Friday Poem – Finding a Fossil


Today’s poem is from John Ormond’s Collected Poems, edited by Rian Evans and introduced by Patrick McGuinness, which is due to be released next month.

John Ormond (1923-1990) is one of the remarkable generation of poets born in south Wales in the early 1920s which includes Dannie Abse and Leslie Norris. A journalist on Picture Post during its heyday in the 1940s, he was a friend of fellow Swansea writers Dylan Thomas and Vernon Watkins, both of whom were key influences on a poetry of consistently high standards. A significant number of his poems, many of them elegiac, probe his Welsh roots, demonstrating an abiding concern with family and locality. Others focus on particular aspects of the natural world, seeking to capture their elusive quiddities. Stylistically, they vary from the extremely plain to the highly-wrought; are witty and ironic, paradoxical and conceited. Typically unsentimental, shapely and meticulously crafted, his are the poems of a sensibility which delights in explorations, probes complex themes and problematical areas of feeling, and refuses to settle for easy answers.

In addition to his writing Ormond had a distinguished career with BBC Wales as a director and producer of documentary films, which include studies of Welsh painters and writers such as Ceri Richards, Kyffin Williams, Dylan Thomas, Alun Lewis and R.S. Thomas. The insight and visual awareness which mark his films also inform his poetry, a selection of which was published in the Penguin Modern Poets series.

This Collected Poems edited by Rian Evans, draws together all of Ormond’s work, including unpublished material. It includes an Introduction by poet, novelist and critic Patrick McGuinness, notes and commentary of the poems re their geneses, backgrounds, allusions and meanings, and a bibliography of Ormond’s prose writing, films and writing about him. An index of titles and first lines completes this essential book.

Finding a Fossil

Maidenhair fern in flint;
An ancient accident
Shows me time’s imprint.

A leaf preserved and pressed
Between leaves of stone; crossed
Rest and unrest.

An image that grew green
Took ground in the rock grain:
Dark; now light again.

Luck interlaced each line
And dying vein with stone.
They return to the same sun.

The casual life of fronds,
Air and the tongues of friends;
Green begins, grey ends;

Except that remembered shapes
Live, and that at one’s lips
Love speaks as loves lapse.

Graftings (so fused in chance
Among cold stars that dance
Gestures of permanence)

Persist and contrive to invent
From fragment and element
A mindful firmament.

Pre-order a copy of John Ormond’s Collected Poems from our website.

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