand year old sleep

What is it now that you

are digging up in us?

This need for public history

eats away at your leather thin sides

your body is sucked dry

by the latter day stares

from a future you never agreed to share

To be hung upside down

was once an honour for you

and a sacrifice to your people

To be hung a second time

in the museum of our present fancies

is a slow death for us all

unless the lightning stroke ascends

in our bare modern souls

There is a Song

There is a song below growing old

A master lyric that has not been told

The dread of dying cannot stifle its voice

The love of living its altar place

When this poor body is near massacred

And aches and fevers are all that fascinates

Call to the love that makes it all worthwhile

Summon it close to light the very last smile

And if the good ashes scatter on an offshore wind

Play the tunes then that we always planned

But never quite succeeded to usher in

Play our songs and let the Host this truth confirm:

Though godless men this ball of dirt do own

Finer spirits will cleanse it finally from

The waste of time, the greater waste of love

And silence the tongues that twist my every last line

The Ballad of Jay & Magdalena

The Ballad of Jay & MagdalenaPosted by Graham Thompson Tue, July 31, 2018 12:31:11
I was unable to post the long ballad (150 pages) on this site for technical reasons. One can find it on:

All That We Took In

Tommys 70th Birthday PoemsPosted by Graham Thompson Thu, July 26, 2018 02:04:03

All that we took in

We now give back

And place it not lightly on the world

A child, a name, a star,

This, our first real metaphor

And metamorphosis

From love to flesh

Sad Songs

That same winter the walls
Glistened, the slow globes
Were mapped by lamp and stove
The dampwood sang sad songs
And your hair did not laugh anymore.

And folded in amongst yourselves
In spheres of pure preflection
Her cells grew to that song In the key of change and sacrifice.

Lines hover between the seasons
The ring of summers in axed-felled wood
Are thinner than the ripening fruit
The child dreams more dreams than lives
The poet pens
The lifelines meet
Then separate
The fire circumscribes.

In the Voices of Children Waking

They are waking now

Children of my thoughts

The taste of bitter dreams drunk

In all their wild youthful sleep.

Water splashing on a face

Furniture removed from its rightful place

Now reappears.

In the voices of children waking

There is a song below growing old:

The world is a toy for these thoughts of yet and never.

An Irish Chant for Naomi

The rain and sleet rattle at our window,

The same rattle in the child's throat,

The so human shaking at death's door,

Young light of a life hardly spent.

Why tonight is your face grown old?

Why the skin so hot and the room so cold?

The very earth seems to move, or is it just this cabin floor

Creaking in the last north wind of winter?

And if all there is to death is a past

What future can mend the bones of today,

What hope can seal the fevers of tomorrow?

Children of darkness, child in this hour,

Feed on this candlelight, recover this power:

Bring us your deliverance through your suffering gaze,

Find the strength that is stolen from this page.

Poems Read On My 70th Birthday In Order of Date

Tommys 70th Birthday PoemsPosted by Graham Thompson Mon, July 16, 2018 03:58:34
They Have Cut the Wheat

They have cut the wheat I lay in.

We lay there tucked close by wheat and thunder.

Today the rains will crumble

The summer soils which bore the grain.

They have burnt the willow I sat on.

We sat there haunched to steal the sun

But autumn fires have spread

From burning stalks – we had to run.

They have cleared the copse I loved in.

We loved in greying skies with bodies burning.

The sharpest blades have turned

The leaves to darker soils.

They have filled the towns with people.

I never noticed them before.

Winter's filled their cups with flesh,

The flesh which tendered every grain.

17 years old

Promenade des Anglais

Bare-foot delights

stroke my tinsel hair

and whisper all day long

on sun-warmed pebbles

The singer raises coarse thoughts

to the opal blue med-sky

in a rhyme

without reason

And we all listen


The brown skin pulls me down

& asks me

play me

“Baby in Black?”

(My strange smelling gypsy love

it is you

I long for

but you are not

in black)

The guitar is passed

hand to hand

around the circle

to mine

My thoughts are much too sacred

to share so

I hum

“Babeee's in Black!”

she pleads

Those young firm breasts

I'll never fondle

except in my dreams

The French

stacattoes past my mind

The Deutschlander

Hans ze aktor

En plus, en plus

Russian Nureyev

never speaks

just leans

o'er the railing

jealous of our


of our


I´m tired of foreign languages

even my own

bouncing around

my head

Night pulls its sensual body

over our small bright lights

& finds us harboured

on the port's walls

Everday we are begging

like lost children

for more

bandana necked &

promenaded hats

for lilly-rich ladies

in Paris mode

Soon the

our cold stone bed

will wrap us

in its own white warmth

and the sea

will swing and call

in the moments of our dreams

1965 Nice


Great Poetry EuropeanPosted by Graham Thompson Thu, July 12, 2018 06:13:58

Winter Solstice

The midwinter sun fell so low

that you could see

under all the gates of the world

The sawmill over the valley drew to a halt

like the tearing of

the brittle wallpaper in a childhood room

I entered the pine forest

like a person I have known

and could just as easily forget

A falling raindrop lit up the dark

and burnt a hole in the pine-needle carpet

sounding like a footfall in the sacristy

just before a baptism


love affairs, over so long ago:

sometimes you meet them in the street

sometimes you meets them in dreams,

when you meet them in the street, it looks like a dream

when you meet them in a dream, it looks like the streets

streets, where half the houses stand empty

because you don't remember whose faces appear

in the dark behind the window-panes

Power Cut


under me

over me

around me


railway lines


between points

at the ready

trains stand still

people stand still

the blood stands still

will we make it?

trapped in metal

death lurks in the switches

can we get it going

with a move of the hand?

does it want in that case

to get back at us

as a complete


of broken connections

Since Yesterday

I have become old since yesterday

and my room will no longer

let me go. The worn furniture

and things we collected together

in common, torment me suddenly

like razor-blades. Little hooks

poisoned by September's light

simply bind me tighter

if I turn after you

or try to free myself

When a person dies

When a person dies

their surroundings remain:

The mountains in the distance

the houses of the district

and the road, as on a Sunday,

that goes over a wooden bridge

just before it leads out of town.

