A Kingfisher

Frequenting a corner of an eye,
Like a thing one didn’t really see,
Its dodges reconcile me
To the way you get undressed,
Affording less than a glimpse!

As for the one apparent
To our friend, eliciting
Her outburst as it darted
Close to the surface,
I guessed that stain on a backdrop

Of river and trees, that flight
I very nearly caught (but where
Was one supposed to look?)
Was lost for good. And then,
There went the streak of it

– Sooner gone than seen.
Was it, was it – what?
Sapphire? Emblem of all
Snatches: sought like the dream
One forgets even as one wakes from it.

by Anthony Howell

© Anthony Howell, 2009

Anthony Howell has been described as a “dandy” (in a review by Peter Porter) and the elegance of his poetry certainly justifies that. Perhaps it’s that quality which has led him to be compared with the American poet John Ashbery, a poet whose influence is more to be seen in his earlier work. In fact Howell employs a variety of methods, formal and other, in this highly enjoyable collection, which features two longer poems: one a detailed narrative description of the joys, or rather lack of them, in commuting across London; the other, the book’s title poem, a fable about lust which the poet describes, perhaps teasingly, as “extending a theme of dubious empathy explored by Browning in “My Last Duchess”.’

‘The Kingfisher’ comes from The Ogre’s Wife, published by Anvil Press in 2009. You can find out more about Howell’s collections here.

Anvil Press Poetry was founded in 1968 and publishes English-language poetry and poetry in translation, both classic and modern. You can read more about Anvil here.

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