To an old lady

In highschool, I won the poetry competition. I recited a poem called “To an old lady asleep at a poetry reading”, by James Kirkup. I remember that I said the whole poem to an increasingly embarassed woman in the front row.

Snore on in your front row seat
Let not my voice disturb the wordless heaven your eyes have found
Here in the hard hall,
With its naked lights,
The nightmare setting of all sleepless nights
In which my words and spirit are bound.

When I was speaking with one of the judges after the competition, he discovered that I was an American, and was, I believe, quite horrified. I had laid on the British accent thick, and he didn’t realize that it wasn’t genuine. And it used to come very naturally to me.

Well, at my Christmas Carol reading on Saturday, I had to work really hard at it, and, even then, there were several times when I realized that I had almost entirely let it slip. And while I expect that most of my audience didn’t notice any but the most eggregious times, I guess it just shows that when you don’t speak a language for a while, you lose it.

Let not that tiresome vulture – your wakeful neighbour
Disturb you with her nudging gloom
She is one of those restless seekers-after-culture
Who, at question time, will shout for it
While I desire only the chilly sanctuary of the Chairman’s guest room

Ah, poor dear, she’s wakened you
You stare, perplexed a moment,
From under your hat’s provincial flowers

You must not mind, dear
As shame comes hunting your
Yes, dear, this is Hell, and this is me confronting you.

I should probably get a copy of Patrick Stewart’s reading of A Christmas Carol before the next time I attempt to do this. I watched his movie rendition on Sunday. I probably should have watched that before, too. His interpretation of things seems to be very true to the spirit of the book.

Apologies to Mr Kirkup. I’m probably remembering wrong, but I can’t find a copy of the poem anywhere. Anyone who knows what volume I can find the poem in, I’d be much obliged if you could provide that information.