“Poems for Susan” by Arthur L. Wood–A Poet’s History of a Love in the Years ‘Round 2020, in Resounding Verse

Poems for Susan in a seasonal bouquet, Copyright Arthur L. Wood, Cover illustration by the author.

Arthur L. Wood is a young poet from the U.K., residing near Winchester, Hampshire, who is generously sharing his first collection of poems, Poems for Susan, which was written in a few short months’ time in the warm season of 2020, some of his poetical recitals of his poems being on YouTube.  But more about that later.  He is a widely versed poet (to make a true pun), whom the notable writer of his Foreword, Raymond Keene, OBE explained, has written a work which bars the progress of the destruction of intellectual civilization.  This may sound hyperbolic, yet if you’ll indulge me with this post, and try the young man’s poetic skills for yourself, you’ll see that it’s only perhaps a bit overgenerous.  In this sense, we wait for what more he will do, because he has made such profit of his early opportunities, that now he may be the only person who can live up to them.  As Raymond Keene notes, he has been under the influence of “Baroque and Metaphysical verse,” and Marlowe, Shakespeare, Byron, Blake, Yeats, Eliot, and others.  Sometimes, Wood alludes to these poets outright in the verses of his book, sometimes he seems to have swallowed them whole and digested their substance, then integrated it into his work wholesale, a good thing, as it proposes a tradition of continuous poetic involvement.  The quality I find most enchanting, however, is the sheer intoxication of words, which to me of all the influences named is the most like Shakespeare at his heights, in the use of sometimes startling verbal inexactitudes which then become new and vibrant precisions for the reader, which is the way true poetry works.

The book begins with “A Preface in Seven Parts,” followed by 70 separate poems of varying meters, rhymes, and subjects, though the overwhelming number are devoted (and I stress that word, devoted, or consecrated, perhaps) to one main subject, the subject of a young love. It is organized and passes through easy stages of poetic awareness, though a careful editorial process seems to have shaped the work into a whole, as if the poems are all parts of one long poem.

Now, just to give a bit of a tempting taste of the treats in store for the reader: The gradually evolving subjects are these:

Of youth and friendship, sometimes under the influence initially of drugs and alcohol;

On those first drugs I ever took
In fields with friends when I was young
With dances of delight and song
And shimmers by the aching brook.

That long and weary journey through
A world of new sensations sweet
Nervous in the dizzying heat
Obliterating on the dew.

Of the threat of madness or emotional instability;

And twice or thrice, I oft forget
I held a knife and slit my arm,
I longed for some enchanted calm
And shook in midnight's fearful sweat.

I struck in anger, sunk in fear
And said, "My life is overworn
I wish I never had been born
I wish to easily disappear.

Of Byronic, Romantic idylls in foreign lands;

I found my soul in lands forlorn
Saw noises in the slow retreat
Of day and grasslands good to eat
And those enlightened fields of corn....

Of the intoxicating influence of love;

I am possessed by something new
A glimmer like that youthful day
But stronger with a brighter ray
And my beautiful Love is too.
Of the depths of love, as eternal;

"And I can feel the holy hours
Build with restless ecstasy
And thus it feels, thus I am free!
And love in life in death is ours!"

**********************************

A wealth of poets throned above
Gaze upon our fledging love,
They gaze, they nod, and wisely see
How love grows to tranquility.

Of the awareness of mortality and potential aging playing against that eternity, signs and portents;

If you look you too will find,
You'll dream the year that you shall rot
You'll see the end of your sweet mind
You'll see the end of your sweet lot.

********************************

I went to the forest to weep,
Then on to the meadow to cry,
Then on to the hillock to sleep,
Then into the grasses to die.
For my Love was an angel I hurt.
I didn't know wherefore or why.
My passion belonged in the dirt.
So I went to the forest to die.

Of the coming of war and Covid, and yet....;

I turn inside.  I turn inside.
India and China go to war
And my dear friend to Covid died.
The world is rich, the world is poor.
I think that every genocide
Was born like this and I can see
And so I'd rather turn inside,
These savage brutes do not hear me.

