Friday Poem – ‘A Marriage’ by Dannie Abse, CBE


This week’s Friday Poem is ‘A Marriage’ by Dannie Abse, from A Last Respect: The Roland Mathias Prize of Contemporary Welsh Poetry.

A Last Respect celebrates the Roland Mathias Prize, awarded to outstanding poetry books by authors from Wales. It presents a selection of work from all eleven prize-winning books, by Dannie Abse, Tiffany Atkinson, Ruth Bidgood, Ailbhe Darcy, Rhian Edwards, Christine Evans, John Freeman, Philip Gross, Gwyneth Lewis, Robert Minhinnick, and Owen Sheers. It is a who’s who of contemporary poetry which shows the form in good health in Wales.

The fifty-four poems included are wide-ranging in style and subject – relationships, nature, environmental issues, mortality, time, war, Wales, poetry itself, even the minefield of parents’ evenings. They are inventive, experimental, formal, original and, as prize-winners, of the highest quality.

Two accompanying essays provide the context in which the poets work. In her Introduction, Jane Aaron writes about Roland Mathias: a poet himself, but also an influential editor and cultural commentator who did much to foster and develop poetry in Wales. A Last Respect is a continuation of his legacy. Daniel G. Williams’ Afterword is an incisive discussion about poetry in Wales over the past sixty years: where it started from and how it changed.

A Marriage

Love, almost three score licit years have passed
(racist fools said our marriage would not last)
since our student days, honeysuckle nights,
when you'd open the jammed sashed window
above the dark basement flat and I, below,
would be an urgent, athletic Romeo.
Remember when I hacked my shin and swore
and you put an exclamation mark to your lips
because of the German landlady's law
NO VISITORS AFTER 10 P.M.
She kept castrating instruments for men!
Up the creaking stairs Indian file, the door
closed, you'd play before one amorous word
a Louis Armstrong record or another diverting disc
lest something of our nothings would be heard.
Oh the stealth of my burglar's exit through the
dark,
the landlady's dog, that we called Wagner
alert, anti-Semitic, lifting its ears
to rehearse a virtuoso chilling bark.
I hear its echo still at the front garden gate,
Down the lamplit street, faint, through the
hurrying years
to where we are, in sickness and in health,
in perdurable love, ageing together,
lagging somewhat, slowly running late.
Taken from p.46 of A Last Respect.

A Last Respect: The Roland Mathias Prize Anthology of Contemporary Welsh Poetry is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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