A D R I A N  S T O K E S

Stokes - the Poet

Poetry Selection

by Peter Robinson

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with all the views
Paul Carter

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Poetry Introduction

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Black Swan Books, 1980 and
Carcanet New Press, 1981. Edited & Introduced by Peter Robinson.
Penguin Modern Poets 23
Ed. Stephen Spender 1973.
                                Black Swan edition title pages.

Some poems may be heard, read by Peter Robinson, click listen below.

                                 Private View

             These faces known
             Some spoken into

             Over forty years.

             Thereby ageing them a little more
             Paintings look back
             Add customary weight
             Of new experience.

            The clear-cut artist
Or is he here? - it makes no difference -
            Speaks more candidly

Than we have done to one another           
Whose voices will not cease to grope
Or flourish an impertinence.                 
We ourselves don't work as valued art.
So each year gaps occur upon the wall of time
Thefts calmly viewed as if by sharp custodians.



  listen                         Buildings


                                New House

I hear in spring the sound of iron:  
The iron strikes back on day            
Swift sparks of certanity                   
Amongst the scaffolding                
Against a burnished sky                 

Less deft, a voice between the blows
Continues with the street               
Long settled, mean and tense          
Though rungs now share and planks 
Our emblematic frame.                    



Gates, quad          
Window on to trees.          
The afternoon         
Won't reach to what          
Survives here best          
And makes the absent tea        
Epitome of want.        

Our sight divides world view.   

Trees' soughing passes you
Should you then turn about?
Despite our looking through
This window will see us out



                              Street Ignorance

Home streets enwrapped the resolute home vows
          When lifted by a huge Edwardian hat
I had been blown along: and now a search
                   - The intersections first -
                 For what was deeper meant
          At what was pointed, as if in pointing still,
          As if distance and the suffering thoroughfare
          Could hold the warmth or failure to be mine
          Though unreversing vehicles trample on that time;
                As if the after years were crowds in space,
                Adjoining purlieus earlier unknown.

          There, nothing answers to my time.
          So revisiting the sworn-by streets
                I blunder on the thoughts
                Their pavements won't admit,
          Appalled my dead are laid out as the road
          Or under changeless intersections
          Here where I had changed what others meant
          Where blinds shot up then ceaselessly pulled down
          Today's light signals mechanically relent.


listen                         Climacteric

Black canal, a summer frock
Iron and bright new grass
                 Outskirt of the town
                 That afternoon.

Factories in the glance of Sunday bells.
Where rushes showed the bed
                 The week just gone and week ahead
                  Lolled intertwined.

Light lay on bushes, rushes part:
We left the tow-path for the dizzy field.
                  The sedges held out open years
                  When we came back.


                               At Ascona

Under slow orchestrated sky
Evening joining this quiet place
                  More gradually becomes.

A pond of air enfolds each thing:
                  Translucent pearl spreads easiness
To regions of the night.

I watch peaks disengage
Lago Maggiore unmask its depth
A convent front look frank.

                  We meet alone
On this great forehead of the hour
That brings you face to face.


                                 At Night (1)

                Tonight the electric train
On fast lines of noise swaying through a mono-search
                When tentacles of London are thereby swept
                When wind is to the south.

These passing links of sound change to an upright thread
Soar in joints and spokes that square the firmament
As if many heterogeneous towns could make a theme
As if the dying cells of being had better fate

Such thin such straight progressive forms start stirs
                of manic hope
(Without reference to the millions that lie asleep
Or there jump up)
Hungry and more barren than a dream, lord over space
The room of spaciousness packed close along the wires
A pattern that leans on sound, on what in darkness is
                not seen.
London is name for conurbation, daylight shows.

                I rest now on the pillow in changed mood
                In crescendo of trains that renew their thread.
A language passes close among them as they run
                A rhythmic beat below the speed.
I turn inward to the quality of sleep
Safe in amicable and coasting parts
                Unbroken pledges that will promise peace.



listen                             Home


The world is full of home:
An angry face beside me in the tube
Is home. A stench
A loving arm
Earn recognition for the stars at dawn.

Our homestead stocked a mead of pain:
Physique, and even terrors of the sky
A stranger in the dark, wide space
Were in the rooms
That are the base of all.


Anguish has returned to base:
Dawn was undamaged:
The things I see
- Immortality is theirs -
Expatiate alone.

The lands are fitted to attentive shape.
We have had no hand in it
No hand.
Oh so many messages and none.


One-note cabbage smells
Permeate like cats
Lengthening a purlieu
To where the Schubert modulations
Are changing window view.

Illness, nervous neighbourhoods
Squalid and sublime
Stand in for deeper pain.
Favouring regardless people
Schubert's last sonatas reign.


                                Italy Once


Presiding houses gleam
Flush aperture, smooth wall.
Women wear black, the old
Are mountains of complaint.
Hungry habitually we taste injustice.
Pink houses never wearisome
                Mingle with violence.
                We speak loud;


Olive, vine, stuccoed gateway
Disjoined, agleam upon our hill
                Near to our house
                Communicate the even years
Near our smooth court that seems to lip the sea
Concise, unsloping where the table's laid.

Our panorama signals near approach
Collected far like love.
A sound has sovereign air,
Sea I call enfolding and untaught.
               The land builds from itself
               This separate statuary of trees.


Sky plain carafe, wine ruby sound
The hour pours fresh upon our environs.
The passing speaker-van's firm words
Now deep, some purple, brim the far-away,
In trickling steadiness express address.
And wide-flung as we seize the terrace view
White silence sets al fresco of the day.


