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From “Coleshill”

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The deer racing across a field
of the same clay and tallow
color they are—if they are:
or are they tricks of the light?—
must feel themselves being poured
and pouring through life. We’re not built

but become: trembling columns
of apprehension that ripple
and pass those ripples to and fro
with the world that shakes around us—
it too is something poured
and ceaselessly pouring itself.

February shakes the fields
and trembles in each yellow willow.


The violin’s back is not veneer—
the strummed wood shudders together.
Undivided by caution
each note is its own first thought.

My first thought’s a kind of prayer
that I might resonate entire—
sometimes it’s such a meager portion
shaking a little, as if it ought...

Every day, the same desire
to push myself through the door
that leads to some bright place,

brighter than the concert platform,
where the whole self echoes together—
the outer to the inner pleasure.

Everything runs together—
the light smells of spring,
the unreasonable brightness
of this peg, this sheet, this line tethering

linen between sky and mud
as if the garden marked a pause
in that eternal return
whose looping trace is the blood

hissing through the ventricles.
What gives you life’s the thing that kills.
Until you spill the lip
trembling on its bright liquid

all you need’s this play of surface—
all that you need. All you have.

Source: Poetry (February 2012)

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This poem originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

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From “Coleshill”

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  • Fiona Sampsonwas born in London and trained as a violinist. Her early musical studies and professional career as a musician in Europe influenced her editing and writing. She studied at Oxford University and received a PhD in the philosophy of language from Nijmegen University in the Netherlands. Her poetry collections include Folding the Real (2001); The Distance Between Us (2005), a novel in verse; Common Prayer (2007); and Rough Music (2010).
    Sampson’s poetry shows an attention to sound and the visual presence of poetry on the page.  Ruth Padel described Sampson’s style in the Guardian: “The tone is controlled and lightly pitched; there is a lovely surface smoothness with the rough.” The attention to the aural qualities of poetry has also made its way into her essays: On Listening (2007) and Music Lessons: The Newcastle Poetry Lectures (2011).
    Sampson’s academic studies led to a concentration on the connection of writing to health,...

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