Penelope Shuttle: Five Poems

Penelope Shuttle

Penelope Shuttle has lived in Cornwall since 1970. She is the widow of the poet Peter Redgrove (1932-2003). Shuttle’s 2006 collection, Redgrove’s Wife (Bloodaxe Books), was short-listed for the Forward Prize for Best Single Collection, and for the T S Eliot Award.
“A wonderful book of poetry of love and loss by Penelope Shuttle about her late husband, poet Peter Redgrove. It spoke to me very strongly, having lost my own husband not so long ago”, said Maureen Lipman, in the Daily Express, and in The Times, Elaine Feinstein said, “Her poems of mourning … are among the best she has written”.
In the autumn of 2007 she was one of three poets on an Arts Council sponsored reading tour of Toronto and New York (Cornwall Poets in North America), and in the same year was awarded a Cholmondeley Award for Poetry.
Penelope Shuttle is a tutor for The Poetry School, The Arvon Foundation, and Second Light Network. She also runs residential courses at Almaserra Vella in Spain.
Her new collection, Sandgrain and Hourglass, appears from Bloodaxe Books in October 2010, and is a Recommendation of the Poetry Book Society for the Winter Quarter.
“A poem can remove the thorn from any lion’s paw – but by the same token a poet may have to ask the lion to tend her wound. Penelope Shuttle’s new collection, Sandgrain and Hourglass, charts a variety of transactions between poet-self and wound, between wound and beast. A major preoccupation is her continuing experience of loss, particularly the way time modulates and redefines grief.
Some aspects of human experience can be too painful or difficult to bear except through poetry. As Ted Hughes said, ‘poetry is a way of speaking to people we’ve lost when it is too late’. In these poems – as in her previous book Redgrove’s Wife – Shuttle continues such conversations with her husband Peter Redgrove, her father Jack Shuttle, and her close friend L.H.S., among others.
Her engagement with the world’s manifold possibilities is also strongly present in Sandgrain and Hourglass … A machine for grading kisses? Edward Thomas translated into Japanese? A stolen reindeer? Faust? Francis Bacon’s mirror? Bedtime? The possibilities are endless.”
A Bonfire for the Moon
Neither afternoon, nor evening –
bright sky and primrose path
coming to the brink of shadow-time
High-stepping waves
back the beach into a dusk corner
A yard of wet sand
loses the light as we make for the rocks
Breakers shove their stern grey shoulders at us,
stand bolt upright, smashing fists of spray
in the world’s face –
Grey drumming ocean,
and on its wild wave, far out,
a white bird riding, as halcyon as you please –
Far above, a net of cloud reveals
the moon rising inch by inch,
small and sure and full to the perfect –
grey-pink at first,
then, as an artist might dreamily try out her palette,
she gains cherry-blossom’s lustre,
as you’ve seen it in those old orchards around Kyoto,
till, at first soberly, then wildly,
she’s a shade of orange more kumquat than orange,
more orange than peach, more tulip than wild rose –
every shade showing clearly
the delicate continental smudges of moonscape –
Now the cliff bats are shaken into the air
like motes falling from god’s eye –
and the moon-watchers
still crouch silently on the rocks –
yes, the sea does all the talking, bragging
and wise-cracking –
but is the moon listening?
Then one of us sets the kindling,
lights a bonfire for the moon
Autumn Evening at Home
The road hushes
into another road
with its own moon, its own rain
From our bedroom window
I see the fig tree that isn’t there,
the gate that never shuts,
the road outside our house
repairing itself with rain,
a blurt of moon,
you vanishing again
from my quiet regard
The pilot falls
from the sky,
lands in front of me,
without warning,
like a legend
‘I should be at work right now’,
he says
scooping up his ready-made wings
‘Some people
hate us hang-gliders,
others love us, there’s
no in-between…’
We’re birds of a feather then,
I think,
poets and hang-gliders…
watching him run
along the shore,
nudge up
into the air again,
without fuss or fanfare,
guessing his way
through the thermals,
at ease above the cliff,
in a prospect of sky,
pilgrim of shadow,
pilgrim of sun
Memory is a Sort of Folklore
Memory is a sort of folklore
about love’s flying carpet
on which we took our domestic flights,
stayed airborne for years
Memory also gives our time together
the reality of a Dutch painting,
entire years the shade of gold
in Maerten van Honhorst’s Magdalen,
when she’s dressed up for a night on the town
Memory is like the earth,
always in two minds at once, light and dark,
or like very distant stars,
or an entire town taking a vow of silence,
or a country
whose sole wealth is its forests
Memory is where Love and Death meet in secret,
Death always rhyming with breath,
Love, with her birds white as winter,
always rhyming with dove
I’ve seen memory words like this
written in the primer of light and dark
Spare Self
I’m making a new version of me,
identical in every way,
same age, same memories,
same hopes, same fears.
She’ll work hard for me.
Why not, I am her Creatrix.
All those e-mails
and phonecalls,
rail and flight bookings,
getting tax stuff
ready for the accountant,
housework and shopping,
that’s her department now.
I’ll be free,
it’ll be me-time all the time,
writing, reading,
holidays, days out,
long lunches with friends.
I’m constructing my own Cinderella,
and as for a prince –
no chance, Cinders.
Visit the Sandgrain and Hourglass page on Bloodaxe’s website.
Pre-order Sandgrain and Hourglass.
Visit Penelope’s Poetry Archive page.
Visit Penelope’s Contemporary Writers page.
Read Penelope’s poems on the Poetry International Web.
Read more of Penelope’s poems on the poetry pf website.
Visit Penelope’s profile page at David Higham Associates.

3 thoughts on “Penelope Shuttle: Five Poems

  1. Angela France

    Lovely to see these fine poems here!
    There will be an interview with Penelope Shuttle and a review of ‘Sandgrain and Hourglass’ in the next ‘Iota’ (out very soon)

  2. Michelle Post author

    I’ll make a note to order it, Angela. Thank you!

    I enjoyed your interviews with George Szirtes and Katrina Porteus in Iota 85.

  3. Helen Ivory

    Love all of these! Particularly the first, second and fourth. Poems should take you out of your everyday, and these did.

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