The Room

Written for:  dVerse Poets Pub – Posted by Grace in Craft and Toolkit, Meeting the Bar: Critique and Craft
Hello everyone! We are pleased to have a guest pub tender for today’s poetry challenge, Jill Lyman.

“I have recently been rereading How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry by Edward Hirsch. In the first chapter Hirsch talks about the relationship between the poet (writer) and the reader. He refers to it as being a form of communication between two strangers, often across time, space and cultures. This triggered for me that moment in a literature class when I first read Christopher Marlowe’s famous The Passionate Shepherd to His Love and the response, A Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd, written by Sir Walter Raleigh a few years later. These two poems take the communication between writer and reader a step further because Raleigh’s poem is in direct reply to Marlowe’s poem.”

Marlowe poem

Both poems are from Poetry Foundation

“Mr Bleaney (1955)
by Philip Larkin
‘This was Mr Bleaney’s room. He stayed
The whole time he was at the Bodies, till
They moved him.’ Flowered curtains, thin and frayed,
Fall to within five inches of the sill,
Whose window shows a strip of building land,
Tussocky, littered. ‘Mr Bleaney took
My bit of garden properly in hand.’
Bed, upright chair, sixty-watt bulb, no hook
Behind the door, no room for books or bags —
‘I’ll take it.’ So it happens that I lie
Where Mr Bleaney lay, and stub my fags
On the same saucer-souvenir, and try
Stuffing my ears with cotton-wool, to drown
The jabbering set he egged her on to buy.
I know his habits — what time he came down,
His preference for sauce to gravy, why
He kept on plugging at the four aways —
Likewise their yearly frame: the Frinton folk
Who put him up for summer holidays,
And Christmas at his sister’s house in Stoke.
But if he stood and watched the frigid wind
Tousling the clouds, lay on the fusty bed
Telling himself that this was home, and grinned,
And shivered, without shaking off the dread
That how we live measures our own nature,
And at his age having no more to show
Than one hired box should make him pretty sure
He warranted no better, I don’t know.
 “The Room
by Sara McNulty
Why does she have to prate
on about a former tenant’s
job at a humdrum place?
I’ll replace those daisy curtains, in tatters
with a brightly colored blind.
Pots of herbs will keep my mind unfettered
while scribbling on pads. There I will find
some solace in which to pen my poems.
A brighter bulb, some milk crates
for books, Aunt Anna’s quilt from home
will suffice. Glad to get a low rate.
Mr. Bleaney sounds to me quite dreary
with his habits and dreams of wealth.
The odor of fags and stench of stale beet
makes me ponder his state of health.
Perhaps his job was tedious,
noisy as well, I would wager.
Surely he was not frivolous,
as his landlady does belabor
each movement that Mr. Bleaney made.
She seems to have been pleased with him.
I will be too engaged in work to aid
her in gardening, chatter, or whims.
He had this room at my very age,
but lingered here for far too long.
In my book this place will be a page.
Perhaps he thought the same. I could be wrong.



About purplepeninportland

I am a freelance poet, born and bred in Brooklyn, New York. I live with my husband, John, and two charming rescue dogs–Marion Miller and Murphy. We spent eight lovely years in Portland, OR, but are now back in New York. My goal is to create and share poetry with others who write, or simply enjoy reading poetry. I hope to touch a nerve in you, and feel your sparks as well.
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19 Responses to The Room

  1. jillys2016 says:

    Larkin! So glad you chose Larkin! The voice of your poem is charming, Sarah, and that end line is perfection! Glad you joined in with the challenge 🙂


  2. qbit says:

    Glad you decided to spruce up the place!


  3. Charley says:

    Well, I don’t know Larkin… yet. But this is a wonderful response. You take it clearly in the next step, without being slavish to the original. Truth be told, I found yours to be fresher and much more tactile a reading. Quite nicely done!


  4. rothpoetry says:

    Looks like you moved in and made yourself right at home!


  5. What an interesting poem and response, for such a seemingly insignificant man he lives on in not one but now two poems! I love the comparison the persona of your poem makes at the end, where they seem to question whether they will fall into the same rut as the room’s former inhabitant. Very cool!


  6. Grace says:

    I really enjoyed the reading of both poems ~ I thought your response captured the tone and emotions and reflections on the room ~ The room could just be a page in our journey, I believe ~ Have a good weekend Sara.


  7. Singledust says:

    oh Sara you make rhyming seem so effortless in your response poem, truly a delightful read


  8. Just wonderful, Sara!


  9. Janice says:

    Well done Sara. I thoroughly enjoyed your response. And thanks for sharing the two older poems. They were interesting to read together.


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