A friend of mine met the son of a man
who it seems was eaten by a polar bear
in Iceland where the bear had stepped ashore
rafted from Greenland on an ice-floe.
That first day, to break me in,
my hardened comrades
sent me scampering like a marmoset
from the topmost parapet
to the foreman’s hut
for a bag of sky nails.
The foreman wondered which precise
shade of blue I had in mind.
It’s still sky nails I need today
with their faint threads
and unbreakable heads
that will nail anything
and make it stay.
(From Sky Nails: Poems 1979-1997, 2000)
One of the several alchemical secrets of John Gielgud’s mastery of speech was that he breathed the same way as a singer, from the diaphragm. His tone was rich anyway, but he multiplied its wealth with the way that he could sustain a syllable. (“We are such stuff as dreeeems are made on.”) On top of all that, he had an unmatched feeling for the rhythm of verse. He spoke Shakespeare as if the iambic pentameter had been specifically devised for him as a playground of melodic opportunity. Old and frail, he was still at the peak of his powers when he starred for the ultra-avant-garde director Peter Greenaway in Prospero’s Books.
Friday 28 Nov.
Topping & Company
The Lady Chapel, Ely Cathedral, 12.30 - 3pm. Tickets £12 with £6 off Angels Over Elsinore and £6 off Cultural Amnesia. Lunch and reception.
Friday 7 Nov., Saturday 8 Nov.
Aldeburgh Poetry Festival
Friday 10 Oct., 6.30 pm
Clive James talks about poetry with Alan Jenkins.