Inspiring Older Readers

posted on 06 Jul 2016

Two poems from Jonathan Taylor

Jonathan Taylor is an author, critic, editor and lecturer. His books include the novels Melissa (Salt, 2015) and Entertaining Strangers (Salt, 2012), the memoir Take Me Home: Parkinson's, My Father, Myself (Granta, 2007), and the poetry collection Musicolepsy (Shoestring, 2013). He lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. Born and raised in Stoke-on-Trent, he now lives in Leicestershire with his wife, the poet Maria Taylor, and their twin daughters, Miranda and Rosalind. 

The Letterpress Project is delighted to reproduce two of Jonathan's poems here for the first time and he told us:

"Here  are a couple of poems, if you'd like them for the site. I chose them, I suppose, because they're both, in some ways, about reading and books (they're inspired by particular books or stories)." 






For Kershia


The same scourge whips the joker and the enjoyer of the joke.

   ( Emerson, ‘The Comic’)


Take my advice, said the Parisian doctor:

mix in different circles, try Italian theatre.

This all-consuming melancholy, sir,

it’s merely a ghost from your imagination.


Swallow these pills, by all means, sir, but

you also need to get out and about.

You’re in Naples. Make the most of it,

seek out pleasurable company.


Go and see the great clown Carlini –

I hear he has the whole city in fits.

If your gloom can withstand his antics,

it must be incurable indeed.


He’s sure to take you out of yourself,

sir, give life a humorous complexion,

help you to pull up your stockings

as I think they say back in England.


Carlini: he’s your panacea, my friend.

He will make you laugh till you cry.

His jokes, they will split your sides

(again as the English sometimes say).


But it’s no good, the patient said back:

I already go the Italian theatre nightly

because I am myself the great Carlini

and can hardly make myself laugh.  


(*Based on a story recounted by Ralph Waldo Emerson, F. Wiseman, Charles Dickens and others)




(After Shirley Jackson)


Here everything is like itself:

the trees are like trees,

leafy, woody, creaky,

the house like a home,


the wind trying to scream like a storm.


Here, the people take on their own likenesses,

their faces reminding me of their faces,

half-recognised, a bit like love.


I kind of like it here

but still I wish I could be there –

there, then, beneath the second skin of similes,

there, then, beneath these reminiscences of smiles,

here there then where

when everything was itself

and the nettles I fell in