The Storm Cloud

John Ruskin describes the weather near the end of the 19th Century

A thousand miles square and five miles down

It blows in, blots out the sun.

I call it the plague-wind; I name it the storm-cloud.

What does it feel like? A terminus. The stop of time.

The strawberries rot on their stems - 

For a month or more now not an hour of sunshine –

And the roses in the garden hang sponges of vinegar.

I’m a hunter of hieroglyphs;

In every metallic drop of rain I see a barren star.

And on stormy days leaves against the open window

Tremble continuously and hiss into

Sulphur mists. Aspens of the apocalypse! Winds blow

The belching smoke across the stricken land. I read

The age in smouldering rivulets of

Fire, black snow, low toxic clouds, lists of children dead

Or slowly dying. Tonight I see a burning child

Rise through the millennial flames,

A charred Christ who sings: we’re at the thresh-hold

The uncreation now begins. Half-mad, I record what I can -

Cracked conduit of visions

And blizzards: oh blanched sun, oh withered grass, oh blinded man.


These Selected Poems offer constant raids on the inarticulate, conducted with energy and resourcefulness on a range of fronts, from the familial to the cosmic: from the fraught autobiographical fragments through the adoption of a repertoire of personae – Heraclitus, Descartes, Nietzsche, Van Gogh – to the assumption of bardic and mythical roles...This is ambitious poetry...

-Nicolas Tredell in PN Review


‘What I have struggled with is who I am’. The line occurs more than once in Peter Abbs’ poems, and sticks in the memory. It typifies the tough, questing and plain-spoken quality of the writing in his Selected Poems to coincide with the poet’s sixtieth birthday...Finely balanced between conversational rhythms and the well-crafted patterns of traditional form, Abbs’ poems are thoroughly readable and full of memorable images.

-Grevel Lindop in Resurgence