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Wake Forest
University Press

Wake Forest University Press

Dedicated to Irish Poetry

Wake: Up to Poetry

"The act of poetry is a rebel act."

Poem of the Week: Sonnet 33 by Harry Clifton

9781930630796In honor of its recent publication, this week’s poem comes from Harry Clifton’s Portobello Sonnets. The collection functions as a meditation on place and the passage of time, closely examining spaces in Clifton’s native Dublin while seamlessly vacillating between the present and his memory of the past. Both of these motifs are present in this sonnet.


Water is there to be looked at, not looked into —
Stay on the surface, where the dragonflies mate,
The girls return your glance, and the weather is great,
And no-one gazes through a shattered window
Into the depths. Let the black shapes cruise
Down there, on a backdrop of old news
And drowned ephemera. You can go too deep
And never come back from the realm of the archetype.
Once you were like that little boy, with his tin
Of crawling maggots, and his fishing-rod.
Then you committed sacrilege. You looked in,
And saw yourself looming, like the face of God,
Ravaged, hollowed-out, on an infinite sky….
Swim back up to the surface. Live and die.

Harry Clifton, Portobello Sonnets (2016)

Categories: Harry Clifton, Poem of the WeekTags: ,

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