Going Out

Light bulbs, parties, jaunts, the final things –
The last most thought about at eighty-four,
Now as I gingerly change one of the first.
As for the second and third, not much these days,
Lacking an appetite for either. Drink –
A pale dilution, watered wine; no taste
For bad behaviour, mad hilarity,
Or staying up too late.
      Or fashions, either –
I never paid attention to such things,
Not noticing when skirts went up or down,
Or poets began each line with lower case.

Last orders, ending up, or final things –
All titles with a flavour of last words,
All leading up to this one: going out.

by Anthony Thwaite

The deadline for submissions to the Poetry Centre’s International Poetry Prize is 31 August. There are two categories: Open and English as a Second Language, and First Prize in each category is £1000. The competition will be judged by Bernard O’Donoghue and Hannah Lowe, and you can enter by visiting this page. Please do pass on details to friends and colleagues.

‘Going Out’ is copyright © Anthony Thwaite. It is reprinted from Going Out (Enitharmon Press, 2015) by permission of Enitharmon Press.

Notes from Enitharmon Press:

Now that he is eighty-four, Anthony Thwaite says that Going Out is likely to be the last book of poems he publishes in his lifetime, and that the title is apt. But the words are wistful, even playful, and that is true of some of the book’s contents. The poems range over times and places, commemorating friends (especially the poet Peter Porter), and draw on memories, hard-won faith, self-questioning. As Michael Frayn has put it, Thwaite ‘writes with simplicity and precision about difficult and ambiguous things, the complexity and unceasingness of the world, the vastness and richness of the past, the elusiveness of the present – and the heroic persistence of our efforts to fix some trace of all this.’

Anthony Thwaite has been a university teacher, a radio producer, and a literary editor. His first collection came out in 1953, and Enitharmon published his Collected Poems in 2007 and Late Poems in 2010. He is one of Philip Larkin’s literary executors and editors. He is married to the biographer Ann Thwaite and lives in Norfolk. You can find out more about the book on the Enitharmon website, and hear Anthony read from his poems on the Poetry Archive 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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Snake, Swimming

Slim, not a whisper through liquid but still
Silently moving, elegant as silk and slender,
That yellow neck-ring poised above the water –
You move alongside, yet distant, vulnerable,

So that we too try to stay still,
To watch you watching us, there in the river
As if this moment might go on for ever
Until you find those reeds, hospitable

Sheltering substance, close-packed, over the still
Moving and menacing tracks that cover
Where you might go, your sole endeavour
To sound out any agent that might kill.

You are with me now, unappeased, still
Fixed in my being, giving a shiver
Along the spine and spreading all over,
Magnificent, and lost, and beautiful.

by Anthony Thwaite

from Collected Poems (2007)

Anthony Thwaite’s Collected Poems, published as he reaches seventy-seven, give readers an opportunity to see gathered together all the poems he wants to preserve from the sixteen collections he has published since his debut in the Fantasy Poets series in 1953. Although his roots are partly in the Movement, he has developed a distinctive style – once described as ‘cunningly modulated eloquence’ – and a range of concerns which have defined his poetry from the beginning: memory, history, archaeology, travel (he has lived in Japan and Libya, writing of them with subtlety and affection), the intricacies of relationships, and now the frustrations of age. Through his own voice and those he has adopted (most memorably in ‘The Letters of Synesius’ and Victorian Voices), he has made a significant contribution to the literature of the last half-century, elegantly and perceptively setting the curiosities of the present against the layers of the past.

Anthony Thwaite was born in 1930. He spent his childhood in Yorkshire, the USA (1940-44) and school in Somerset. After national service in Libya he read English at Oxford. He then married and went to Japan for two years, where he taught English Literature at Tokyo University.  Since then he has been a BBC radio producer, literary editor of the Listener and the New Statesman, co-editor of Encounter, and in 1986 was chairman of the Booker Prize judges. He is a literary executor of Philip Larkin and the editor of his Collected Poems and Selected Letters.  He is a regular reviewer for the Guardian and other journals. In 1990 he was made an OBE for services to poetry.

Founded in 1967, Enitharmon Press publishes fine quality literary editions. While specialising in poetry, we also publish fiction, essays, memoirs, translations, and an extensive list of artists’ books.

Please note: We’ll be taking a break from sending out Weekly Poems over the summer. The service will resume again in the autumn.