Love For The Long Poem

Organ Mountains by Caitlin Malings seem much about the enjoying of threat — the idea you might be struck by lightening (or step on a snake) and the thrill of the close shave. Although, of course, both are unlikely as the lightening is erratic and not much interested in her and the snake already has it’s dinner.


But the knowledge that it is a possible threat is what makes it interesting. Those who know the danger are most likely to react to the potential of it. Knowledge corrupts in the sense that it lets you star weighing more things against one another, the rats who didn’t know they were getting shocked didn’t hurt as much as those who flinched.


I spotted this poem tweeted by @OmarjSakr, who pointed out:

It’s worth noting a lot of the poems shared these days are shared because they’re short enough to fit in tweets like these. Or are quotable.

Which is to say, despite the expansive, unrestricted size of the internet’s storage capacity — the fact that we need to share something tweetable that fits nicely on a phone screen is the deciding factor. That is mostly what you’ll see in this newsletter too.

And yet, long poems are probably my favourite kind of poem. They offer you something that you can chew on for years, all through your life. They’re often monumental in some way as the work that goes in to them often has a similar weight. For example the Anne Carson book Glass and God lets her excise demons of a past lover as well as express her relationship with her mother, and the ghosts of the Brontës. For Hannah Gamble, Growing A Bear is a portrait of someone searching for a masculinity they are happy with as they realise they are approaching the middle-ages of their life. And of course, the Waste Land by T S Eliot which brings us not only the ensemble of voices and views of life in inter-war Britain, but also how civilizations rise and crumble, and how we hold on tight to their fragments to retain a sense of history and our place in it.

All of these poems have lines that I can recite from memory and give me something new each time. Maybe we need to find a better space for long poems — but then, maybe it’s that imaginary poetry radio station wrote about a few weeks ago!


Please listen to the Hannah Gamble reading of Growing A Bear because it’s not only masterful, but probably my favourite poem. evs. I put it up there Prufrock in terms of poem-as-portrait-of-man.

There will be an Etch To Their Own dedicated to this poem alone one day!


If you’ve ever been a Radiohead fan (lapsed like myself, or still full blooded) then you’ll remember the short stories of Stanley Donwood. Gloriously these weird little things are still up on that archive, and are still worth a wander through, if you don’t mind feeling a little put off.

Well, he’s part of making a book from lead — which actually sounds wonderful and very much in the idea of those process books that we talk about when we talk about Anne Carson.


Make sure you put your best work in for the Aesthetica Magazine Award over here. The prize includes some poetry subscriptions, which means you can probably take my job!


Today’s song:


Ibrahim Maalouf — Beirut


Thanks for reading Etch To Their Own. If you have a trumpet, blow your own, but if not, please blow mine (by telling other people about this newsletter). Etch To Their Own was written kind of in the dark in the end by @CJEggett and proofread by no one living. That Ibrahim Maalouf song is so good that my better half had to come find out who it was. I was thinking of making a proper website for these, and maybe a podcast, let me know if you would listen and/or visit my web zone! Support me and my ego. Support me and my auntie’ bicycle. Read online here.

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