The Two-Way Poetry Podcast: Angelina D’Roza

Posted on 22nd January 2024 in News

In this episode, I talk to the poet Angelina D’Roza about how an extract from Seamus Heaney’s The Cure at Troy, a verse translation of Sophocles’ play Philoctetes, influenced the writing of her own poem ‘Correspondences: The Credence of Birds’.

Angelina talks about how Seamus Heaney’s stage directions from The Cure at Troy grabbed her attention, the ‘right thing at the right time.’ She goes on to discuss how she uses this text (and other corresponding texts) as a way in to explore a subject like colonialism, but it’s as much the delight in language at the beginning of the play, apparent in Heaney’s translation, that drew her in. She talks about how she negotiates appropriation of other writer’s work in her poetry. Angelina then goes on to expand on all the different influences, alongside Heaney’s stage notes, including the inciting incident from Damon Albarn’s opera Dr Dee, and a poem by Jane Kenyon (on ‘the presence of an absence’) , that worked their way in to her own piece. Angelina develops at length her own processes as a writer, how she draws on exemplary texts from a wide range of sources, a patchwork approach, as a way of an introduction to her own poem ‘Correspondences: The Credence of Birds’. She talks about the play-like quality of this poem, and where it geographically references in the Peak District. She discusses how she doesn’t want to explain all the levels of ambiguity in the poem – to keep those spaces open for herself and the reader. Angelina reflects on bird-lore, and on notions of time before finishing the conversation by discussing how lyrics and songs have influenced her own approach to writing poems.

You hear Angelina read an extract from The Cure at Troy, Seamus Heaney’s translation of Sophocles’ play Philoctetes (Faber, 2018).

Angelina D’Roza lives in Sheffield. She was a writing mentor with the Koestler Trust and writer in residence at Bank Street Arts, collaborating with artists, writers, photographers. Most recently her work appears in Blackbox Manifold and Shearsman Press. Her debut collection Envies the Birds was published by Longbarrow Press in 2016. The Blue Hour is Angelina’s new collection and was released by Longbarrow at the end of 2023.

‘Correspondences: The Credence of Birds’
A gritstone edge. Boulders higgledy-piggledy with sprouts of purple heather. No sun to speak of but light diffuse and silver, an evenness to it. Maybe rain, if there’s the wherewithal. Or a sort of shimmer to the flattened grass, as though rain has been. An absence left. A man in a red anorak, a bouldering mat folded on his back, walks quickly right to left. If Heaney’s chorus of boulder-still birds beginning to stretch from under their shawls can be made as lovely as he wrote it, do it. Pheasants, falcons. A spray of meadow pipits darting out from their hair and hands. Chip-chip- chip-chip. A woman climbs the rocks toward a platform stage-right, with the silhouette of an ancient fort just about suggested. The birdsong continues – ek-ek-ek-ek – but she is alone. Perhaps she addresses herself. Or perhaps, someone else. Someone absent. No questions, but the fractals in the bracken, their green mathematics transposed as music, the closing cadence that resolves the song.

I might believe that a kingfisher strung up on silk can predict the weather, or that placing the semen of a pigeon on someone’s shirt can make that person love you. You think it’s wild, but you believe time runs as the crow flies. Take the roses replanted to my new house, those roses that know a home before this, my young son, the woman I was, its stems grown long and winding through the pale fuchsia, the fuchsia with its pale pink memory of a previous owner. The latitude of these two recollections mapped in space, in gradients, and tangled into a grammar of now, or here, the woman I am. I would send you their late bloom like a temple tumbling into the sea to keep in your wallet with the present tense and the half built, a botanical representation of time, the ongoing of what’s gone inscribed in the ground underfoot.
A cage in the side of a boulder opens. A Japanese tit flies out and across the water. A stone arch at the back of the stage, where the river runs down to the orchestra pit. Hanging from the stone, an iron hook and a small bell. The bird rings the bell and collects a folded piece of paper that could be your fortune from the hook, flies into the gods. Let it go.

I would send you John Cale’s “Big White Cloud”. After all is said and done / everything is just like it began. But time flows one way, whatever leaves it gathers in its talons, and to predict is to look back, to believe that autumn will cause the trees to redden. Bergson says that what we express is the dead leaves floating on the surface of the water, the various and fugitive reduced to the same handful of words, as though love isn’t changed by having loved. I don’t know what this means for us. Perhaps, that’s the point. The reds and golds were always there, it’s only that we see them now. Everything’s clear, everything’s bright. To leave this unspoken way of being unspoken, and so unchanged by language that can only approximate how it feels, to dream in birdsong, the water trickling down from the moors.

The chorus boulders huddle against the cold – chee-chee-chee-chee – Light fades to black – ek-ek-ek-ek