They bring this hint of something startled in them –
the dreadful earliness of their petals
against dead earth, the extremity of their faces
suggesting a violent start –
dumb skulls opening, overnight, to vehemence.
Their lives are quicker than vision,
their voices evade us. And as
water tightens its surface in vases
and sharpens its glass, slicing their sticks
in half, these funnels clatter on their bent necks,
like bells for the already dead.
From The Nowhere Birds (Bloodaxe, 2001)
I’ve spent the past few weeks writing about what women poets are writing about when they write about flowers (snowdrops in particular) and now I look up, the daffodils are nearly over. Never my favourite flower, I think Catriona O’Reilly has caught something interesting in them – that vehemence. It seems to be the case that women poets (and possibly men too, but in a different way) write about flowers either as a strategy for addressing an actual Other or approaching what they experience as Other inside themselves. All flowers seem to lend themselves to reflections on death, they last so short a while. A good place to consider impermanence.
My own wild daffodil poem from over ten years ago (part of a collaboration with the ceramicist Sue Dunne) was nudged into being by the death of Julia Darling. It’s a different sort of grief when a friend dies – at least it was for me, tangled up with my own mortality, the sheer lostness of loss. Those brave yellow flowers have some of Julia’s radiance about them.
After all that Easterish death maybe it’s good to think about all the Easterish rebirth…so here’s some daffodil-inspired handiwork and humour in an installation in Hull, UK City of Culture – 1700 flowers made out of nearly 150,000 lego pieces. I wonder what sort of poem might these be a muse for?