‘I Am’ by Sylvia Plath

[  # 75 of My Favourite Short Poems  ]


‘I took a deep breath

and listened to the old brag of my heart:

I am,

I am,

I am.’


Today’s offering is not, strictly speaking a poem.  It is a very short, one sentence, quotation from theThe Bell Jar’, (written under the pseudonym, ‘Victoria Lucas’), the only novel ever written by the American poet, Sylvia Plath, who committed suicide, aged 30, shortly after its publication in 1963.

I am using it today as its introspection does mirror that of John Clare, whose ‘I Am’ verses I featured a week ago.  Both Clare and Plath were troubled beings, suffering for long periods of their lives from severe mood swings and depression.

In this one sentence from her novel, Sylvia Plath, cries out with similar force to that which John Clare was expressing in his poem, for the self-belief and recognition which both felt had eluded them . . .  ‘I AM! yet what I am who cares, or knows?’ 





Art On The Rack


tall and slender
thin and lean
what do such racked
such skeletal
figures mean

imagination extended
perception broadened
brought to brush and canvas
stone and chisel
bronze and rasp
unique reality
given expression
in the artist’s eye
and distorted vision

el greco

artistic differences
in paint and bronze

fashion’s fad
now continued
on the catwalk

do my eyes
deceive me
with beauty
in the eye of the bewildered
or perhaps following

and stretched out models
and elongated
in the artist’s vision

paraded to their public
asked to accept
an interpretation
allowing retrieval
of a larger truth

thus to become
stricken and striated
of a new generation

fêted now
as great and good
but fated still
to be misunderstood



The images at the top are, from left to right  . . .
El Greco:  ‘St.John The Baptist’ – c.1600; Oil on Canvas
Giacometti:  ‘Walking Man’ – 1960; Bronze
Modigliani: ‘Lunia Czechowska in Black’ – 1919; Oil on canvas
Parmagianino: ‘Madonna With Long Neck’
The bottom picture is of ‘Catwalk models’ – from Pinterest.



Am I a POET?



CALLIOPE: the muse who presides over eloquence and epic poetry; 

Am I a POET?

I’m a poet!  Who are you?
Are you a Poet, too?
Do I write poetry?
I say I do;
But is it poetry I write?
What say you?

 Was it by sweated brow,
By haunted vision,
I overcame my indecision?

 Did Damascene insights,
Or inspiration’s muse,
Give birth
To my poetic views?

 This begs the question
Long undecided:
Am I a Poet,
Famed or derided?


I wrote a poem the other day,
or was it just words
in a different order,
to have their own reason for existence?

Such feelings are
The price I pay;
when I say
I am a poet
am I honest,
do I really know it?

Addressing myself
I’ve learned to ask,
and every time I pen a poem
I set myself this very task . . .

Can I really
hand on heart
claim to be
a tiny part
of all those great
illustrious sages
who’ve coloured
life’s dramatic pages
in epics, sonnets,
ballads and odes,
presenting prose
in verbal codes,
fantasising fecund dreams,
massaging thoughts and wild ideas,
composing their Byronic idylls,
word music of the spheres?

The net result,
always the same,
I know I’ll have
no claim to fame.

Such images,
they prove to me,
that shallow thoughts,
marshmallow words,
can never in a thousand years,
however many sweated tears,
make me one of their poetic peers.



Poets Corner



John Clare – ‘I AM’

[  # 74 of My Favourite Short Poems  ]



John Clare (1793 – 1864) was an English poet.   Born in Northamptonshire, he was the son of a farm labourer, who became known for his celebrations of the English countryside and for regularly expressing sorrows at its disruption.   His poetry underwent major re-evaluation in the late 20th century and he is now often seen as one of the important 19th-century poets.   His biographer, Jonathan Bate, states that Clare was “the greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced.  No one has ever written more powerfully of nature, of a rural childhood, and of the alienated and unstable self.”  Many of his poems are filled with a joy he experienced in nature and the countryside.  Sadly, however, for the last 25 years of his life Clare suffered from mental illness and was incarcerated in a mental institution.   In this wistful soul-searching poem, described by some as “one of the greatest poems of sheer despair ever written”, Clare spills out his desolation and detachment from a life which he would dearly love to have lived . . . 

‘I AM’ . . .  by John Clare


I AM! yet what I am who cares, or knows? 
My friends forsake me, like a memory lost.
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish, an oblivious host,
Shadows of life, whose very soul is lost.         5
And yet I am—I live—though I am toss’d.
Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dream,
Where there is neither sense of life, nor joys,
But the huge shipwreck of my own esteem         10
And all that’s dear. Even those I loved the best
Are strange—nay, they are stranger than the rest.
I long for scenes where man has never trod—
For scenes where woman never smiled or wept—
There to abide with my Creator, God,         15
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Full of high thoughts, unborn. So let me lie,
The grass below; above, the vaulted sky.



