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To Hell with Paradise: New and Selected Poems

To Hell with Paradise: New and Selected Poems

by Gareth Reeves


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Made up of humorous and poignant poems, this collection meditates upon family, loss, and the landscape of memory. A wonderfully various and mature compilation, it also includes poems of quasi-dramatic monologues in the voice of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. Those interested in contemporary poetry and the poetry of music will appreciate this compilation.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781847771445
Publisher: Carcanet Press, Limited
Publication date: 08/24/2012
Pages: 1000
Product dimensions: 8.30(w) x 5.30(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Gareth Reeves is a part-time reader in English at Durham University, where he runs a graduate-level creative writing course in poetry. He is the author of Listening and Real Stories.

Read an Excerpt

To Hell with Paradise

New and Selected Poems

By Gareth Reeves

Carcanet Press Ltd

Copyright © 2012 Gareth Reeves
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84777-667-9





    Clearing the gutters:
    the surprise
    of leaf skeleton,

    intricate bird-bone,
    skein of rib-cage,
    delicate eviscerations

    – friable, porous,
    to no purpose except
    the mind's distraction.


    Shrink until you are
    beside yourself
    looking ecstatically down
    on times before

    the talk set in,
    the forevers, nevers, maybes,
    the buts, ands, if-onlys,
    the conjunctions and conjurations.


    It may be too early to begin this,
    it may be too late,
    it may be over,
    it may not have started:

    words that haunt, precisely,
    with an uncertain music, not to be
    unsaid or said again
    in any idiom. Ungainsayable.

    Nothing will take the words back.


    Feathery constructions
    of breathless air float
    in the mind's eye,

    roving unstoppably
    to undreamt-of horizons,
    lands of speculation.

    They do not compromise.
    They say over and over
    we are here, we are here.


    Shaping themselves
    to clouds that mount
    in perpetual transport,

    pellucid opacities,
    giving a body
    to nothing that lives

    except in the head.


    Nothing that lives in the head
    lives, or dies. Nothing
    will take its place.

    Conduct a music
    of stolen airs,
    you have nothing to lose.

    Lost haunt of the intimate:
    it comes over you daily,
    undreamt indifference,

    burgeoning inhospitalities,
    unsayable vows,
    uncertainties so pronounced

    they leave no room for denial
    – except retreat
    back to the self, dark chamber
    of self-preservation and regard.


    That give delight and hurt not.
    Some hope.
    That work themselves up

    into a semblance of bitter sense,
    scurried fantasias,
    arrogant, uncompromising,

    becoming their own distraction,
    getting their own back,
    running riot, thrusting, insistent,
    barbed and bristling,
    fertile, almost familiar.


    Go on, give yourself airs:

    I put on airs, you put on airs,
    he puts on airs, she puts on airs.
    Go on, conjugate it,

    dress the words up,
    the little bursts and flourishes,
    the forevers and I love yous,

    in sharp suits, in stealthy lingerie.
    Put them on, give them
    a new lease, watch them
    take on a life of their own.


    The scenario is not
    played out, it is not over,
    it never is, it is forever, for
    ever. What is that for
    for, what is it doing?

    Say what you will
    the shemozzle doesn't settle,
    the dust never settles,
    it is unsettling, it is moving,
    it moves to its own tempo,

    it comes and it goes like this,
    it flies off at a tangent,
    then for no reason it comes up close
    to sit on my shoulder and parrot
    things it has got
    but not by heart.


    Rest assured, this is a put-on,
    a way of saying the things people say
    without meaning much

    except the sense you make
    of yourself to yourself.
    Sink into them,
    sink your teeth into them.


    No use now giving yourself airs,
    no use now taking a deep breath,
    no use now gasping for air,
    no use now going with the knowing air

    – and no use summoning the vacuities,
    the blank circle tightens its grip:

    you cannot take
    anything back, things said,
    unsaid, could have said,

    pregnant pauses,
    sterile silences, resistancies,
    they are not yours now.

    Keep them, give them away: you cannot.
    They are not even yours to forget.

    The Shape of Pain

    What figure has the pain of the toothache, and our remembrance
    of that pain? Is it triangular, or circular, or of a square form?

    James Beattie, Dissertations Moral and Critical (1783)

    Every day it gets a little less.
    Wait for the vanishing point.

    Parallels reach for infinity.
    It goes on gnawing at the edge.

    Somewhere out there it stops, it must.
    Out there the blue intensifies.

    Tomorrow remember it today.
    Today imagine it tomorrow.

    Look forward to the backward look.
    Every day it grows a little less:

    I want it and I do not want it to.
    I give it a shape. I give it this.


    You dare not say what happened,
    it is not finished

    or so you like to think.
    Watch the vapour trail
    slice the sky slowly, then

    dissolve to a spine
    of puff-blooms in
    an extravaganza of desire,

    and say precisely when
    the last fleck fades
    to nothing, if you can.

    To be possibly
    the object of no
    speculation, to see

    yourself reduced to
    untraceable episodes,

    a deep breath
    in the air of denial,

    in the azure absolute,
    is a release,
    a sort of life, if you will.


