Thursday, May 13, 2010

Frog-Taming, a poem by Matthew Sweeney.

Post 488 - Matthew Sweeney was born in Donegal, Ireland in 1952. He moved to London in 1973 and studied at the Polytechnic of North London and the University of Freiburg. His poetry collections include A Dream of Maps (1981), A Round House (1983), Blue Shoes (1989), Cacti (1992), The Bridal Suite (1997), A Smell of Fish (2000), Sanctuary (2004) and Black Moon (2007). Selected Poems, representing the best of 10 books and 20 years' work, was published in 2002. He won a Cholmondeley Award in 1987 and an Arts Council Writers' Award in 1999. He was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2008. He’s also published poetry for children including The Flying Spring Onion (1992), Fatso in the Red Suit (1995) and Up on the Roof: New and Selected Poems (2001). His novels for children include The Snow Vulture (1992) and Fox (2002).

Sweeney says, “I have always been drawn to poetry. I found the noise of it attractive, the mystery of it – the way it leaves so much to the reader (a student put it to me once that the reader of a poem must, as it were, finish the writing of the poem) – and how it can tell a story in a short space. When one is used to operating so sparely, the sprawl of prose is not attractive.”

Frog-Taming by Matthew Sweeney.

Any fool can learn to catch a frog –
the trick is to do it blindfolded,
lying there, in the wet grass,
listening for the hop and croak.

And the real trick is to keep it alive,
not strangle it, or squeeze it dead –
that way you can take it home
and tame it, make it your pet.

But early on, keep the cat locked up.
Soon she’ll get used to her odd sibling –
meanwhile put a bit of time into
picking a suitable name for the frog.

And research a frog’s ideal diet,
and also the best sleeping arrangements –
water somewhere nearby, of course,
and plenty of air, plenty of air.

Be sure to play the frog the right music
so it can learn hopping tricks –
ones it can reproduce on the cleared table
when you have dinner guests around,

while you find your blindfold and put it on,
holding your hands out and grasping
the air the frog has just vacated –
making it clear you’re deliberately missing.

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