Whitby #3

[ Photo Gallery # 77 ]

A further (last – for the time being anyway) selection of my photographs of Whitby taken on my frequent visits there  in the past . . .

Whitby (1)

Whitby – as the River Esk enters the North Sea – view from East Cliff

Whitby (2)

Harbour Entrance   1

Whitby (3)

Harbour Entrance 2

Whitby (4)

Harbour Entrance 3

Whitby (5)

The ruins of Whitby Abbey atop East Cliff

Whitby (6)

Whitby Town – view from the top of the 199 Steps

Whitby (7)

Caedmon’s Cross and Whitby Town – View from the Churchyard of St.Mary’s 

Whitby (8)

Old gravestones in the churchyard – a prominent setting for Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ story.

Whitby (9)

A Weathered Gravestone

Whitby (10)

By the entrance to the church – Memorial to John Storr, the Coxwain of the Whitby lifeboat, and eleven others who lost their lives on the lifeboat in 1861.

Whitby (11)

A modern day street puppeteer with organ grinder on the Whitby harbour-side

Whitby (12)



Three Cinquains

cinquain is a five-line poem, normally without rhyme, but with a specific syllable count of 2-4-6-8-2.  The form was invented by Adelaide Crapsey, an American poet who took her inspiration from Japanese haiku and tanka.  As with most other poetic forms, the cinquaine has since been developed to encompass a variety of ways, whilst always holding to Crapsey’s basic formula.

The following amplification is taken from: ‘The Cinquain’ ByDeborah Kolodii, as published on the  ‘Shadow Poetry’  website …

The ideal cinquain for Crapsey was one that worked up to a turn or climax, and then fell back. Similar to the “twist” that often occurs in the final couplet of a sonnet, a cinquain’s “turn” usually occurs during the final, shorter fifth line or immediately before it. Thus, the momentum of a cinquain grows with each subsequent line as another two syllables, … (are) added bringing the poem to a climax at the fourth line, falling back to a two syllable “punch line”.


Adelaide Crapsey

n another of my occasional attempts at structuring my poetic thoughts into a (to me) new poetic form, I give below three of my own examples of the CINQUAINE.



My life
Lives in my work
Searching for the right words
Seeking to make them tell the truth


Are not for me
Rather, let the past rest
Whilst I live on in the present
With hope


Ends as the Spring
Advances with new life
Bringing hope and joy to us all





Now General Waste was a military man.
Yes, a military man was he.
He’d led a life
So full of strife
He knew not where to be.

But when he retired he took a post
As the village waste collector.
He said with a sigh,
“I might as well try,
I’ll be good as a street protector.”

This post he took as a garbage man,
A rum old job to choose.
He wasn’t bitter
Collecting litter,
He’d nothing much to lose.

He was so used to being obeyed,
He loved issuing orders,
“Now don’t drop that,
You little brat”,
“Or I’ll march you to headquarters.”

But then one day he met another,
A refuse collector she.
So full of beans,
A lass of means
And soon the two became ‘We’.

They did their jobs together now,
He a spry street sweeper,
While she picked waste,
Not to his taste,
Saying “I’m not my husband’s keeper.”

But when at last their jobs were done,
They went home to their cottage.
She called him “Sir”,
He cooked for her,
Their favourite – egg and sausage.

But one fine day she said to him.
“I’ve got a swelling tummy.
It might be that,
Just fancy that,
I’m going to be a mummy.”

Well general Waste was taken aback,
“You mean I’ll be a daddy?
At my age now
I can’t see how
I’ll cope with a little laddy.”

But when he paused and gave it thought,
He decided better of it.
“Might not be bad,
That little lad,
I might just learn to love it.”

Now General Waste, his wife and son,
Derive exceeding pleasure,
As, with great joy,
Man, wife and boy,
They pick up waste together.

General Waste

These verses were, in fact, preceded by a similar light-hearted poem about the General which I wrote and published on this blog nearly a year ago.  If you wish to read this earlier effort of mine you will find it at . . . 

 ‘General Waste Comes To Town’



[ Photo Gallery # 76 ]

A further selection of my photographs of Whitby taken on my frequent visits there  in the past . . .

