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In the Studio

Is it March, spring, winter, autumn, twilight, noon
Told in this distant sound of cuckoo clocks?
Sunday it is – five lilies in a swoon
Decay against your wall, aggressive flocks
Of alley-starlings aggravate a mood.
The rain drops pensively. ‘If one could paint,
Combine the abstract with a certain rude
Individual form, knot passion with restraint …
If one could use the murk that fills a brain,
Undo old symbols and beget again
Fresh meaning on dead emblem … ’ so one lies
Here timeless, while the lilies’ withering skin
Attests the hours, and rain sweeps from the skies;
The bird sits on the chimney, looking in.

Nancy Cunard, 1923

This first poem is a sonnet by the extraordinary Nancy Cunard – muse, activist, anti-fascist, resistance worker, pamphleteer, translator, founder of The Hours Press. It captures beautifully the feeling of time passing - ‘the distant sound of cuckoo clocks’ – and the struggle to think creatively – ‘to beget again fresh meaning’ as well as the inwardness we are all experiencing, even ‘the bird sits on the chimney, looking in’.

 The 14-line sonnet form is a lovely container for unrolling a thought – better than a tweet or a doom scroll.

 Turn off your screen – do something different, read a poem.

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