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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Speaking to all through poetry

“The poet speaks to all men of that other life of theirs that they have smothered and forgotten.” Edith Sitwell

Dame Edith Sitwell was both a patron of the writing and art worlds and also a critic and noted poet herself.  Born in Britain on Sept. 7, 1887, she started writing while still in grammar school and had her first poem The Drowned Suns, published in London’s Daily Mirror in 1913.  

Between 1916 and 1921 she edited Wheels, an annual poetic anthology compiled with her brothers—a literary collaboration generally called "The Sitwells.”   A proponent and supporter of innovative trends in English poetry, she was a patron of rising young poets like Dylan Thomas while writing hundreds of poems herself.    From 1913, the date of her first poem, she published poems continuously until her death in 1964.   Much of her writing has been praised for its solid technique and painstaking craftsmanship. 
Her “war poems,” written during WWII, were   
extremely popular.  "Still Falls the Rain” about the London Blitz remains perhaps her best-known poem and was set to music by Benjamin Britten as Canticle III: Still Falls the Rain.  Her poem The Bee-Keeper was set to music by Priaulx Rainier, as The Bee Oracles. 

Here for Saturday’s Poem, is Dame Edith’s

I kept my answers small and kept them near;
Big questions bruised my mind but still I let
Small answers be a bullwark to my fear.

The huge abstractions I kept from the light;
Small things I handled and caressed and loved.
I let the stars assume the whole of night.

But the big answers clamoured to be moved
Into my life. Their great audacity
Shouted to be acknowledged and believed.

Even when all small answers build up to
Protection of my spirit, still I hear
Big answers striving for their overthrow.

And all the great conclusions coming near.

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