By Ian Duhig Ian Duhig

He lives in Leeds, completely out of the literary world.
— John Freeman

Thrillers like
The Da Vinci Code are one of the key indicators of 
contemporary ideological shifts.
— Slavoj Žižek

For what might break a writer’s block that grips
my pen as if King Arthur’s sword, I quest
through bookshops of My Lady Charity
in Urbs Leodiensis Mystica,
completely outside Freeman’s (as most) worlds,
where locals speak blank verse (says Harrison);
Back-to-Front Inside-Out Upside-Down Leeds,
according to the Nuttgens book I bagged
along with authors promising keys to open
secrets of iambic pentameter,
how it’s a ball and chain, a waltz — but best,
in Žižek’s wind sock for the New World Order,
Gnostic code imprinted by five feet
that lead us to a Grail Brown liquefies
as Shakespeare melts to decasyllabics
like congealed saint’s blood in a Naples shrine.
Brown quotes from Philip’s Gospel where it suits
to build on Rosslyn Chapel’s premises
vast hypophetic labyrinths in the air
yet blind to masons’ mysteries below,
who carved among the seven virtues greed
with charity being made a deadly sin    ...    
The world was made in error, Philip wrote — 
Savonarola, in The Rule of Four
(another blockbuster from Oxfam’s shelves)
is made to quote “the Gospel of Paul” — 
does error here disguise some secret truth?
What if  Paul’s Gospel were real, a Gnostic text
thrown on the Bonfire of the Vanities
so seen there by our zealot’s burning eyes,
its road map to the true Grail turning to ash?
My back-to-back looks on a blind man’s road
to Wilfred’s city, where he came from Rome
to blitz our monks for “Simon Magus” tonsures
after that Gnostic heresiarch
a dog denounces in St. Peter’s Acts,
while Peter raised smoked tuna from the dead,
explained his crucifixion upside down,
then how God’s Kingdom might be found on Earth:
make right your left, back forwards, low your high    ...    
quite suddenly, like Paul I saw the light
through Peter’s apophatic paradox,
my block was my von Eschenbach stone grail,
freeing my pen like Arthur’s sword to write
this poem backwards, as Da Vinci might.

Source: Poetry (May 2014).


This poem originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

May 2014
 Ian  Duhig


Ian Duhig has written six collections of poetry, most recently Pandorama (Picador, 2010). His next book, The Blind Roadmaker, will be published by Pan MacMillan in 2016.

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Poems by Ian Duhig

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SUBJECT Religion, Christianity, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Blank Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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