Thursday, 12 November 2009


John Greening’s new poem, ‘Dover’ [TLS, 6 Nov 2009], is dedicated ‘to Isaac Rosenberg’:
The white cliffs are like all the paper they could not have—
the men who were not rich enough to be officers
and that steady grey horizon is a never-ending pencil-lead.

The Channel is shifting with misty shapes of things that were said
but never written, for lack of paper, for want of pencils,
and beneath it currents and sands of what they really meant
The cliffs are paper (are they?) stacked and seen edge on? That’s not the side of paper poets write upon, though. But I like the idea that pencil lead and paper cannot come together to print the poem because between them lies Arnold’s unplumbed, salt, estranging sea. The Arnoldian touch is there in the last line, too, with its notion of a buried-life. And the title, of course. Of course, the title.

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