Blog 11: Novemberists

Yesterday four poetry MA students gathered to chat about Sean O Brien’s book of poetry, November. We talked about the blank verse’s discreet chug behind the poems. I love the idea of a stalled sense of purpose in the collection, although the purpose doesn’t feel stalled in terms of individual poems. We ended discussing November by looking at the poem Novemberists, and free writing our own version using a line from the poem as a starting point. I began with the words: the desultory familiar talk……and spun from that. I think because I’ve recently been memorising Lauren Bolger’s poem, Caller, and re-reading her collection-that began to shape the poem about half way through. To indulge in coffee shops, in the case of this piece, to indulge in vending machines.

O, Novemberists!


We sat and studied the weather,

it told us the words we could say.

we opened our conversation

with the phrases of the rain

pitter-pattering through our small talk.


We forgot to re-set the clock

and were an hour behind the other humans

for half the year; our purposes were lost to us

we picked them up at bus stops,

we drank coffee, delivered by machines

into paper cups.

I enjoyed discovering Sean O Brien, have not read his Drowned Book, and am aware of a big gap in my poetic landscape where Paul Maldoon, Derek Mahon, Roy Fuller etc live. Time of austerity, industrial landscape, this dystopian world, where lamp posts intermittently illuminate another patch of concrete. The dialogue of mushrooms,

Derek Mahon: A Disused Shed in Co Wexford

There have been deaths, the pale flesh flaking
Into the earth that nourished it…..

Grown beyond nature now, soft food for worms,
They lift frail heads in gravity and good faith


Sean O Brien: Europeans

The dank delicious one-legged flesh

Climbing from grave-pits as big and as deep

as the forests themselves

…..seeking and selling the flesh of the earth


And this is from my poem, called September, funnily enough:


……only the fungus thrives.

The sheltering caps of toadstools and flatheads,

A deep orange radiating out to curved sides.

We don’t know which are poisonous, which edible,

But a couple in front of us has a loaded basket,

we follow them back to a train station.


Next poetic task, to define what a poet does in  September, a Septemberist……


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