Speeches at an Eightieth Birthday

If the dead could be summoned
to say what they thought of you,
they would be as reluctant
and evasive as in life.
No eloquence from a friend,
no measured words from a foe,
would counter your sense of faint
virtue, lacking solid proof.

But why expect of the dead
more than of the loud voices
in present praise and debate
of your accomplished manhood?
Fading under fine phrases,
you disappear in plain sight.

by Tony Connor

This Wednesday 18 June from 6-7pm at The Poetry Society, Betterton Street, London, Jenny Wong, PhD student at the Department of English and Modern Languages at Oxford Brookes, presents a reading by Chinese poets Jiang Tao and Ming Di. The event is free to attend. Visit the Poetry Society website for more details.

‘Speeches at an Eightieth Birthday’ is copyright © Tony Connor, 2013. It is reprinted by permission of Anvil Press from The Empty Air, New Poems 2006-2012 (Anvil Press, 2013).

Notes from Anvil Press:

Tony Connor’s tenth collection is framed by military encounters. In the first poem a young man grapples with a malfunctioning machine-gun, while the author grapples with the poem he is making from this event, memory or fantasy. In the surrealistic sequence that ends the book, a strange army invades a country collapsing into societal and semantic dissolution. Connor’s abiding preoccupations continue into his eighties:his own life and the lives around him, passing time and its traps, poetry and its transfiguration of the commonplace. Yet all is not solemn as Connor extends his range into comic verse and dramatic dialogue. His new poems mix fantasy and reality in unexpected ways, always with the unobtrusive hand of a skilled craftsman. You can read further selections from the new book on the Anvil website, and more about Tony Connor from the Academy of American Poets site.

Since 1971 Tony Connor has lived partly in Middletown, Connecticut where he was a professor of English at Wesleyan University. He spends the summers in London. He left school at fourteen and worked in Manchester as a textile designer for many years.

Anvil Press, founded in 1968, is based in Greenwich, south-east London, in a building off Royal Hill that has been used at various points in its 150-year history as a dance-hall and a printing works. Anvil grew out of a poetry magazine which Peter Jay ran as a student in Oxford and retains its small company ethos. Visit Anvil’s website here, where you can sign up to their mailing list to find out about new publications and events.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.