When Katy was setting up this website for me, I asked Carol Rumens would she be kind enough to let me have one of her poems to help get the site off to a good start; she readily responded, 'yes'.  This week we are privileged to post her poem, which arrived accompanied by her apology for having taken so long over her choice.  This is typical of Carol's generosity - not so much the apology, but more her patience in searching through the mass of published work for just the right poem, the one which is, in her own words, "still dear to my heart".  This lovely, tender, sad evocation of an age we'd like to think has passed, takes the form of the 'villanelle', which description will be of no help to those not familiar with the term, yet many will know by heart the opening line of one:  Do not go gentle into that good night, by Dylan Thomas.  Is it because the villanelle is such a difficult, tight-reined form that we see few being written today?  It certainly does take practice and patience to pull it off with success.  Let's enjoy Carol's poem, then dwell a while on how the expert does it. 

 

A Case of Deprivation

 

A shelf of books, a little meat -
How rich we felt, how deeply fed -
But these are not what children eat.

The registrar rose from his seat.
Confetti danced, and thus were wed
A shelf of books, a little meat.

We sang, for songs are cheap and sweet,
The state dropped by with crusts of bread -
But these are not what children eat.

They came demanding trick or treat?
We shut our eyes, and served instead
 A shelf of books, a little meat.

Then on our hearts the whole world beat,
And of our hopes the whole world said
But these are not what children eat.

Two shadows shiver on our street.
They have a roof, a fire, a bed,
A shelf of books, a little meat -
But these are not what children eat.

 

Carol Rumens (Star Whisper, Secker, 1983, London)

Poem posted Saturday 3rd September.