PUNK WITH DULCIMER
Poems by Anna Crowe
Anna Crowe was born in Devonport, Plymouth and educated in France and at St. Andrews where she now lives, working in a second-hand book shop and as a translator. In 1986 she was runner-up in the National Poetry Competition. She won first prize in the Peterloo Open Poetry Competition in 1993 and again in 1997. For the last seven years Anna Crowe has been Artistic Director of Stanza, Scotland's Poetry Festival. Earlier this year she received a Travelling Scholarship from the Society of Authors to enable her to continue translating Catalan poetry. Her first collection was Skating Out of the House, (Peterloo 1997), and a pamphlet collection, A Secret History of Rhubarb, (Mariscat Press) followed in 2004.
"Words which come to mind when reading Anna Crowe's poetry are 'honest', 'affectionate', 'elegiac', 'skilful', 'natural', 'lucid'. Hers is a warm and melodious world, revealed to the reader in beautifully rendered cadences, and with an unflinching eye for the delightful and pleasant as well as the disturbing or sorrowful."
"There are more riches in this first collection than anyone has a right to expect. It is a book of subtly inclusive poems: varied in their subjects, diverse in their forms, and often sweet in their wisdoms."Colin Walter, School Librarian, on Skating Out of the House
Punk with Dulcimer
He stood at the end of the carriage.
A black-clad giant, fearsome
in fringed and studded leather, ginger mohican.
Then sat down in the seat beside me.
Soon – Plants are amazing, so they are!
The voice, rich Ulster. He looks up from his book,
eyes shining under the tawny crown.
– If it weren’t for plants,
if it weren’t for vascular bundles,
we’d not be walking upright.
He speaks in a creaking of leather,
a sound like branches in a pine-wood,
rubbing. And a multitude of studs,
from his ears to his bare, braceleted arms
and eloquent knuckle-dustered mittens,
sparkle and gleam like rain on thistles.
He is a green man speaking leaves.
Rainforest canopy fills the carriage
with rustled whispers; words
that make Linnaean music, space
for colobus, catleya, bell-bird
to peep from the fringes of speech.
For an hour he held sway, in language
as way above my head as, say, a sequoia.
Elusive as jaguar, and all gone.
All but those resonant, homely
vascular bundles. Oh, and the dulcimer.
He played a dulcimer in a folk-group,
was going, in fact, to play it in Newcastle
where he duly got off the train.
I think of how I had feared him,
of how we fear what we don’t know.
And when I hear the whistles and drums
of marching Orangemen on the news,
I try to imagine the tune arranged for dulcimer
– hearing soft-struck strings;
seeing a black-clad figure,
tall as a cedar of Lebanon, and dancing.
Like David with his psaltery
before the Lord.
PUNK WITH DULCIMER
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Cover illustration: 'King David playing his harp' from the Duplin cross, Forteviot, Perthshire. Courtesey of Leslie Reid, Ancient Images.
Publication: April 2006 – paperback edition.