01 Whitby Panorama

Panoramic view of the entrance from the North Sea to Whitby Harbour and the River Esk

02 Whitby

The Church of St. Mary on the headland on the south bank of the River Esk.   Ruins of the ancient Abbey can be seen behind the church

03 Whitby

View of the inner harbour and the swing bridge crossing the River Esk and connecting the north and south areas of the town.

04 Whitby

View to the east across the inner harbour

05 Whitby

The breakwaters at the Whitby harbour entrance

06 Whitby

Another view of the Whitby Whale Bone Arch

07 Whitby

Bronze statue of Captain James Cook
The inscription reads:
Front: To Strive, to seek to find and not to yield. To commemorate the men who built, the Whitby Ships and the men who sailed with him.
North Side: In every situation he stood unrivalled and alone on him all eyes were turned.

08 WhitbyGulls

. . .  very popular with the local gulls

09 Whitby

A WW2 anti-aircraft gun on the Whitby seafront

10 Whitby

Whitby Harbour entrance

11 Whitby-199Steps

The bottom of the 199 steps in Whitby, leading up to Whitby Abbey and the top of the East Cliff.  These steps are an extraordinary attraction in Whitby, y attracting visitors from all over the world.

12 Whitby

Wood-carved monument to Whitby seamen in the inner harbour


U. A. Fanthorpe – ‘ATLAS’

 [  No.72 of my favourite short poems  ]


After all the recent talk of LOVE surrounding VALENTINE’s DAY, here is a very down-to-earth poem by what we could perhaps call a no-nonsense down-to earth poet,  U.A.Fanthorpe. 

Born in 1928, Ursula Askham (normally using just her initials, U.A.), Fanthorpe, died, aged 79, in 2009, near her home in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire.  After studying at Oxford University, she went on to teach English at  Cheltenham Ladies’ College for sixteen years, before giving up teaching.  She was aged 50 before her first collection of poems was published, having noted, quite precisely, that “On 18 April 1974 I started writing poems”.  She was later made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was awarded a CBE in 2001 for services to poetry.  In 2003 she received the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

Perhaps her best known poem is ‘Atlas’.  The poem presents a far-from-romantic view of LOVE.  Certainly a positive, worthwhile, and all the more powerful for that, view of the realities of a truly loving relationship . . . 



‘ATLAS’ . . . by U. A. Fanthorpe


There is a kind of love called maintenance
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;

Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes; which deals with dentists

And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living, which is Atlas.

And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in air,
As Atlas did the sky.


UA Fanthorpe, from ‘Safe as Houses’ (Peterloo Poets, 1995)





WHITBY – North Yorkshire

[  Photo Blog # 75  ]

Moving from my visits to the coastal areas of the far south-west of England over the past few weeks, I now wish to post over the next few Thursdays a number of galleries of my photographs from the opposite, North-Eastern, coasts of England.  This particular photograph collection is of the historic North Yorkshire coastal town of Whitby.  I have visited there before in a number of my earlier blogs.

The photographs below cover a variety of different scenes within the town . . .

Whitby (0) OS Map



Whitby (1)

The jawbones of a whale, framing the ancient Abbey and church on top of the cliffs on the southern bank of the River Esk as it meets the North Sea.  In the 18th and 19th centuries the whaling industry was thriving in Whitby.  Dozens of ships braved the Arctic seas off Greenland to hunt these elusive leviathans for their lucrative whale oil.  Many of the crews never came back.

Whitby (2)

A similar view, but this time showing the statue of Captain James Cook, gazing out to the North Sea, from where Cook first set out to sea in ships transporting coal to London and the River Thames. 

Whitby (3)

Close up view of the Cook Memorial

Whitby (4)

Looking North along the Yorkshire coast towards Sandsend

Whitby (5)

The sea entrance to Whitby Harbour

Whitby (6)

Modern reproduction of  HMS Endeavour, the British Royal Navy research vessel that Lieutenant James Cook commanded on his first voyage of discovery, to Australia and New Zealand, from 1769 to 1771.

Whitby (7)

Whitby Inner Harbour looking south to the ruins of Whitby Abbey

Whitby (8)

The modern ‘Endeavour’s’ figurehead

Whitby (9)

Modern-day street entertainer at the entrance to one of Whitby’s many ancient ‘Yards’.   Visit my poem about this particular historic Whitby spot at:  ‘Argument’s Yard’ 

Whitby (10)

Queuing for entry to Whitby’s famous ‘Magpie Cafe’, renowned for its fresh fish and chip meals.

Whitby (11)

Goths in Whitby for one of its regular Goth Weekends’, a celebration of the fact that Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ novel begins its story near the ancient Abbey here.

Whitby (12)

More of Whitby’s Goths