Kathleen Raine’s “I Had Meant to Write a Different Poem”

Kathleen Raine

Kathleen Raine

April is National Poetry Month.

Here is a link to The Academy of American Poets’ “30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month,” which includes “Memorize a Poem,” “Organize a Poetry Reading,” “Visit a Poetry Landmark.” and “Write a Letter to a Poet.”

In the ’90s members of my online book group earnestly typed up and posted favorite poems during April. We even attempted to discuss Octavio Paz in a chatroom.  (Not quite the right venue, but it’s sweet that we tried.)

In the spirit of my poetry-loving book group, I decided to post one of Kathleen Raine’s poems here.

In college I enjoyed Raine’s three-volume autobiography, but it took me 30 years to find a book of her poetry.  I was lucky enough to find The Collected Poems of Kathleen Raine at the London Review of Books Shop.

The poem doesn’t look quite as it does on the page–it’s something about the blog format–but it’s a lovely poem anyway.

“I Had Meant to Write a Different Poem”

I had meant to write a different poem,
But, pausing for a moment in my unweeded garden,
Noticed, all at once, paradise descending in the morning sun
Filtered through leaves,
Enlightening the meagre London ground, touching with green
Transparency the cells of life.
The blackbird hopped down, robin and sparrow came,
And the thrush, whose nest is hidden
Somewhere, it must be, among invading buildings
Whose walls close in,
But for the garden birds inexhaustible living waters
Fill a stone basin from a garden hose.

I think, it will soon be time
To return to the house, to the day’s occupation,
But there, time neither comes nor goes.
The birds do not hurry away, their day
Neither begins nor ends.
Why can I not stay? Why leave
Here, where it is always,
And time leads only away
From this hidden ever-present simple place.



2 thoughts on “Kathleen Raine’s “I Had Meant to Write a Different Poem”

  1. I love her poetry. If I’m not mistaken, the same French translator who “does” Virginia Woolf does Kathleen Raines. Her prose books are marvelous too.


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