Blue-throated air and sound
Complexioned by the light
Remark a dome that feeds yet feeds
Upon the sky.

Firm citation from a glance
Clear cities, hills and sea
Replenish statuaries of form in me.

Olive trees enact a myriad limit.
The careering yells of swallow
House Paduan spring.


Seas, olive trees: but leaves
Distinct on terraces of stone
Imbue grey foaming with physique
Construe a branch
That clothes the hill-side rib
As bather in the hour of sun.

Piccolo paese
Each oblong lit
Curves as pendant hung on ridge.
The placid houses look alert:
Gratefully we allow this scene
That their smooth verve has ever been.


Level as whistle through the teeth
In Genoa as the level blue
It pierces through
A consummation note
Of peacock-loving day
Spurts from the engine's throat

Possesses contour stress
Embraces settlement
Steep places of bright tenement
Sun-flash and sudden shade
The louder boom from port low down
A brink the nerveless sky has made.

Untiringly uncrumbled skies confound
A pilgrim's umber-ridden ground
Absorb elation with the stripe of sound
Pellucid, stare uncloudy as before
Impale unhidden tumult in a home
From dust rebound to lighten Rome.


listen                       Weathering

Gorging on the pointed brick
- Spaces fattening plenteous time -
Seasons picnic stretched full length.
Rains are spreading capes.

The years are crumbling vivid stone
Revetment with their feet.
Why roseate? The Bank dome hoards
All poaching thrusting fingers.

The figures of the balance show
Rich deposits, swollen greed;
While the hours are nosing paint
Silently as fungi feed.




Sight penetrates the ore of mind
That lurks within the spatial glare,
Forged by mental hands:
Makes out images to bless
And icons of destructiveness.

While thoughts omnipotent employ
Their routes intrusive on the sky
Then boomerang, beset,
Things inwrought with a sober view,
With measured flux, perhaps renew

Make plain the contemplative pause
That substances, so concrete, lend
The looking out on mind;
Till smother of the will to mend
Till pillow-heap discloses end.


listen                   On to the Distant

Two hounds emboss their bark on night
Intricate as flails that goaded them to heel.
An interval of doubt, of whine
Carries to my dream their kennel bone,
This talisman
Will fetch the truth from out the house

As if the shutters could be flung by huff
                    By sharpening the note,
    One steadfast aperture enough,
Revealing inmates to a careworn snout
                             Alive or dead.

There's moon, the face...Two jolted chains ring out.



At once we clasp the bird diagonal
That marks the sky on our attentive being.
We watched the slanting through the square of air
Until a screen, the trees, translated you
                   To images enthroned
            Corporeal in space, in
      Landscapes gladdened by your line.

Your wings of chequered settlement remain
As flutterings imprint across the mind
With all of distance folded into fibre
The open contour from beneath your peak.
                  You offer us the hills:
           Journeys homeward shine your eyes:
                  Valleys lurk upon your breast.



         If You Can't Get the Weather Right...

I doubt your weather knowledge
As of May the pretty ring-time
Grey states you won't recall
Preternaturally dark;
That new green sways coldly
Blossom falls in flying rain, in murk.

Your ignorance disturbs
Of weather that is suffered, held in common
For which we are in common not to blame
- How wise, polite, how warm to talk of it -
With omnipresent skies, dull eyes or gay
With nothing else as clear as day.


listen                          The Worst

The parted breast returned to take the toll
- That smashed infant trembles: she's uncouth -
The spite sent out tore back to pierce the hole
The hole we call the mouth where all was one.

And common history won't be kept apart
A history of the palace by the schizophrene
The lacking front, stiff scaffolding, taut art
Of secret closet and collapsing scene.

The stride is wide, her forward body tense
Though still half-shaken by a giggling teat:
Basins vibrate near pins of wizened sense...
Salute our Giacometti, and salute the street.


listen                  November Stillness


November stillness fortifies arrest.
The skies repeat the vertical of trees.
The houses sworn to furnish wall and brick
Are wrapt and turned away from aftermath.

Contrary passions cancel, concede
Forgo whispering or silent crying
To intimate a blind on blotting-out...
Upright in light our ceasing stands.

I would the ending were an outward turn
Rather than inching into deep in-dream
When death-bed flame consumes the surface sheet
Annuls bed's length itself in saucepan heat.


Autumn absorbs our sadness with its own,
The princes of the melancholy world
Survey and prove no limit to domain
When foundered thought deliberates on pain
So calm and edgeless.

Each cry of loss has won a figured bass.
The stillness holds the rectitude of song
And sombrely a gentle light remains
To show new riches as a life of stains
The old, the changeless.


                            The New Year


Hereafter not so hard again:
just one year's examined pain.
Welcome the Happy New Year.

But years together form a tribe
Some sixty tribesmen now transcribe
The snatched-up toast upon this day.

Drink inflames their hostile wit:
Their mania transcends their skit:
Soon the house will be a clinic.

Let them try the pantry stores:
It's pretty empty now indoors:
The stove is almost seventy:

And loud pronouncement through the house
Where tumbling rafters frighten mouse
Meticulously shall kill us all.


Anchored snag, age advanced
Into a nob from the mill-race
Or hoisted by riposte of foam
Yet near old lands to fight for
To gradual banks and flattened loam
The easy running back to home,
Obtains release to neither shore
Continues with the mounted roar
       Possesses drowning as before.


from With All the Views:Collected Poems
of Adrian Stokes (1981)
selected by Peter Robinson