Tag Archives: sorrow

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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“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

 

Not a poem today, but a recommendation. I do not know why I had not come across this wonderful book earlier, but I am glad that I finally have. A finalist for both the 1990 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award The Things They Carried is a book I recommend highly.

But why on my poetry blog? It is because it flows like one long poem, a modern Iliad: beautifully written, ugly real, brutally honest and terribly sad.

Ostensibly it is a description of the things that soldiers carried with them during their stint in Vietnam, and after that stories of what life is like in a war zone, but of course it is much more than that: it is about Vietnam itself and about what it is like to be human and caught up in a mad world of death, destruction and fear.

If you have the chance, I would even suggest that your preference for format would be an audio version, as is mine; it adds to the poetic effect. I got mine through www.audible.com and it is powerfully read and performed by Brian Cranston, the brilliant main actor from the hit TV shows Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle.

2014.04.14 update: Having just finished listening to the audible production I discovered that there is a bonus: a wonderful 1994 op-ed piece from the New York Times written and read by the author. Now I recommend the book even more and the audible version in particular.

Thank you for dropping by the Book of Pain. As always I am interested in your comments.

john

© 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2014 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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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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