Tag Archives: Ian Hamilton

Ian Hamilton’s “The Visit”

They’ve let me walk with you
As far as this high wall. The placid smiles
Of our new friends, the old incurables,
Pursue us lovingly.
Their boyish, suntanned heads,
Their ancient arms
Outstretched, belong to you.

Although your head still burns
Your hands remember me.

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I have, for some time, been championing Ian Hamilton’s poetry on my blog, mostly because there are no collections of his work in print. This poem is most probably about visiting his wife in a mental health institution and presumably after she has had some sort of shock treatment. Wistful, terse, gentle in the setup of a light touching moment, brutal in its honesty of the reality and tragedy of love, a dam of regret and sorrow barely held back. To me, this is classic Hamilton, and one can only stand back in awe at the world of being he sketches in only a few lines.

Click here for a list of the other Ian Hamilton poems on the Book of Pain.

For more on Ian Hamilton, I refer you to: his Wikipedia page.

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s “The Visit”. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

Comments © 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved.

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Ian Hamilton’s “Home”

This weather won’t let up. Above our heads
The houses lean upon each other’s backs
And suffer the dark sleet that lashes them
Downhill. One window is alight.

‘That’s where I live.’ My father’s sleepless eye
Is burning down on us. The ice
That catches in your hair melts on my tongue.

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I have previously posted several of Ian Hamilton’s poems, who I believe to be one of the best poets of the second half of the 20th century. It is a tragedy that his work is not better known and that his Collected Poems is out of print.

Note the brevity here, yet too the intensity of emotion, the sense of darkness out on the edge, the quick sense of joy that fades too quickly. All vintage Hamilton, all excellent and all evocative.

Click here for a list of the other Ian Hamilton poems on the Book of Pain.

For more on Ian Hamilton, I refer you to his Wikipedia page.

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s “Home”. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

Comments © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved.

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Ian Hamilton’s “Familiars”

Ian Hamilton is a poet from the second half of the 20th century whose work I greatly admire and love to champion. You can find a listing of more of his poems on the Book of Pain here and watch a BBC TV special on him here.

Familiars

If you were to look up now you would see
The moon, the bridge, the ambulance,
The road back into town.
The river weeds
You crouch in seem a yard shorter,
A shade more featherishly purple
Than they were this time last year;
The caverns of ‘your bridge’
Less brilliantly jet-black than I remember them.

Even from here, though, I can tell
It’s the same unfathomable prayer:
If you were to look up now would you see
Your moon-man swimming through the moonlit air?

Could anyone else leave a better sense of lingering loss and sadness in the air than Hamilton? The man was surely a master! For more on Ian Hamilton, I refer you to his Wikipedia page.

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s “Familiars”. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

Comments © 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved.

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Ian Hamilton’s “The Garden”

Ian Hamilton is a poet from the second half of the 20th century who I greatly admire and whose poetry I love to champion. You can find a listing of more of his poems on the Book of Pain here.

The Garden

This garden’s leaning in on us, green-shadowed
Shadowed green, as if to say: be still, don’t agitate
For what’s been overgrown—
Some cobbled little serpent of a path,
Perhaps, an arbour, a dry pond
That you’d have plans for if this place belonged to you.
The vegetation’s rank, I’ll grant you that,
The weeds well out of order, shoulder-high
And too complacently deranged. The trees
Ought not to scrape your face, your hands, your hair
Nor so haphazardly swarm upwards to breathe
In summertime. It shouldn’t be so dark
So early.
All the same, if I were you,
I’d let it be. Lay down your scythe. Don’t fidget
For old clearances, or new. For one more day
Let’s listen to our shadows and be glad
That this much light has managed to get through.

For more on Ian Hamilton, I refer you to his Wikipedia page.

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s “The Garden”. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

Comments © 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved.

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Ian Hamilton’s “The Birds”

She saw it from a distance seem to burn
Along the branches of her orchard trees,
Then disappear. All afternoon
She had kept watch. The smaller birds,
Assembled on the bitten lawn
In perfect rows, had waited with her.
Soon, she consoled them, soon.

Their claws stretch and unstretch, deep in the ground.
Between the broken trees, there are avenues
That flutter as she talks and seem to run
To the horizon without moving.

She stalls above all this and seems to see
Black on the whitest hill, the furthest tree.

This is another sample from the work of the brilliant late 20th century poet, Ian Hamilton, a poet for whom my admiration and awe continues to grow the more I read him.

This time, a more enigmatic poem. The tone is vintage Hamilton but the focus, while softer, has the same deep emotional impact mined from the same dark brevity. It is easy to get lost in the ‘she’ of the poem. Who is she? Why is she there? What is she doing? And then, with a gasp, what is she?

Click here for a list of the other Ian Hamilton poems on the Book of Pain.

For more on Ian Hamilton, I refer you to: his Wikipedia page.

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s “The Birds”. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

Comments © 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved.

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Ian Hamilton’s “Poet”

‘Light fails; the world sucks on the winter dark
And everywhere
Huge cities are surrendering their ghosts…’
The poet, listening for other lives
Like his, begins again: ‘And it is all
Folly…’

I am less certain where or in what stage of his life that this Ian Hamilton poem comes from but it is a classic example of his style. Let me quote JRBenjamin of the Bully Pulpit in his response to another of Hamilton’s poems, as I think he succinctly captures an important element of the elegance of Hamilton’s style:

Man. He’s insanely good. It has something to do with his use of enjambment — you feel like you’re wandering through a remembered landscape. He also doesn’t overwork his stuff; the descriptions are sharp and to the point.

An enjambment, by the way, is breaking a complete idea over several lines of poetry without any punctuation in between. And yes, I agree; in Hamilton’s brief yet emotionally dense poems, his use of enjambment is nothing, I think, short of brilliant.

Click here for a list of the other Ian Hamilton poems on the Book of Pain.

For more on Ian Hamilton, I refer you to: his Wikipedia page.

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s “Poet”. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

Comments © 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved.

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Ian Hamilton’s “The Storm”

Miles off, a storm breaks. It ripples to our room.
You look up into the light so it catches one side
Of your face, your tight mouth, your startled eye.
You turn to me and when I call you come
Over and kneel beside me, wanting me to take
Your head between my hands as if it were
A delicate bowl that the storm might break.
You want me to get between you and the brute thunder.
Settling on your flesh my great hands stir,
Pulse on you and the then, wondering how to do it, grip,
The storm rolls through me as your mouth opens.

As many of you know, I have previously posted several of Ian Hamilton’s poems, and in fact, intended to stop at his Prayer. But I have continued reading his work and cannot stop myself from posting a few more of his poems that I have come to admire.

This is an incredible poem. It builds tension so quickly that it really does feel like a storm is coming. But it is the interaction between the two characters of ‘the voice’ and ‘the other,’ that is amazing here. The voice calling for the fearful other, the gentle touching, the clear insight into the fear that is felt. Obviously there is kindness, empathy, love and trust, but then, at the end, as with all of Hamilton’s poetry, total and complete honesty and the explosion of an unexpected reality of pain, sorrow and regret.

I am not sure what the storm really was, although I suspect it is Hamilton’s first’s wife’s mental illness. But it doesn’t matter. This poem is so cathartic in nature that it expands into all human existence. Anyone who has loved and felt the beloved’s pain understands this poem well. All too well.

Click here for a list of the other Ian Hamilton poems on the Book of Pain.

For more on Ian Hamilton, I refer you to: his Wikipedia page.

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s “The Storm”. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

Comments © 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved.

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