Percival provokes poetry

February 24, 2010 at 4:47 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Struggling with The Waves

is akin to batttling

a tsunami of words,

metaphors and similes

wash over you,

wash you away.

Mrs Dalloway drowned me

in the intimate thoughts

of too many passing strangers,

but now

precocious children spout

pretentious claptrap,

and there is no sign of the sea.

The book is old,


and has been on loan

many dozens of times,

the corners folded

to mark the frequent pauses

of many dozens of readers.

But page 69

is the last one

with a corner fold,

so I think that perhaps

others have similarly struggled

and abandoned the fight,

or simply allowed themselves

to go under.

(“This I see for a second, and shall try tonight to fix in words, to forge in a ring of steel, though Percival destroys it, as he blunders off, crushing the grasses, with the small fry trotting subservient after him. Yet it is Percival I need; for it is Percival who inspires poetry.” p.29 of The Waves by Viginia Woolf, The Hogarth Press)



  1. Rachel Fox said,

    I’ve fought with many of her books over the years! It took me several gos to get to grips with ‘to the lighthouse’ for example. Can’t even remember if i’ve read ‘the waves’…they all merge into one…
    Maybe she’s just best read a page at a time (like a page a year!). Or even a paragraph at a time.

  2. kiss a cloud said,

    Brilliant! Loved this:
    “precocious children spout
    pretentious claptrap,
    and there is no sign of the sea.”

    I almost abandoned the book myself, because I felt it was too much work and not enough enjoyment. But the style is so different and unique that I really wanted to get through it, and glad that I did. Though I don’t want to subject myself to a reread anytime soon, or maybe ever. I did admire Woolf so much for it even more, though; such genius. Thanks for sharing the poem!

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