The Poetry Exchange celebrates poems as friends. Through conversations, gift recordings and our podcast we capture the insights of readers and share them.
71. Love Song For Words by Nazik Al-Malaika - A Friend to Maryam
In this episode, Maryam talks with us about the poem that has been a friend to her – 'Love Song for Words' by Nazik Al-Malaika, translated from the Arabic by Rebecca Carol Johnson.
Maryam joined The Poetry Exchange online, for one of our Lockdown Exchanges. She is in conversation with Poetry Exchange team members, Al Snell and Andrea Witzke-Slot.
Love Song for Words
Why do we fear words
when they have been rose-palmed hands,
fragrant, passing gently over our cheeks,
and glasses of heartening wine
sipped, one summer, by thirsty lips?
Why do we fear words
when among them are words like unseen bells,
whose echo announces in our troubled lives
the coming of a period of enchanted dawn,
drenched in love, and life?
So why do we fear words?
We took pleasure in silence.
We became still, fearing the secret might part our lips.
We thought that in words laid an unseen ghoul,
crouching, hidden by the letters from the ear of time.
We shackled the thirsty letters,
we forbade them to spread the night for us
as a cushion, dripping with music, dreams,
and warm cups.
Why do we fear words?
Among them are words of smooth sweetness
whose letters have drawn the warmth of hope from two lips,
and others that, rejoicing in pleasure
have waded through momentary joy with two drunk eyes.
Words, poetry, tenderly
turned to caress our cheeks, sounds
that, asleep in their echo, lies a rich color, a rustling,
a secret ardor, a hidden longing.
Why do we fear words?
If their thorns have once wounded us,
then they have also wrapped their arms around our necks
and shed their sweet scent upon our desires.
If their letters have pierced us
and their face turned callously from us
Then they have also left us with an oud in our hands
And tomorrow they will shower us with life.
So pour us two full glasses of words!
Tomorrow we will build ourselves a dream-nest of words,
high, with ivy trailing from its letters.
We will nourish its buds with poetry
and water its flowers with words.
We will build a balcony for the timid rose
with pillars made of words,
and a cool hall flooded with deep shade,
guarded by words.
Our life we have dedicated as a prayer
To whom will we pray . . . but to words?
70. On Marriage by Kahlil Gibran - A Friend to India & Samira
In this episode, India & Samira talk with us about the poem that has been a friend to them – 'On Marriage' from 'The Prophet' by Kahlil Gibran.
India & Samira joined The Poetry Exchange online, via video call, for one of our Lockdown Exchanges.
They are in conversation with Poetry Exchange hosts, Fiona Bennett and Michael Shaeffer.
By Kahlil Gibran
Then Almitra spoke again and said, And
what of Marriage, master?
And he answered saying:
You were born together, and together you
shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white
wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the
silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance
Love one another, but make not a bond
Let it rather be a moving sea between
the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from
Give one another of your bread but eat
not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous,
but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone
though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each
For only the hand of Life can contain
And stand together yet not too near
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow
not in each other’s shadow.
69. Fisherman by Dennis Scott - A Friend to Michael
In this episode, Michael Cooke talks with us about the poem that has been a friend to him – 'Fisherman' by Dennis Scott.
Michael joined The Poetry Exchange online for one of our Lockdown Exchanges. We are hugely grateful to Michael for spending this time with us and sharing such a beautiful poem and converastion.
Michael Cooke is in conversation with Fiona Bennett and John Prebble.
'Fisherman' is read by Michael Cooke and John Prebble.
The scales like metal flint his feet,
their empty eyes like me.
How gray their colours in the heat!
Cool as the oily sea.
With gentle hand he slits the heart,
and the flesh as white as milk
and the ribboned entrails fall apart
like the fall of coiling silk.
Some day I too shall fish, and find
on stranger shores than these
the ribs and muscles of my blind
self, rainbowed from the seas.
From 'Uncle Time' by Dennis Scott, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1973.
68. The Lake Isle of Innisfree - A Friend to Sue
In our latest episode, Sue Lawther-Brown talks with us about the poem that has been a friend to her: The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats.
