Squaring the Circle

Deborah Mason

This is Deborah's first collection.

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Deborah Mason was born in Kendal but brought up in Barnard Castle, in Teesdale. She studied English Language and Literature at Leeds University, where she also qualified as a teacher, and later went on to do a Master’s at Manchester University. Her first post as a teacher was in the north of Finland, followed by teaching experience in England and the Netherlands. She then went to work near Tokyo in Japan, and returned to Europe overland on the trans- Siberian railway. She worked at Helsinki University for over fifteen years before becoming the Assistant Director of Oxford University Language Centre, where, from 1998 to 2018, she provided English courses for international students.

Deborah Mason's poems travel far and wide - geographically, to begin with. But gradually you realise that you are entering different metaphorical worlds too, and that her linguistic wit is waiting to pounce - as on to the tall man who is 'all angles and no poise'. What is so satisfying about these poems is the way they build up a strange, truthful world.
- Bernard O'Donoghue

Foxfires in Lapland

Skiing through clean, crisp snow
with only the crackle and creak
of frozen trees for company.

Suddenly an Arctic fox leaps
into the sky, scattering snowflakes,
arching its back, flicking icy sparks

from its tail. Cold green fires
flare and spread overhead,
flaming yellow, white and pink

and the whole sky glows
as celestial lights shimmy
to a soundless ragtime beat.

The fox kicks its legs in a wild dance
and, as the colours fade,
the wolves sing a final song.



In the National Gallery

Set up and framed, these heroes
are here for life. They lunge and wrestle
along the walls: a tangle of pale limbs
in furious conflict. Nearby,
goddesses disport themselves
before their gods, relishing their power.

Angels flutter on the sidelines.
Cupids play with dangerous toys.
All of playground life is here,
craving attention. 'Look at us!'
they entreat, 'Listen to our stories!
We?re important! Learn our names!'

They reach out from golden frames
as rows of children crocodile past,
immersed in their own dramas.
'This skull is a memento mori.
Does anyone know what that is?'
No. And neither do they care.

They file past another painting.
'Stay!' mouths a corpulent woman,
rising from a turbulent sea, breast bare,
robes billowing. 'Hear my tale of woe!'
But it is too late for that.
Their futures are not with her.

Unmoved by the silent clamour of painted myth,
blind to the symbolism hemming them in,
the girls move on in uniform.
They're heading with determination for the shop,
to buy mementoes they can recognise.


© 2021 Deborah Mason

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