    These words for you,
    these words instead of you,

    in anticipation
    of their rejection,

    that they may return
    to their owner pure

    as when they set out,
    unsullied by understanding.

    We are as we are
    they say, standing for

    nothing but ourselves,
    so do not read us, do not say us,

    do not sing us, do not
    show us to anyone,

    that in isolation we may hold on
    to whatever it is we know, barely

    content but unflinching
    in our absolution,

    for you
    instead of you.

    Lost Clusters

    If I could say this to you
    there would be no need to.
    I say it to myself therefore.

    Therefore is a difficult word for
    it speaks of after and before.

    Now is the time therefore
    to see it, say it, therefore
    the dawn still gives of itself,

    the sure hills know it,
    and the sky they inhabit,

    that this is no metaphor:
    those sentences of air
    tight-lipped or breathy

    still rove the horizon,
    indiscriminate, reticent, there.


    Lucent, iridescent lustre, mother-of-pearl ...

    It sounds like its opposite: nacreous dark,
    acrid flame, acid lake, sharp sand ...

    'This one I swallowed raw,' she whispered,
    enclosing in his palm the parting

    gift of an oyster shell, barnacled, chipped,
    mauve-tinted, purple-edged, brittle;

    and he thinks of her on the seashore,
    sliding the oyster, silky, bitter, slick,

    into her mouth, before she knew
    this was the gift she would give,

    before he knew he would lie here
    feeling the shell's satin convex,

    would conjure her soft resilience,
    her throat muscles working the flesh,

    the salt taste, to this more-than-parting,
    to this lustrous white-out,

    this nacred hell of ending.

    The Bullet

    You have killed something,
    you don't know why –
    though you did not know it.

    Having nothing to say
    but the whole bang shoot,
    you made do with
    glances and ricochets,

    until one stray
    returned, direct.
    It rankles,
    it works in and in.

    You can feel it gutting.
    The harder you hunt
    the deeper it digs,
    this bullet, entering.


    To my surprise I wish you ill.

    Inside my head you go your way
    my way, you feel pain
    as I would have you feel.

    I talk with the ghost of you
    who are not dead yet,

    though you soothe with dead gestures.
    Burnt on cortex and retina
    you fade and fade.

    So leave me to my idea,
    my first and last things,

    and this chaos
    I shall call my oasis.
    I shall live here as long as I like.
    Not to forget. To be forgotten.


    I am your skeleton.

    Do not open the door, I might fall out.
    Often you glimpse me through chinks
    though when I rattle you seldom listen.

    Sometimes I think I must have made me up,
    a figment of bones, a construction to get you.

    But no, I am your constant monster.

    Though barely articulate
    laughably I try not to fall in a heap:

    I must say my say, I must
    stay in one piece, I must keep going.

    Therefore I turn on my heel,
    I give you the cold shoulder.

    So do not worry, I am moving
    slowly away now – although
    first I would strip you to the bone

    and shake you.


    I was your wish made flesh.

    I was the years thrown down,
    marbles for you to skid on,

    I glittered and you dived,
    I filled your hands and fled.

    I come to you now as abstract,
    I shift and shimmer, I hesitate before you,

    I flutter, I twist, I turn away,
    I shrink, I beckon, I come close.

    I am the life you have not led,
    I am the life you will not lead.

    I give a shape to your imaginings,
    I am not here except you conjure me,

    I float before you in no retina,
    I swim in the mind's eye.

    I live before and after.

    You do not let me
    and I do not let you go.

    We want it
    and we do not want it so.


Excerpted from To Hell with Paradise by Gareth Reeves. Copyright © 2012 Gareth Reeves. Excerpted by permission of Carcanet Press Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
The Shape of Pain,
Lost Clusters,
The Bullet,
That's It,
Crowsfoot, there,
Therapeutically Speaking,
End Man,
The Possible,
You and Not You,
Self Efface,
from LISTENING IN (1993),
A Funny Smell,
Bob Tombs,
A Dying Art,
Laid Back,
Freshman English, USA, 1970,
Making It,
Doggo in CA,
High Life,
The Cockroach Sang in the Plane Tree,
Out of Season,
Umbilical Cord,
Going Blind,
1 Look, No Mirror,
2 Notching,
3 Sticks,
4 Touch Type,
5 Listening In,
6 Artwork,
7 The Entertainer,
8 Pentels and Smells,
9 Pots and Pans,
10 The Great Fire,
11 Daily Bread,
12 Deus ex Machina,
13 Tentacles,
14 Douane Syndrome,
from REAL STORIES (1984),
Theme and Variations,
The Mentor,
England, my England,
English Lesson,
Out of Bounds,
Can We Interest You in God?,
End of Term Report,
The Graduate Trainees Take Off,
Central Valley, California,
Rat Race,
California Sounds,
California Drift,
Melting Pot,
Pepper Tree,
A Slawkenbergian Tale,
For Carole,
Paediatric Ward,
Stone Relief, Housesteads,
Blind Pianist,
Church Wall,
Horace I, 11: Tu ne quaesieris,
Horace I, 37: Nunc est bibendum,
Catullus 2: Passer deliciae meae puellae,
Notes to 'Nuncle Music',
Index of Titles,
Index of First Lines,
About the Author,

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