A nest of rag and bone

Insights into the male gaze from the perspective of contemporary poetry – I find this article fascinating, not just as it stands, but also as another example of work at the boundaries. It is as applicable to therapists, doctors, teachers, police – in fact any men working with women – as it is to poets.


Reviewing John Burnside’s latest collection Still Life With Feeding Snake earlier this week, I was drawn to two poems that frame the male gaze, ‘Annunciation in Grey and Black’ and ‘Approaching Sixty’. In the latter, the narrator watches a girl in a cafe in Innsbruck as she winds her hair then lets it fall down her back:

IMG_4748 Poets: staring creepily at other people from cafes since 1953

…while I try hard not to stare:
a man growing old, with a touch
of sciatica, mild
and hypertension,
striving to seem a comfortable kind
of scarecrow, not so blinded by desire
as makes the heart a nest of rag and bone
and still, if she could see it,
not quite foul
just one of those
who knows what beauty is
and lingers on the ache
to stay alive.

The line break on ‘touch’ makes us linger on that word – creating…

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