Words & Links



A Goneril

'This is a disturbing poem whose centre, focus and meaning rest primarily on the title. Goneril was the eldest daughter of King Lear. She was a monstrous child, and daughter; and this poem explores the monstrous behaviour, character and actions of such an offspring moulded in her manner. What is remarkable is the range of the invented "biography", so that among other fine observations the Shakespearian example becomes updated, and Lear reduced to a father "never at home, always playing cards // and, incidentally, urinating / in that clumsy way men have." Notice the subtle punctuation which helps to focus the critical comment. The poem explores the "unfriendly order ... // or a disorder" - the very essence of what Transubstantiation identified. Here the social, familial, societal collapse is outlined in the final five lines - though, perhaps, this could have been supported by a relaxation of the unrhymed tercet form so that the structure of the poem helped to mirror the events being characterised.' - Roger Elkin

It must have been the uncoiling sense
of argument. A stimulation. Quickly
now, run to your poor husband weeping.

I am your mother but will not be brooked,
it seems. What lie can stomach this? Sustain
you through your breeding and now the ingots

block up the door while you nourish your garden.
Ingratitude! And I must not speak of this
for fear of recrimination. The slow

poisons and the quick, the subtle and the rude
are all at your disposal. Of course, your father
was to blame. Never at home, always playing cards

and, incidentally, urinating
in that clumsy way men have. And you,
well, I was with you when your waters broke

that first time. I was there for you,
not that I expected a reward, just
a little thanks. Clearly, too much to ask.

This world is not at all what it was.
When I was young, things were very different.
There is a new, unfriendly order now

or a disorder. At any rate,
I do not understand. I want to, God
knows, not simply because you are my child

but because I am controversially alive
in this place of change. They say a parakeet
was seen over the Cotswolds and everyone

knows about the jelly fish. Don't go
in the water! Well, I shall. This remains
my time. Look, now. I am swimming out.

© 2014 Alan Dunnett | Illustrations Jo Dunnett - London based artist | Design by Matt