Subscribe to Granta today

Three poems


In the third in a series showcasing important contemporary poets, publishes three poems by Katha Pollitt, whose debut collection, Antarctic Traveller, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. Her new collection, The Mind-Body Problem, in which the poems below appear, is published by Random House in June.


Worse than the boils and sores
and the stench and the terrible flies
was the nattering: Think.
You must have done something.
Things happen for a reason.
What goes around.

His life swept off in a whirlwind of camels and children!
Still, he knew enough to shut up
when his skin cleared pink as a baby’s
and overnight lambs blanketed the burnt fields.
People even said he looked taller
in his fine new robes: You see?
When one door closes, two doors open.

Nobody wanted to hear
about the rain or its father
or leviathan slicing the deeps
at the black edge of the world
under the cold blue light of the Pleiades.

The new sons were strong and didn’t ask difficult questions,
the new daughters beautiful, with glass-green eyes.


No one left to call me Penelope,
mourned the old countess, on being informed of the death
of her last childhood friend. Did she sit long

in the drafty hall, thinking, That’s it then,
nobody left but hangers-on and flunkeys,
why go on? Death can’t help but look friendly
when all your friends live there, while more and more

each day’s like a smoky party
where the music hurts and strangers insist that they know you
till you blink and smile and fade into the wall
and stare at your drink and take a book off the shelf

and close your eyes for a minute and suddenly
everyone you came in with has gone
and people are doing strange things in the corners.
No wonder you look at your watch

and say to no one in particular
If you don’t mind, I think I’ll go home now.

Silent Letter

It’s what you don’t hear
that says struggle
as in wrath and wrack
and wrong and wrench and wrangle.

The noiseless wriggle
of a hooked worm
might be a shiver of pleasure
not a slow writhing

on a scythe from nowhere.
So too the seeming leisure
of a girl alone in her blue
bedroom late at night

who stares at the bitten
end of her pen
and wonders how to write
so that what she writes

stays written.

Read On: Katha Pollitt speaks to Adam Gopnik

Comments (10)

You need to create an account or log in to comment.

  1. poetlover4you

    Sun Nov 22 12:23:25 GMT 2009

    Marvelous, all 3 poems - not a wasted word anywhere !

    I am on my own Odyssey looking for Penelope. Write on, Katha !!!

    David Panckeri, another poet of the particular

  2. ola Niyi

    Thu Mar 06 18:16:23 GMT 2014

  3. Walman

    Fri Jul 18 16:00:14 BST 2014

    This is the perfect website for anyone who wishes to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually will need to…HaHa). You certainly put a new spin on a topic that has been discussed for ages. Great stuff, just great!

  4. jimmy

    Sun Aug 17 08:01:59 BST 2014

    I am really enjoying reading your well written articles. It looks like you spend a lot of effort and time on your blog. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work.
    san antonio bail bonds alamo

  5. messi8848

    Mon Sep 01 04:44:46 BST 2014

    La Liga Scarpa d'Oro precedenti cinque stagioni,<a href="">maglie di calcio 2015</a> tutti appartengono a Messi e C. Ronaldo.<a href="">Paris Saint Germain PSG</a> Messi ha ottenuto tre della Scarpa d'Oro Cup,<a href="">Maglia Bayern Monaco</a> C Lo allora ha vinto due dei premi. Nella nuova stagione,<a href="">Maglia AC Milan</a> i giocatori che hanno più probabilità di diventare il vincitore del Golden Boot? Fase di Messi,<a href="">Maglia Juventus</a> società di gioco sono generalmente più ottimisti circa C Bassa. Anche se Suarez a essere vietate fino a fine ottobre, ma le probabilità sono ancora davanti classifica Benzema <a href="">Maglia Liverpool</a>. Bwin e Bet365 aziende in compagnia fuori delle quote classifica, prima di sei candidati identici.<a href="">Maglia calcio Arsenal</a> Bwin a C Lo Hoi fuori un perduti 1.75 probabilità, Messi ha preso le probabilità di Golden Boot era un perso 2,25. Anche se Suarez a essere vietate fino a fine ottobre,<a href="">Maglie Chelsea FC</a> ma è ancora terzo Golden Boot popolari,<a #

  6. Pregnancy Tips

    Thu Sep 18 22:39:17 BST 2014