We are hugely grateful to Sue for bringing this beautiful poem to us and sharing such a rich and moving conversation.
Sue joined us at the National Centre for Writing in Norwich and we are very grateful to the team there for hosting us so warmly. www.nationalcentreforwriting.org.uk
You can discover previous conversations about this poem with different guests on episodes 9 and 26 of our podcast.
Michael's play is Tom Fool at Orange Tree Theatre, London: www.orangetreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/tom-fool
Paul Henry's forthcoming collection 'As If To Sing' is from Seren Books: www.serenbooks.com/productdisplay/as-if-to-sing
The Lake Isle of Innisfree is read by Sue Lawther-Brown and Fiona Bennett.
The Lake Isle Of Innisfree
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
67. The Way Home By Liz Berry - A Friend To Casey Bailey
In this episode, poet Casey Bailey talks with us about the poem that has been a friend to him – 'The Way Home' by Liz Berry.
Casey joined The Poetry Exchange at the Birmingham & Midland Institute and is in conversation with Poetry Exchange team members, Fiona Bennett and Roy McFarlane.
Casey Bailey is a writer, performer and educator, born and raised in Nechells, Birmingham, UK. Casey is the Birmingham Poet Laureate 2020 - 2022 and the Greater Birmingham Future Face of Arts and Culture 2020.
Casey’s second full poetry collection Please Do Not Touch was published by Burning Eye in 2021. Casey’s debut play ‘GrimeBoy’ was commissioned by the Birmingham Rep in 2020. He was commissioned by the BBC to write ‘The Ballad of The Peaky Blinders’ in 2019. In 2020 the poem was internationally recognised, winning a Webby Award. Casey has performed his poetry nationally, and internationally.
Casey was named as one of ‘Birmingham Live’s’, Birmingham ’30 under 30’ of 2018, Casey is a Fellow of the University of Worcester and in 2021 was awarded an honorary doctorate by Newman University.
'The Way Home' is read by Casey Bailey and Roy McFarlane.
66. On The Departure Platform - A Friend to Gill
In this episode, Gill Gregory talks with us about the poem that has been a friend to her – 'On the Departure Platform' by Thomas Hardy.
Gill joined The Poetry Exchange at the National Centre for Writing in Norwich. We are hugely grateful to the National Centre for Writing for hosting us so warmly, and to all the readers who visited us there.
Andrea is in conversation with The Poetry Exchange hosts, Fiona Bennett and Michael Shaeffer.
'On the Departure Platform' is read by Gill Gregory and Michael Shaeffer.
On the Departure Platform
by Thomas Hardy
We kissed at the barrier; and passing through
She left me, and moment by moment got
Smaller and smaller, until to my view
She was but a spot;
A wee white spot of muslin fluff
That down the diminishing platform bore
Through hustling crowds of gentle and rough
To the carriage door.
Under the lamplight’s fitful glowers,
Behind dark groups from far and near,
Whose interests were apart from ours,
She would disappear,
Then show again, till I ceased to see
That flexible form, that nebulous white;
And she who was more than my life to me
Had vanished quite.
We have penned new plans since that fair fond day,
And in season she will appear again—
Perhaps in the same soft white array—
But never as then !
—‘And why, young man, must eternally fly
A joy you’ll repeat, if you love her well ?’
—O friend, nought happens twice thus ; why,
I cannot tell!
Simply the Best
I can’t believe I didn’t already review this podcast! I’ve been listening since the earliest episode. This is my favorite podcast for so many reasons. I love the poetry and have learned to appreciate poems I didn’t pay attention to before. I’ve also heard others speak about some of my favorite, most loved poems. Each conversation gets to the heart of the poem but also to the foundations of human experience. These conversations reveal how words and ideas build connections and enrich our lives. These conversations reveal the depths of a human life - not just the poet’s life but real, everyday people. I am always uplifted, left in deep thought, or stunned by the power of the episode. I save my listening for those times when I need something to give me hope or solace, or a laugh. This podcast is incredible. It’s like magic. I love it!