top of page

from XIVLINERS / Tom Raworth

I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on the English (post?) modernist poet, Tom Rawoth back in 1990 when he was midway writing his great sequence of filleted sonnets. It was then called Sentenced He Gives a Shape after the sequence's first line. The final set has 211 stanzas all slipping and sliding across discourses about writing, politics, death. But I like to think I might have inspired a line in the 107th. The lack of punctuation and the open washing-line structure of allusion, cross-pollination and inter-reflection make it a dizzying, groundless read. Just my thing.


apart from supporting

those summer letters

he learned or resolved

a trick of memory or style

fit for a dissertation

trying to embody a moral ideal

conscious political sentiment was rare

corresponding to logical propositions

moved in a direction

to be described later

on its own

conversation in the various senses

hangs on his absolutely morbid conviction

that he is certain he will die


the vast generic tumble

included a certain assumption

at regular intervals

traces of colour

minute increments of experience

jolted up an incline

into mexican night

every fragment rushed away

outlined against the white

flashlight's beam

samples of her blood

back in the car reversed

the pure design

of some big deal


wisdom not to be denied

from the sounds and smells

must be a better way

underground or wherever he goes

during that time

stylised practice

popped open

considered withdrawal windows

without further negotiations

depth perception was enhanced

the shiny puddle at her feet moved out of state

announcing to the world

what was phony to begin with

168 views2 comments

Related Posts

See All

Kindness / Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye is an American-Palestinian poet who lives in San Antonio. Her poetry is much garlanded and she has been Young People’s poet laureate. I was sent this poem by my friend Alice Eldridge


Whoa Alistair your thoughts are mind blowing yet so peaceful. Thank you.


It's a gorgeous poem, Alistair. How wonderful to inspire a poet to CREATE! Were you indeed "trying to embody a moral ideal" back then? Lovely!

bottom of page