UA FANTHORPE (1929-2009) was an English poet.
Her skill and emotional intelligence transformed women's poetry in Britain.
She spent her earliest years in Kent. She attended St Anne's College Oxford afterwards becoming a teacher and ultimately Head of English at Cheltenham Ladies' College.
However, she only began writing when she turned her back on her teaching career to become a receptionist at a psychiatric hospital where her observation of the "strange specialness" of the patients provided the inspiration for her first book, Side Effects.
Since that relatively late start, Fanthorpe was prolific, producing 9 full-length collections, including the Forward Prize-nominated Safe as Houses and the Poetry Book Society Recommendation Consequences.
She was awarded a CBE in 2001 and the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 2003.
MEN ON ALLOTMENTS
As mute as monks, tidy as bachelors,
They manicure their little plots of earth.
Pop music from the council house estate
Counterpoints with the Sunday-morning bells,
But neither siren voice has power for these
Drab solitary men who spend their time
Kneeling, or fetching water, soberly,
Or walking softly down a row of beans.
Like drill-sergeants, they measure their recruits.
The infant sprig receives the proper space
The manly fullgrown cauliflower will need.
And all must toe the line here; stem and leaf,
As well as root, obey the rule of string.
Domesticated tilth aligns itself
In sweet conformity; but head in air
Soars the unruly loveliness of beans.
They visit hidden places of the earth
When tenderly with fork and hand they grope
To lift potatoes, and the round, flushed globes
Tumble like pearls out of the moving soil.
They share strange intuitions, know how much
Patience and energy and sense of poise
It takes to be an onion; and they share
The subtle benediction of beans.
They see the casual holiness that spreads
Along obedient furrows. Cabbages
Unfurl their veined and rounded fans in joy,
And buds of sprouts rejoice along their stalks.
The ferny tops of carrots, stout red stems
Of beetroot, zany sunflowers with blond hair
And bloodshot faces; shine like seraphim
Driver: Christmas (F)
Still baffled by postcodes.
And stay up later.
Mission in spite
Of all this
OLD MAN, OLD MAN
He lives in a world of small recalcitrant
Things in bottles, with tacky labels. He was always
A man who did-it-himself.
Now his hands shamble among clues
He left for himself when he saw better,
And small things distress: I've lost the hammer.
Lifelong adjuster of environments,
Lord once of shed, garage and garden,
Each with its proper complement of tackle,
World authority on twelve different
Sorts of glue, connoisseur of nuts
And bolts, not good with daughters
But a dab hand with the Black and Decker,
Self-demoted in your nineties to washing-up
After supper, and missing crusted streaks
Of food on plates; have you forgotten
The jokes you no longer tell, as you forget
If you've smoked your timetabled cigarette?
Now television has no power to arouse
Your surliness; your wife could replace on the walls
Those pictures of disinherited children,
And you wouldn't know. Now you ramble
In your talk around London districts, fretting
At how to find your way from Holborn to Soho,
And where is Drury Lane? Old man, old man,
So obdurate in your contracted world,
Living in almost-dark, I can see you,
You said to me, but only as a cloud.
When I left, you tried not to cry. I love
Your helplessness, you who hate being helpless.
Let me find your hammer. Let me
Walk with you to Drury Lane. I am only a cloud.
Under the long flat fingers of the beans.