Wednesday, January 28, 2009

'Sometimes' by Sheenagh Pugh

The 44th Poem of the Week is Sheenagh Pugh's 'Sometimes'. Click here for Pugh's own rather exasperated comments on 'the dreaded Sometimes', where she gives permission to publish it on blogs, but also writes:-

It was originally written about a sportsman who had a drug problem and it expressed the hope that he might eventually get over it - because things do go right sometimes, but not very often... But it isn't anywhere near skilful or subtle enough and I would cheerfully disown it, if people didn't now and then write to me saying it had helped them. By the way, you might also care to know that I originally wrote "the sun will sometimes melt a field of snow" (the sportsman's drug of choice was cocaine). But I mistyped "sorrow" for "snow" and then decided I liked that better. I believe in letting the keyboard join in the creative process now and then.

In her FAQs, she says, in answer to the question 'Why do you hate Sometimes so much?'

I think most people read it wrong. When read carefully, it says sometimes things go right, but not that often, and usually only when people make some kind of effort in that direction. So it isn't blithely and unreasonably optimistic. But a lot of people read it that way, which means I didn't write it well enough - the writer can always make the readers see what he wants them to if he does the job right. Also I know, because language is my job, that I have written poems in which the use of language is simply a lot more interesting and imaginative than it is there. So it bugs me now and then that this is the only one a lot of people think I've ever written. Same as Jenny Joseph is fed up of "Warning", which is really quite slight in comparison with many of hers but again is the one she is known by. I'm not letting "Sometimes" be printed any more except for some charitable purposes and in particular I won't let it be used by exam boards, which should make some of you happy!

There's plenty for classroom discussion in her response ... and her own blog is here.


Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail.
Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war,
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best intentions do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you.

Below, Pugh reads 'Webcam Sonnet no 4: Now' (2008).


happyhope said...

Hi my name is Hope, I'm sitting GCSE English this summer, I have to analize sometimes by Sheenagh pugh and am finding it the hardest yet, anyone have any ideas?

SCC English Department said...

Hope - maybe our own blog entry will help you. Just trust your instincts. The poet wasn't aiming for any secret meaning.

Anonymous said...

Like the poet says, I read it in my 30's more optimistically than she intended.

Now I am old--past 70-- and I understand that the Christian virtue of "Hope" has nothing to do with worldly "optimism". But it is Hope, not optimism, that enables us to have faith to take the long view (certainty of Eternal Life with Christ) and endure emotional pain without recourse to alcohol or drugs or suicide.

I have the habit now of copying "Sometimes" and sending it in a sympathy card to friends who were happily married, but are recently widowed and facing the prospect of the rest of their years alone.
Many have said it helps them get out of bed each morning. It is a "classic" poem because it enables us to see reality, and internalise the truth which gives us courage and strength to deal with it.

Elizabeth said...

Replying to the Anonymous comment - thank you - that is exquisite and inspired! I love the differentiation between hope and optimism. There is such love and wisdom in your words. And beauty - thank you.