To Sean O’Brien

“I hope to write poetry that uses the full keyboard, claiming its full range of method and subject”
~
Sean O’Brien

I picked up your “November”1
On a cusp of Spring some few years back
With all such ease of time that holidays
Bring for browsing books.
A Gaelic named and volumed poet
Unknown to me but surely promising
A Heaney even or a Kavanagh
(Another holiday discovery – in Spain).

Right there on that first page
Was simply “Fireweed” – a high-flown flower
I’d put to verse two years before2
But your few words caught fire
Inflamed me, with a picture perfect
Brevity of silent rails, in couplets.
Eagerly, this reader travelled on
Past pages pristine yet profoundly
touched with loss -and long-lost
people from your past.

That past we share. The year of birth
An England at the end of tethererd
Empire. Our railways exchanging steam
For dullard, diesel engines, no longer stopping
At those quaint old ‘Adlestrops’.3
Larkinesque some lines; nostalgia nudged aside
Recalling how and when and where
without the trail of tears.

In Auden’s Pennine landscape your roots reach true
Deep and undeadened by the old lead mines.
A northern wind scythes sharply through
Salts humour with humility lest the major poet4
Puff pompous and forget himself.

I’m drawing ever closer to you still;
brass rubbings from an esteemed pedestal.


Notes:
1. “November” by Sean O’Brien. 2011. Picador
2. Fireweed aka Rosebay willowherb see my “Rose at Bay” (2016)
3. “Adlestrop” – a closed provincial station and poem by Edward Thomas
4. see his “Welcome Major Poet

For my Poetics prompt I challenge us to entitle, and write about, or to,  any one poet of our choice (with the Ode style an extra option). And employing something of the poet's style too if possible in: "A Poem to A Poet"

41 Comments on “To Sean O’Brien

  1. I so admire the depth you went to, I had never heard about Sean O’Brien before, but I love how he took you back to times past “a tethered end to an empire”… you made me want to pick up and read.

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  2. This is exquisitely drawn, Laura! I am especially moved by; “I’d put to verse two years before/But your few words caught fire Inflamed me, with a picture perfect/Brevity of silent rails, in couplets.”💝💝

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  3. I looked for the text of the poem ‘November,’ but I couldn’t find it online. A poet I am now curious to read, especially when I read these lines of yours:

    ‘But your few words caught fire
    Inflamed me, with a picture perfect
    Brevity of silent rails, in couplets.’

    – That’s the effect great poetry has upon us, sparking the flame within us to compose our own.

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  4. Wonderful, Laura, especially the way you introduce us to the poet through your discovery of his work ‘with all such ease of time that holidays / bring for browsing books’. I love that his ‘few words caught fire’ and inflamed you, the way excellent poetry does, and the comparisons with Larkin and Auden. I especially enjoyed the lines:
    ‘…your roots reach true
    Deep and undeadened by the old lead mines.
    A northern wind scythes sharply through
    Salts humour with humility lest the major poet
    Puff pompous and himself forget.’

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  5. An admirable in-depth study of your poet of choice!

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  6. This is fetching and captivating Laura, made me want to read more this O’Brien, a poet I am not deeply familiar with. This was so well written.

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    • Thank you Rob not least for that word ‘fetching’ – it has slipped from my vocabulary but is itself ‘fetching’

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  7. Thanks for introducing me to this poet! I enjoyed reading how his words touched you and love the line “I’m drawing ever closer to you still; brass rubbings from an esteemed pedestal.”

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    • And thank you not least for picking up on that last couplet which exemplifies relationship of this writer to that poet

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  8. Glad you chose a living poet that continues to create. Just went to the poetry foundation and read, “The Calm.” I can see why he speaks to you. Beautiful homage. Hoping Sean can see this poem.

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  9. A great heartfelt tribute. Love this…
    A northern wind scythes sharply through
    Salts humour with humility lest the major poet4
    Puff pompous and himself forget.

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  10. Laura, I love introductions to poets I had not read …. Mr. O’Brien is on my list of must reads! Your poem sang to me. Flowed, musically, magically.

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  11. Not a poet who says much to me, but I enjoyed your poem, as close to Pennine landscapes as I ever want to get again.

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  12. Such a tender and intimate verses for Sean O’Brien. I have heard about him today, for the first time, and the way he moves your poet heart shows he is someone worthy to read. Thank you for this piece, Laura.

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  13. Wow, you have really made a connection. What a special outcome from reading a poet. I guess it is what we all hope for.

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  14. I shall admit to you Laura: I expect to meet MANY poets I am not familiar with. This prompt will be extremely educational for me.
    I love your post here and these words “On a cusp of Spring ” are just magical to me, regardless of appearing in a tribute to a poet. To think of the time of year as the cusp of Spring…just brilliant!

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    • I agree Lilian – this gave me a chance to read more poets as no matter how many I come across I’m still ignorant of many others.
      p.s. that cusp of Spring has continued here with the most unseasonal wet and cool weather but it sounds nice 😉

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