Patricia Beer

Patricia Beer, who died in 1999, contributed more than forty poems and pieces to the LRB. Reader, I Married Him, her study of 19th-century women novelists and their female characters, came out in 1974. Her Collected Poems is published by Carcanet.

Poem: ‘Where’er You Walk’

Patricia Beer, 2 September 1999

Jove and Semele were not well-matched. She was spoiled and silly. He was clever. The things she really wanted from him were A literal god-child, and to live for ever.

Folie de grandeur, Congreve called it. She Sang about endless pleasure, endless love Only to vex the ones she left on earth. She met with touching tenderness from Jove

Who charged the weather that where’er she walked It...

Two Hares and a Priest: Pushkin

Patricia Beer, 13 May 1999

‘Who do you think will close the door after you? Pushkin?’ The question, which Elaine Feinstein quotes in her introduction to this excellent biography, is one which apparently might still be asked by a Russian mother of a careless child. No British mother would say anything like it, if only because she could not think of a figure with comparable evocative power: writers here are hardly household names. She would certainly not use that of the greatest Russian of them all. Some of us call our cats Pushkin but that is about as far as it has gone.‘

Sequence: Seven Poems

Patricia Beer, 19 June 1997

Private Wing in July

Night with its epileptic dreams Is over, and for once there seems

To be some flavour in the day. Outside my room – my territory

Where the seasons do not enter – The dawn chorus of the nurses (banter

About the night and how it went) Seems to give off a kind of scent.

Consultants come round early here. Out-of-doors must be getting near.

And here they are,...

For a Lark

Patricia Beer, 21 March 1996

We have just lived through nearly two years of vox populi. The 50th anniversary of VE Day and, to a lesser extent, VJ Day provoked a massive assemblage of what people had actually said in the course of the Second World War. It was as though these voices had been held back for half a century and were now bursting out. Martin Gilbert in The Day the War Ended, a recent account of the year 1945, showed how inexorably this could happen. In appealing to the public for material from those times, he had imagined that such replies as he might receive ‘would provide an interesting if essentially minor element to the book; a sideline to history’. He was wrong. In the end he had to change the balance of the whole work to accommodate the hundreds of relevant contributions sent in.

Poem: ‘From Wilfred Owen 1918’

Patricia Beer, 2 November 1995

Dear Mother, now I am no more A fighting man, I warm the plates And make some bugler black the grates. We are all soldiers far from war.

The foremost object in our minds Is blacking out the Scarborough lights. I turn back from the sea at nights To check the drawing-down of blinds.

Dearest my Mother, I can scare The Mess by going to their dance. They heard that I was killed in France. Ashes...

Second Chances

Donald Davie, 22 July 1993

Patricia Beer tells how not long ago she was giving a reading at which, presumably in a question-and-answer period, one after another in her small audience savaged a poem she’d written 25...

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Patricia Beer’s Selected Poems contain work composed over a period of two decades. They are a tribute to her consistency rather than to her development: I don’t find myself skipping...

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