And the spring sunshine

peeping out in the afternoon

reaches a shelf with books

and magazines, which no doubt

were once new.

It's not strange at all.

But all the same, it has

often surprised me.

When we leave one another

When we leave one another, at the same time we leave

all of the places we've been together:

That deserted suburb with the houses blackened by smoke

where we lived for a month, nocturnal cities

whose name we have forgotten, or stinking Asiatic hotels

where we now and then woke in the mid-day heat

with a feeling of having slept a thousand and one years.

And all those small hard to reach mountain chapels

along the way between Athens and Delphi

where the oil-lamps burn through the summer nights

these we leave at the same time we leave one another.

All translated from the Danish by Tommy Stroller & Anna Birkbøll Jensen February 2018

Henrik Norbrandt was born in 1945 and is one of the best of modern Danish poets, with a very European, and even Mediterranean outlook in his poems, totally different from other Scandinavian writers. He spent most of his life since the late 1960s in the south of Europe, and Turkey - a country he fell in love with early in his career and made his home until very recently. He has written a great travel book on his journeys in Turkey, which as far as I know has not been translated into English, but it should be as it compares well with the great travel writing of people such as Chatwin, and certainly Durell or Theroux. But it is more down to earth, closer to the people, and his descriptions of nature rivals D.H. Lawrence in poetic detail.

His poetry is always highly personal, unlike most of the British tradition, he lets you see the world, especially the Turkish and Greek world, through his own eyes. It is again very un-English and Mediterranean in its unashamed romanticism, but there is always an underlying Danish coolness and irony. I hesitate to speak of forbears, but it can be said that he is close to both the American beat poets, and at the same time Eliot and Auden. Eliot in that he uses poetry to hold the world at a certain ironic distance, Auden because he too is concerned with human morality, particularly in relation to his love affairs, of which he has had many. He is also influenced by the Swedish writer Gunnar Ekelöf, but I think his strongest influence goes back to the Greek and Latin-based language poets, such as Cavafy, Machado, Kantzanzakis and Seferis. From them he gets that very personal feeling in his poetry, even when he is describing landscape and travels. Thus he is a true hybrid of Northern and Southern European poetry, and should be much more widely recognised. He is unfortunate in that he writes in mostly Danish, and also Turkish, two languages almost untranslatable to other European languages. However, luckily for me, his language is not complex, nor is it full of difficult metaphors, Dylanesque (Thomas,not Bob) sound poetry or imagery - it is closest in style to the direct speech of Lawrence's poetry, and never as flowery as the Latins. So it is not too difficult to translate.

Because of illness Norbrandt returned to Denmark quite recently, but has written in various newspapers that it was because of poor health, and he finds Denmark of the post-millenium to be utterly different from his childhood, and even more alien to his spirit. The poems above are all taken from his 1998 "Drømmebroen" collection, which roughly translates as "Dream bridges". This is because they are often stream of consciousness productions with an underlying dreamlike quality. But they are also as real and acute in their perceptions as a Wordsworth. Enjoy! Perhaps more Danish poetry will be coming to yet another blog of Great Poetry, mostly from poets unrecognised in the English-speaking world.


Tommy Strollers Poetry GeneralPosted by G. Thompson Tue, July 10, 2018 04:35:42

Some music makes you shake

Some music makes you rock and roll

Some music wakes up your soul

Some music makes you cry

Some music makes you wanna die

Only the music-master knows the tunes to play

When your'e either up or down

In love or relieved

To be broken hearted, free and outta town.

Music is for the highway, the church and the

Lonely apartment just down the block

It's always there when you need it

Radioed, stereoed, or spottified

Its always there when you unlock

Your head and get turned on or tuned out.

You can still get your glass of music

At every bar and passing cafe.

That time you hear your favourite singer

Blasting out from a passing car stereo

You know that heaven is literally

Just down the road.

Who Knows?

TS EcologyPosted by G. Thompson Tue, July 10, 2018 04:31:59

the name of the hounds of heaven

when they howl March's coming

& strip the last leaves of oak?

how the sea grows warmer

cleaned & transparent from winter's keep

when early suns tend further east?

what moves the caterpillar

from his wingless sleep & bids him

return to the blossoms & spreading buds?

how the cherry ripens

in the heart of the bud

& is put out for the wandering gazer?

where the lark springs from

to throw that sky-born voice

clear from its tall & lucid tower of air?

why the sparrows' twittering grows louder

as they clamour in gable ends

& every bush?

why men long seaward

when April shows its skirts & frolics

under the bows of newly launched skiffs?

who women long for

when sheets lie heavy on itching skin

& imagination runs further than husbandmen?

why sailors keep watch

on Orion's higher rising

in its spinning merry-go round of April nights?

who finally keeps the candles burning

in Rembrandt's dark study

on the far side of our tears?

Tommy Stroller, April 2018

The Springs of Love

TS LovePosted by G. Thompson Tue, July 10, 2018 04:24:53

The springs of love are strange

some are pure but others

sullied, muddied and poisoned

by influences unbenign

but gold is found in dirty streams

crystals of amethyst and quartz

in base and granite rocks

the force of sin and degradation

can heat our tainted love

to moments of even greater perfection:

the man on the cross-

roads of so many lives

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