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( 360 visitor comments )



I've never thought about death and meaninglessness as much as I did at 16. Tribal boys are ritually killed at this age, to be reborn as adults. Lacking wise elders, perhaps I was trying to do this to myself.

Therese and Isabelle was written in 1968 after seeing the French movie of the same name - about two girls who fall in love at boarding school. I saw it with my best friend, Peter Bowes. I was shattered by its beauty, and overpowered by its dreamy, evocative melancholy of lost youth. The poem still chokes me up.

(Roger Ebert had a different take: "This is it, the worst movie of the year. 'Ah, Therese!' 'Oh, Isabelle!' Arrgh. Yeech... There are lots of shots of Essy Persson staring ecstatically at the ceiling, while the sound track provides what sounds like an iron lung in neutral.")

Dead, Dead was my adolescent anthem. I'd recite it after a flagon had gone down, to appalled girls in cashmere.

As for the adult poems: Cupid's Arrow Lands Out of Bounds is about a great indiscretion. My Brilliant Career and Voss are compressions of (other people's) great novels. At Last We Speak was announced in a dream: I'm not even sure I wrote it.


Cupidís Arrow Lands Out of Bounds : 19 July 2002

Life To Thirty-Six : 12 May 1987

At Last We Speak : 12 May 1985

My Brilliant Career : 12 May 1983

Voss : 12 May 1983

The ancient heart of Rhyme : 12 May 1980

Height is meaningless (limerick) : 12 May 1980

Words are meaningless (limerick) : 12 May 1980

The Empire Club : 12 May 1969

Therese and Isabelle : 12 May 1968

The Cricketer's Song : 12 May 1968

Dead, Dead : 12 May 1966

Body : 12 May 1966

Love : 12 May 1966