Poems to share

Ode

You began as my enemy:
slowing my steps,
shaking my left arm
and leg, scaring me
with what you’d do next.

I once banished a burglar
by rushing downstairs
shrieking like a Maenad.
But we were locked together
in a wobbly dance.

The more frantic I got,
the more I juddered
like a wind-up doll
or jiggling puppet.
We got on best

when I took the lead:
moving my body
with sudden speed,
exaggerated slowness,
or intentional force.

The same with my mind:
free to roam, it raced
towards catastrophe.
I had to train it to find
hidden blessings.

You were in me for years
but waited to show
until my mind and body
were in danger of settling
into old age stupor.

You jolted me awake:
challenging me to live
every minute left to me,
to burst into flower
like a desert cactus.

© Vicki Feaver

Vicki Feaver

Vicki Feaver stole a copy of Blake’s poems from her parents’ bookshelf as a child and, reading it in bed by torchlight, developed a secret ambition to become a poet. Much of that early encounter went into 'I Want! I Want!' – the title is from Blake’s engraving, showing a child clambering towards the moon on a ladder, and speaks to Feaver’s themes of female ambition and desire. The sections of the book are separated by ladder motifs; Feaver describes testing her editor’s patience by insisting ‘they were drawn with just the right degree of wobbliness’.

A new collection from Feaver is a rare event; 'I Want! I Want!' is only her fourth in forty years. A poem from her 1993 collection 'The Handless Maiden' won the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. She is an Emeritus Professor at University College, Chichester.