Ruth Padel, “Tropical Forest”

British poet Ruth Padel came to New York City recently, and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to meet with her to talk about her latest book, Darwin: A Life in Poems. In this short video segment, she explains why, although she’s written about nature throughout her literary career, in both verse and memoir, this is the first time she’s really focused on her great-great-grandfather, Charles Darwin. Then, a poem about his wife, Emma.

Perhaps, after all, the angel was not wounded.
Kingdoms of his life rearranged themselves like cloud
after a storm. He felt washed open—an oyster
cleansed of grit. Marine metaphors flowed over him
as when he paced the deck of the little lone Beagle
at night. He felt loose, like a runaway cartwheel
bouncing from the heights into a valley
of violet oak trees. They stood
silent in the drawing-room, surprised.
She’d be engineer of all his happiness. Bees
shifted honey-bags up his spine. He was roses
burning alive, and she was the haze
above tropical forest plus the unfathomed riches
within. Like giving to a blind man eyes.

Tomorrow, I’ll share another short video with you, as well as the questions I asked after I put the camera down. In the meantime, you might want to read a NY Times profile by Charles McGrath, who took her to the Museum of Natural History.

20 April 2009 | poetry |