Saturday, 12 May 2012

Poetry - A Bracelet of Bright Hair

The muse loves poems, and today he brings you a whole year of poetry in the form of A Bracelet of Bright Hair by Frances Thomas.

Although it sounds as if it were spun from unicorn hair, this book is actually a personal journey by Frances of poems she read throughout the year 2010, all dated and introduced with personal notes that make this both a fascinating poetry book and a diary of the year that gave us our current coalition government, before the financial crisis hit.

Two years on, and I decided it would be fun to read these poems beginning in the same month I received the book. So I opened it up at May and found myself midway between these two entries:

May 10th (shortly after the general election failed to provide any one party with an outright victory)
Frances: “Still we don’t have a government, and none of the choices will make anyone happy…”

The poem she chooses comes from William Shakespeare’s "Troilus and Cressida" about past deeds, however great, being forgotten in the rush to embrace the new:
Then marvel not, thou great and complete man,
That all the Greeks begin to worship Ajax,
since things in motion sooner catch the eye
than what not stirs.

May 14th (musing on the Earl of Strafford, a politician who was tried and put to death for treason)
Frances: “Nick Clegg’s loyalty won’t meet such an end as Strafford’s, but loyalty is a dangerous thing in politics…”

This time her poem is "Epitaph for the Earl of Strafford" by John Cleveland:
He spent his time here in the mist,
a Papist yet a Calvinist...

(Don’t worry, Mr Clegg, the unicorn understands - he spends a lot of time in the mist, too!)

Other poems tell of Frances’ obvious love for the Welsh countryside where she lives, and on your journey through the book you'll even discover where the Holy Grail can be found today… or maybe not found... which is sure to be very useful now that I am writing the final book of my Pendragon Legacy series, in which Rhianna seeks the Grail of Stars to bring her father King Arthur back from Avalon.

And when you reach October with the leaves turning to gold, you’ll find the unicorn's humble suggestion for this book, a poem which (as it turns out) is one of Margaret Atwood’s favourites, too.



I saw a peacock with a fiery tail
I saw a blazing comet drop down hail
I saw a cloud with ivy circled round
I saw a sturdy oak creep along the ground
I saw a pismire swallow up a whale
I saw a raging sea brimful of ale
I saw a Venice glass five fathoms deep
I saw a well full of men’s tears that weep
I saw red eyes all of a flaming fire
I saw a house big as the moon and higher
I saw the sun in the middle of the night
I saw the man who saw this wondrous sight.

Hmmm, maybe not so impossible for a fantasy blog! But if you’re the sort of reader who likes things to make a bit more sense, simply rearrange the lines (breaking each one in the middle) and read it again:

I saw a peacock
With a fiery tail I saw a blazing comet
Drop down hail I saw a cloud

Got it? (I thought that poem extremely clever when I first came across it aged about 10!)

Much unicorn glitter to Frances for a beautiful book of poems that I'm sure I'm going to enjoy reading as the year progresses. And there’s extra glitter waiting for the first person who can tell the unicorn what a “pismire” is… answers in the comments below.

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