Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Polonius: Old Poet by Harry Ricketts

everything seems disconnected

mottled hands mischievous eyes
rough frosted hair and disobedient brown shoes
cheeks with the blush of mulled wine
your soft-vowelled Scottish blur

you shuffle frailly inside your suit
the blood must move so slowly now
your mind still moving in worlds not realised
you shared the air that Eliot breathed

you know we all tell stories
in coffee-rooms and corridors
ironically envious of your eccentricity
how once you said:
‘Which way was I going?
Ah, thank you, that way
– then I have had lunch.’
but Polonius
you are so far out
you’re on your own
way back

though it’s true you stalk dead minotaurs
in labyrinths where we lack the clue
and Hamlet is dead, Polonius,
and Ophelia too
and maybe you’ll never write
all those poems you promised to
you did once live in Elsinore
and for that
                  we envy you

                                        Editor: Keith Westwater

Harry Ricketts teaches English Literature and creative writing at Victoria University of Wellington. He has published eight collections of poems; his next, Just Then, will appear from Victoria University Press in March.

‘Polonius: Old Poet’ appeared in Nothing To Declare (HeadworX, 1998). I like the picture it paints of an aged poet, George Fraser, who in turn has likened himself to Hamlet’s Polonius. I also like the layered references to Hamlet and the respectful tone of the poem.

The poem is the first of a suite entitled Three Poems for George Fraser. Harry prefaced the poems with the following note:

‘GS Fraser, the Scottish poet and critic died in 1980. In one of his last poems ‘Older’, he cast himself as a kind of latter-day Polonius figure. ‘Polonius: Old Poet’ (written while George was still alive) was intended as a reply to ‘Older’. The other two poems were written shortly after his death.’

Harry’s poem is posted on Tuesday Poem with his permission.

Keith Westwater is a poet from Welington, New Zealand, whose debut prize-winning collection Tongues of Ash was recently published by Brisbane-based Interactive Publications. Visit Keith Westwater's Writing and the other Tuesday Poets in our sidebar.


Elizabeth Welsh said...

This seems so quietly meditative on loss and time. I particularly liked the rhyming pattern that came through in the final stanza. Thanks so much for posting, Keith - loved it!

Harvey Molloy said...

I remember reading this poem back in 1982 when Harry started a student poetry zine called 'Writings'--Harry was so encouraging to young writers. I think Damien Wilkins made his debut in Writings. The poem always reminds me of Auden and I can't quite say why. Such tenderness.

Mary McCallum said...

I like the way Harry's poem stretches through time and crosses the borders of fiction and fact so effortlessly - and shifts from ironic envy to actual envy - a kind of unlayering... and as you say Elizabeth - the tone is meditative but at the end becomes purposeful in pattern and language. Nice work Harry, and thanks for posting, Keith.

Jessica Lauren said...

Thank you do much for posting. As other's have previously mentioned, what a beautiful use of words that intertwine through time and space. Almost melodic in nature yet simple and developing as the stanzas move onward.