Monday, April 25, 2011


Carol Ann Duffy brings together a collection of wedding vows written by some of our leading poets

Illustration above by Posy Simmonds

The Guardian,

Britain has many countries, and one of them is Poetry. We go to our national art when we seek Coleridge's "best words" for ceremony and celebration. It's no surprise that Shakespeare's majestic Sonnet 116 is the most-loved choice for weddings and civil partnerships. Those familiar yet thrilling words "Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments" are themselves our greatest poet's response to the marriage service. With a billion people expected to watch the royal wedding on Friday, it seems timely to refresh and renew the unbreakable relationship between love and poetry. Here, then, is a feast of new poems which can be uttered as vows or read as epithalamiums: poems from Scotland by its new makar, Liz Lochhead, and her sparkling compatriot, Jackie Kay; from the national poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke, and from the great poet of Northern Ireland, Michael Longley, alongside an authentic Gypsy wedding poem from David Morley, a hilarious squib from Carol Rumens and much more. I'm sure that many of these wonderful poems will be spoken in future years at partnerships and weddings.

Carol Ann Duffy

for both to say

I might have raised your hand to the sky
to give you the ring surrounding the moon
or looked to twin the rings of your eyes
with mine
or added a ring to the rings of a tree
by forming a handheld circle with you, thee,
or walked with you
where a ring of church-bells,
looped the fields,
or kissed a lipstick ring on your cheek,
a pressed flower,
or met with you
in the ring of an hour,
and another hour . . .
I might
have opened your palm to the weather, turned, turned,
till your fingers were ringed in rain
or held you close,
they were playing our song,
in the ring of a slow dance
or carved our names
in the rough ring of a heart
or heard the ring of an owl's hoot
as we headed home in the dark
or the ring, first thing,
of chorussing birds
waking the house
or given the ring of a boat, rowing the lake,
or the ring of swans, monogamous, two,
or the watery rings made by the fish
as they leaped and splashed
or the ring of the sun's reflection there . . .
I might have tied
a blade of grass,
a green ring for your finger,
or told you the ring of a sonnet by heart
or brought you a lichen ring,
found on a warm wall,
or given a ring of ice in winter
or in the snow
sung with you the five gold rings of a carol
or stolen a ring of your hair
or whispered the word in your ear
that brought us here,
where nothing and no one is wrong,
and therefore I give you this ring.

Read the other poems at The Guardian.

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