answering light

May 6, 2021 poetry appreciation

Someone brought ‘Child waking’ by Edith Scovell to the 42 group last week. The poet’s name was vaguely familiar but I had no sense of her work. I loved ‘Child waking’, though, so since then I’ve been scuttling about the interweb looking for Scovell’s work. And I give you: ‘Deaths of Flowers‘.

Both ‘Child Waking’ and ‘Deaths of Flowers’ are exquisitely observed. The attention to detail evokes vivid visual images but also points towards the ideas on which the poem reflects: how may we age? Will we embrace change and respond to circumstances, like the tulip which ‘answer[s] light’? or will we shrink from it like the iris, ‘in-coiling/ [with] strange taut inflorescence, willing/ Itself a bud again’? ‘A clenched sadness’ is a beautiful expression, suggesting (though not judging) the mournfulness, the quiet tragedy, of a life crippled by fear and the inability to face ageing and death.

In contrast, the tulips’ fully-committed magnificence is glorious: ‘from one through many perfections,/ … wretched, flamboyant, strayed beyond recall’. Isn’t ‘wretched, flamboyant’ a fabulous juxtaposition of words? There’s a sense of freedom, and of abandon (which is not quite the same as, but puts me in mind of, St Vincent Millay’s candle burning at both ends in ‘Figs from Thistles: First Fig‘). And I love the idea that we might have ‘many perfections’ in our life: what a wonderful challenge to our youth-oriented (Western) culture. Fire flakes for me, please…

2 thoughts on “answering light”
  1. Glad to read more from this poet. – she deserves to be better known. I hadn’t realised how recent she is either.

    1. It was hard to find much by her online, so I think I might have to buy some and add it to the pile by the bed. So many good poems, so little time…

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