Friday, 18 May 2012

In Which Louis MacNeice and I Run Off To Bulgaria

A few days ago I returned from a week-long visit to Bulgaria, a country I never really thought I would go to. My friend who I visited there and who introduced me to the friends and sights of a country she has adopted for several years now probably never really thought I would come either - I had been vaguely promising to visit for quite a long time.

Anyway, I made it, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I intend to write another post with more about my trip and about some interesting and unexpected poetic encounters. But for now, I thought I would post a poem which I wrote over the last couple of days. I can't quite explain its genesis. Travel to different countries often inspires me to poetry, but after my return, I wasn't sure if there were signs that this was going to happen with Bulgaria. I started to reflect on how Louis MacNeice, one of my favourites (and a man who features prominently on my Dead Poet Crush list) would have found meaning and metaphor in the concrete, sensual details of what he saw around him. Then I imagined that he was in Bulgaria with me. It's poetry; we're allowed to do this sort of thing.


Louis, you would have found l’air du temps
in the dark clouds banked over that huge echo
of a post office, where I wandered like an extra
in a film. I couldn’t read the people in Plovdiv
or Sofia for that matter, but reflected in their eyes
I glimpsed the wolves craning their necks to howl.
You would have laughed as I ducked at lightning,
not letting me forget my sunglasses
at the internet café. Internet? Not a problem;
you’d seen the river, the snake of modernity
biting its own tail. The tide of metaphor
in the chocolate flood of meltwater
on the mountain roads to Smolyan,
the startled gaze on the mirrored faces.
Louis, I tell myself you would have been practical
and strong, and time would have left us
to watch Roman stones and their invisible shift,
to hear the violin’s slim notes slip the window,
to put out a finger and stroke the curving flask
of green glass, to buy a drink for experience.

© Clarissa Aykroyd, 2012. Not to be reproduced without permission.


  1. I have to say I'm a little jealous! Back in college, nobody had ever heard about MacNeice, so I thought I was the only one who knew him and appreaciated his poetry.

    However, I love your poem! It's very MacNeicean. Or should I say MacNeiceish? Anyway, it reminded me of his poem "Snow". I guess if he were in Bulgaria he might say "I feel the drunkenness of things being various."

    Can't wait for more posts about your trip!

    1. Oh, thank you! Glad you liked it. I think I slipped in a few little references to his poems. The friend who I was visiting is a pretty strong/practical type, actually, so although I'm not sure if she's heard of him (I must ask), perhaps it was a little like being there with MacNeice ;)

      I have a feeling that 'Snow' and 'Prayer Before Birth' and perhaps a few others may be more famous than MacNeice is himself. The first poem I remember reading by him was in university (though I can't remember if I studied it, or just came across it) and it was 'Bagpipe Music' - which I like but he has many others which I prefer. I certainly think he should be more famous today!