Faber Academy’s Poem of the Month: September 2023

2 minutes read

Read Pippa Little's pick for September's Poem of the Month, along with her reasons for choosing it, below.

Autumn’s come early here in the north east. There’s that old sense of melancholic abundance as the trees darken amid jewel brights of rowan berries, rosehips, red apples. It feels hard to choose one poem from this season’s cornucopia: I was sorely tempted by Jane Hirshfield’s ‘The Heat of Autumn’, Eavan Boland’s ‘Nocturne’, Robert Frost’s ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’, Joy Harjo’s ‘Perhaps the World Ends Here’. This unsettling, beautiful time of year inspires such reflectiveness. The poem I’ve decided on however is Sheenagh Pugh’s sonnet ‘What If This Road’.


Why? Because it asks questions, imagines new journeys, and speaks to an aspect of autumn I most enjoy – after the dream-time of summer the turning to new plans, projects, studies. (For me, this will be teaching the Writing Poems course for Faber Academy in Newcastle.) Sheenagh’s road is a wonderful metaphor for all kinds of endeavours. As a poem it is accessible yet sophisticated. It explores where words, images, story might take us, how we ourselves can create the story, the poem. Perhaps it makes you wonder – what questions might you want to ask in a poem? Where could asking a surprising question take you?

What If This Road

What if this road, that has held no surprises
these many years, decided not to go
home after all; what if it could turn
left or right with no more ado
than a kite-tail? What if its tarry skin
were like a long, supple bolt of cloth,
that is shaken and rolled out, and takes
a new shape from the contours beneath?
And if it chose to lay itself down
in a new way, around a blind corner,
across hills you must climb without knowing
what’s on the other side, who would not hanker
to be going, at all risks? Who wants to know
a story’s end, or where a road will go?


from What If This Road and Other Poems
(Gwalch Carreg Cyf, Llanrwst 2003)

Copyright © Sheenagh Pugh 2003. Used with permission of the author.




Pippa Little is a tutor on our upcoming Writing Poems course in Newcastle – a friendly, encouraging three-month course for anyone just starting out in poetry or wanting to hone their craft.


From 27 September, join Pippa Little and John Challis as they share their love for poetry and guide you through its landscapes. Together you will learn new techniques, widen your reading and enjoy developing your own distinctive voice.


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