“the house is a nest for dreaming, a shelter for imagining” The Poetics of Space ~ G. Bachelard
Having just moved house and in this interim between inhabiting a structure as shelter, and it taking on the feeling of home, my thoughts have naturally turned to ‘the house’ as subject for poetry. Research soon showed that many poets, across the centuries and continents, have written on this very subject.
In 17th century England, country house poetry gave rise to a kind of topographical poem that both described and praised a house, partly out of flattery, partly out of memory as visitor. Along similar but obviously different lines, C. Dale Young captures “Devon House” in Jamaica.
“Lamps have begun to light as evening,
alluvial, fills every crevice in the courtyard,
fills Devon House, alone with its marble columns,
its verandas and esplanades empty,
the plantation gone, and the fields,
the courtyard a tourist attraction now:
glass ashtrays etched with boys
too large to be clambering coconut trees,
statuettes of women too smooth to be burdened
with baskets of fruit on their heads, stoneware
and now even the hummingbirds are spoken of as jewels
where once everyone drowned in leaf-filtered sunlight.”
Carol Muske-Dukes writes, both literally and imaginatively, as visitor to the National Trust property of Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s home, “Monks’ House, Rodmell:”
“…The Trust ladies place the still-ticking brain
of Leonard’s wireless next to the empty brass stalk
with its single blossom: old black hat
she wore like pharaoh gazing down
the Nile-green Nile.
the flat drainboard of a face
set so fiercely against the previous
owner’s trompe 1’oeil beard and jug.
The simpleton’s request: a picture of her young—
So the trees walk up burning,
the birds speak Latin
for the dull-witted, drenched palette
the glimpse of whirlwind in the pond
where their handfuls of ash
In her “House with Tulips” Finvola Drury gives no clue as to whose abode, if any, it is, though the epigraph is a quote from the mystic, Evelyn Underhill.
“In winter the house stood tall with wonder
gone in the look of a manner that lingers
grey in a net of snow its pillars seemed
cold and thin as the bones in frozen fingers
telling like shells of the vanished ocean,
poking empty gestures in a pale space
of windows, the fixed eyes of a body
which living has deserted, leaving in its place
a few tools under the unused stairway
a little labor where the icy trees
raise their fractured branches drying brown
as the wood once bright in the sagging eaves”
And out of a lover’s dream, Wilbur Smith conjures “The House”
“Sometimes, on waking, she would close her eyes
For a last look at that white house she knew
In sleep alone, and held no title to,
And had not entered yet, for all her sighs.
What did she tell me of that house of hers?
White gatepost; terrace; fanlight of the door;
A widow’s walk above the bouldered shore;
Salt winds that ruffle the surrounding firs.
Is she now there, wherever there may be?
Only a foolish man would hope to find
That haven fashioned by her dreaming mind.
Night after night my love, I put to sea”
For this Poetics Prompt I want us to be voyeurs, peeping through windows and doors of a house One that has no family connections, no memories of our own to call upon .
- conjure an imaginary house of any size, any place, any age
- fill it with an imaginary person/people past or present, or ghosts, or leave it empty with its history
- make it literal but move into the metaphorical if you wish
If you find it hard to imagine then use a picture of a house (exterior or interior) and write an ekphrastic or select a house in your neighbourhood, or a historic place, or one from a book or film but reinvent its history, story or narrative.
Once you have published your poem, add it to the Linky widget and leave a comment (see below). Then go visiting, reading and sharing your thoughts with other contributors, which is half the fun of our dVerse gatherings.