Wake: Up to Poetry
Poem of the Week: “The Sofa” by Medbh McGuckian
It’s been nearly two decades since we published the last selection of Medbh McGuckian’s work, and in that time she has written eight more volumes. Needless to say, it was time to re-visit this poet’s remarkable ouevre. Over the last several months as we prepared The Unfixed Horizon: New Selected Poems, it’s been a true delight to look closely again at these poems whose images stay with you, even as they transform and transfigure with each pass.
As the editors comment in their introduction to the work, McGuckian’s “unique poetic style renders her one of the most compelling voices in contemporary poetry in English. Her unusual method of composition, weaving together strands from various prose texts, turns her poems into strangely original, dreamlike creations, both haunted and haunting.” We’ve chosen an early poem from McGuckian’s ouevre to share with you today, and we hope you’ll come back to this blog on publication day, Dec. 4, when we’ll be sharing a new interview with the poet.
Do not be angry if I tell you
your letter stayed unopened on my table
for several days. If you were friend enough
to believe me, I was about to start writing
at any moment; my mind was savagely made up,
like a serious sofa moved
under a north window. My heart, alas,
is not the calmest of places.
Still it is not my heart that needs replacing:
and my books seem real enough to me,
my disasters, my surrenders, all my loss. . . .
Since I was child enough to forget
that you loathe poetry, you ask for some—
about nature, greenery, insects, and, of course,
the sun—surely that would be to open
an already open window? To celebrate
the impudence of flowers? If I could
interest you instead in his large, gentle stares,
how his soft shirt is the inside of pleasure
to me, why I must wear white for him,
imagine he no longer trembles
when I approach, no longer buys me
flowers for my name day. . . . But I spread
on like a house, I begin to scatter
to a tiny to-and-fro at odds
with the wear on my threshold. Somewhere
a curtain rising wonders where I am,
my books sleep, pretending to forget me.
–Medbh McGuckian, The Unfixed Horizon: New Selected Poems (2015)