'If poetry could tell it backwards'
by Carol Ann Duffy
'In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.'
If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin
that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud…
but you get up, amazed, watch bled bad blood
run upwards from the slime into its wounds;
see lines and lines of British boys rewind
back to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home-
mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothers
not entering the story now
to die and die and die.
Dulce- No- Decorum- No- Pro patria mori.
You walk away.
You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)
like all your mates do too-
Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert-
and light a cigarette.
There's coffee in the square,
warm French bread
and all those thousands dead
are shaking dried mud from their hair
and queuing up for home. Freshly alive,
a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, released
from History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.
You lean against a wall,
your several million lives still possible
and crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.
You see the poet tuck away his pocket-book and smile.
If poetry could truly tell it backwards,
then it would.
by Carol Ann Duffy
Permissions credit: Carol Ann Duffy and Peter Strauss at Rogers, Coleridge & White
Poem as Friend to Jackie
In this episode of our podcast, you will hear Jackie talk about the poem that has been a friend to her: 'Last Post' by Carol Ann Duffy.
We are delighted to feature 'Last Post' in this episode and would like to thank Carol Ann Duffy and Peter Strauss at Rogers, Coleridge & White for allowing us to use it in this way.
Carol Ann Duffy has recently published a collection of poems written over the course of her laureateship, entitled 'Sincerity', which is available from Picador:
She has also edited an anthology, 'Armistice' - A Laureate's Choice of Poems of War and Peace, available from Faber & Faber:
Jackie visited The Poetry Exchange at St Chad's College Chapel in Durham, during Durham Book Festival, in association with Durham University Foundation Programme. We’re very grateful to all our Durham partners for hosting us so warmly.
Jackie is in conversation with The Poetry Exchange team members, Andrea Witzke-Slot and John Prebble.
'Last Post' is read by John Prebble.
ABOUT THE POETRY EXCHANGE
We talk to people about the poem that has been a friend to them.
In exchange we create a gift for them, a bespoke reading of their chosen poem inspired by the conversation. Our award-winning podcast shares these unique and powerful stories of connection with people across the world.
We set up an intimate environment for these conversations at festivals, in arts, cultural and public spaces across the country. We also hold exchanges ‘long distance’. Our visitors come from all walks of life and we also feature well-known personalities such as Andrew Scott, Maxine Peake, Roy McFarlane and Paterson Joseph.