The Camera Cannot Lie

Superstitious about images I cling on
to old snapshots of long dead dogs and cats
afraid to kill a second time shapes that still
run and jump, demand and give in memory
to erase them forever as though
in the old saw of terror ‘they had never been’.
And as for the living how can I tempt fate
with fire or scissors, and so the drawer fills up.Yet they’re not us, these faces, masks, muzzles
that stare from celluloid or screen. And this latest
put into my hand by a still sad widow
of five years, shows a group of us I can
number my dead among, memorial
to a buried decade, gone yet visible
in this shiny icon. But these stills can’t show
how they ran through fields, laughed or were lovers.
Memory has to fit then up with life again
though stillI turn them over hoping to catch
their voices, friends of fur or flesh, part of
my story I retell and again.

by Maureen Duffy

News from the Centre: our international poetry competition recently closed for entries – thanks to all who sent in their poems! Our judge, Daljit Nagra, will shortly begin to judge the entries, and winners and the shortlist should be announced early next month.

We are delighted that the acclaimed poet and teacher Tamar Yoseloff will be coming to Oxford to lead a ‪‎poetry writing workshop entitled ‘The Space of the Poem’ on Saturday 22 October. Inspired by the exhibition by Pan Gongkai running at Brookes’ Glass Tank, we will look at examples of Chinese painting, concrete poetry and text-based sculpture as a way of generating new poems – participants will be encouraged to share their first drafts during the session. You can read more about the workshop on the Brookes website,where you can also book your place (please note that those places are limited!).

‘The Camera Cannot Lie’ is copyright © Maureen Duffy, 2016. It is reprinted from Pictures from an Exhibition (Enitharmon Press, 2016) by permission of Enitharmon Press

Notes from Enitharmon Press:

Maureen Duffy was born in 1933 in Worthing, Sussex. As well as being a poet, playwright and novelist, she has also published biographies of Aphra Behn and Henry Purcell, and The Erotic World of Faery , a book-length study of eroticism in faery fantasy literature. She made her début as a novelist with That’s How It Was , published to wide acclaim in 1962. Her first openly gay novel was The Microcosm (1966), set in the famous Gateways Club in London. Recent publications include the poetry collection Family Values (Enitharmon Press, 2008) and a novel The Orpheus Trail (Arcadia, 2009). She is also the author of 16 plays for stage, television and radio, the most recent being Sappho Singing in 2010. A new novel, In Times Like These, was published by Arcadia in 2013. In total, Duffy has published 31 books, including six volumes of poetry. Her Collected Poems, 1949-84 appeared in 1985. You can read more about her work on her website.

Pictures from an Exhibition, from which this poem is taken, celebrates the mind’s eye, which is its own exhibition gallery: transforming Darlington Station into an upturned ship’s hull or a mauled pigeon into a still life, and glorying in the lives, loves and creations of painters from Veronese to Anselm Kiefer. You can read more about the collection on the Enitharmon website.

‘William Blake dreamed up the original Enitharmon as one of his inspiriting, good, female daemons, and his own spirit as a poet-artist, printer-publisher still lives in the press which bears the name of his creation. Enitharmon is a rare and wonderful phenomenon, a press where books are shaped into artefacts of lovely handiwork as well as communicators of words and worlds. The writers and the artists published here over the last forty-five years represent a truly historic gathering of individuals with an original vision and an original voice, but the energy is not retrospective: it is growing and new ideas enrich the list year by year. Like an ecologist who manages to restock the meadows with a nearly vanished species of wild flower or brings a rare pair of birds back to found a colony, this publisher has dedicatedly and brilliantly made a success of that sharply endangered species, the independent press.’ (Marina Warner.)  

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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.