BOOKS / Contemporary Poets: 15 Tom Paulin

Click to follow
Tom Paulin is the most abrasive and intellectually demanding of the generation of poets who emerged in Northern Ireland in the Seventies. Born in Belfast, he was a student at Hull, and is now Reader in Poetry at Nottingham University. A marvellous essayist and polemicist, he edited The Faber Book of Political Verse; his collections include The Strange Museum, The Liberty Tree and, most recently, Fivemiletown.


The paddleshaped leaves on the banana palms

are shaped again in the stone temples

just as the pine forests deep inside Germany

have become Gothic minsters

there's no escape they say

and there's no love

we must bend the knee

in a stone forest or a stone grove

all that wood sap leaf

has crossed into our dreams like an army

everything we do

we do because it says so

the light of the desert though

is abstract and rational

there's nothing natural

you'd need or want to imitate

so the mosque's this beautiful peaked

imaginary bulb

that's no bulb -

it stretches the sky

into itself the moon and stars

and might explain to me

why the writer -

the precious secular

unconstrained deliberate writer

must suffer in a secret place

alone he holds

his good right arm

and the state's liberties

unflinching in the flame

(Photograph omitted)