************************************

I end my sleep
Despite my better judgement
And the pleading of my eyes.

Upon my street three emergency vehicles
Six emergency personnel
One man dead.  Well, everybody dies.

***********************************

Come my way and I will rest
Come my  way and I will lie
On your million-pleasured breast
With coolest fingers round your thigh,
And like an olive softly pressed
Above your touch my swelling chest
Come my way and we will rest
Come my way and we will die.

Of how other realities impact upon love's legislations;

For evil eyes announce that death is slicing soon
Then move with me in passion round this Moon
And fear the loss and fear the fading flame.

********************************************

Of Blakean-style hopes for a fairer world;

When work is a toil for goodness
And food is not murder or theft
And peace and religion are partners
Providing the starving bereft,

When beings of blood are the mirror
And fear and unusual sight
Then I will walk easy in daytime
Then I will sleep easy at night.

Of partings, at first temporary, then appparently more lasting;

My life I cannot lose but moan
For times to come now thou art gone
I lost thee yet we meet again
When there is no more grief or pain
When night exhales the dawn.

Of a final dedication of the poems in the verse;

Our flesh may travel on apart
Our hearts may proudly flee the Will
But where I go, whoe'er I know
I will love you still.

****************************************

The ghostly God is calling me
Clouds are bursting on yon hill
Although I go away to rove
I will love you still.

**************************************
**************************************

When you gaze with a wonderful glee
At Time's mysterious view
Then all your thoughts are with me
And all of my thoughts are with you.

And at last, a sort of realization, hard-won, about the infinity of all beings:

Today is the last of the dancing,
Sigh on, sigh on.
To wherever are we advancing?
Zion, Zion. 

This gives only the general outline of the whole volume of poetry; there is so much more in the entire book.  At some moments, it’s hard to realize, by the very depths of awareness, of the intensity of successfully communicated feeling, of the intoxication of having so many influences thoroughly combined into a neat whole, that the poet is a younger poet, with much time ahead of him still to compose.  True, he has another book out already published in 2021 (which book will be reviewed on this site as soon as I finish reading it, I hope over the winter holidays).  It’s a bigger book, which focuses more on the development of the poet, with all his generous, gentle, scintillating and perceptive poetical tentacles out during the world’s ongoing Covid pandemic.  The title of that book, in case you want to order the two at the same time, is Scarlet Land.  Just to give you a short taste of the continued loveliness of his work, here is one of the short poems therein:

Untouchable Hand

All nations go to the dogs,
The oceans size up the land,
The eyes are desolate nerve endings,
The rocks are grinded to sand.

The winds are endlessly blowing,
My heart is still overflowing,
And those joyous embers are glowing
In your warm, untouchable hand.

As an added attraction to this book of poetry, Poems for Susan, you can listen to a YouTube audio recording for free of the poet, who is marvellously trained as a reader, reading some of the key poems.  This is the link:  YouTube.com/playlist?list=PL2z5ZyeiuCJTM3XyTzrQyKx4T1EI9qaVM.  Or, if you’d like to hear this same poet read not only from some of his own works but also give his considerable talent to the deliverance of other poets’ works, you can seek him online at Poetry from the Shires.  If you wish to contact him, you can email at arthurwoodpoetry@gmail.com.  Last but not least, the shop address you correspond to online if you want to order either one or both of his books is: 

https://ko-fi.com/arthurlwood/shop

May all my and Arthur L. Wood’s readers have a wonderful season this year.  Some of us have already celebrated an early Hannukah this year, but there are still Solstice, Christmas, Boxing Day/Kwanzaa, and New Year’s to follow.  Please enjoy yourselves sensibly as regards not only your indulgences, but also your Covid precautions, so that as few of us as possible have things to regret when the season is over.  Be Happy!

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Filed under Poetry and its forms and meanings, poetry as bardic speech, Topical poems--Covid-19, What is literature for?

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