Tuesday Poem – Not an owl on the bough, after all – by John Fowles

Not an owl on the bough, after all;
but a patch of grey light forcing
through fir. A light-bird,
a bird-light. Retinal phantom.
Or poem to my shortening sight.


I haven’t posted for a while …one of those times in life when other things overtake.  But today thinking I was ready to post something small and fiddling about on google, I fed in the words There are times…poem and came up with a quotable quote on ‘Good Reads’ from John Fowle’s  The Magus. It read “…..there are times when silence is a poem.”
This seemed to fit my train of thought so I googled to see if J.F. had actually tried writing poems. This led to a Guardian Review on John Fowle’s posthumous collection. Read a quote from the review below.



His own verse was feeble in comparison; he would rather have died than show it to anyone else.” This, from John Fowles‘s 1969 novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman, concerns the protagonist Charles Smithson who has, in a weak moment, been driven to express himself in verse. Fowles himself was prey to the same poetic proclivities, the product of which was the 1973 publication of his Poems by Ecco Press in America. He would, some years later, pronounce this collection the “funeral relic” of his “long dream” of poetry. Fowles himself died in 2005, but thanks to the editorial labours of Adam Thorpe his poetry has not died with him and the long dream lives on in the form of this Selected Poems. Read more…

It is from this review that I culled the above exquisite verse about the owl.

And from Wikipedia

“John Robert Fowles (/flz/; 31 March 1926 – 5 November 2005) was an English novelist of international stature, critically positioned between modernism and postmodernism. His work reflects the influence of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, among others.After leaving Oxford University, Fowles taught English at a school on the Greek island of Spetses, a sojourn that inspired The Magus, an instant best-seller that was directly in tune with 1960s “hippie” anarchism and experimental philosophy. This was followed by The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969), a Victorian-era romance with a postmodern twist.” Read more

And go here to a website full of information about John Fowle’s life and books

Go here to visit the Tuesday Poem Hub.


4 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem – Not an owl on the bough, after all – by John Fowles

  1. I studied The French Lieutenant’s woman in English Literature for my final year at school, Helen. I even memorised a few passages. Must chase up his poetry.

    Nice to see you back.

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