Poetry Focus On: David Briggs

Briggs walking his little friend
Our Poetry Focus posts return, and I can't think of a better time for this wintry-themed poem, as the cold settles over England.  I recently had the chance to read for David Briggs (pictured) at his splendid series in Bristol.  He's a splendid poet well worth reading, and delightfully eccentric.  Briggs received an Eric Gregory Award in 2002, and his first collection The Method Men (Salt, 2010) was shortlisted for the London Festival Poetry Prize.  He teaches English in Bristol.

Contrary to popular belief, the Inuit do not have more words for snow than do speakers of English . . .
Counting generously, experts can come up with about a dozen.
— Stephen Pinker The Language Instinct

Say there are no words for lawyer
in the Inuit tongue; yet, perhaps,
a dozen by which to adjudicate

snowfall. Say there is no English word
for the particular spectacle
of aurora-lit snowfall,

while for lawyer we have: barrister,
attorney, brief, solicitor, silk,
advocate, justice, litigator,

magistrate, counsel, prosecutor,
perhaps even jurisprudentia.
And it follows that in the land

where they speak only statistics
there will be a sworn affidavit
against each irregular snowflake.

But you are advised not to impugn
the government of such climes
for burying truth beneath an icy

deluge of little, whitely-lying words.
Some thoughts will simply fail to settle
in our language, or gather only

in obscure, mountainous regions.
This thought itself may fail to find
the climate necessary to its

survival and, so, melt gently
on the thick muscle of my tongue
as might
tla (snow), tlaslo (slow falling snow),

or penstla (merely the idea of snow).

poem copyright David Briggs; permission granted by poet to post online here.


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