Now I am a Tower of Darkness
As a child I knew
How, beyond the lamp’s circuit,
Lay the shadow of the shadow
Of this darkness,
Waiting with an arctic kiss
In the well of the staircase,
Ready to drape the bed with visions
No eyelids can vanquish.
Now I am a Tower of Darkness © Freda Laughton from A Transitory House (Jonathan Cape, 1945).
From ‘Into the Light Blown Dark: Working with Freda Laughton’s ‘Now I am a Tower of Darkness’
Freda Laughton produced one book of poetry A Transitory House (Jonathan Cape, 1945). At the time of the book’s publication, Freda Laughton would have been 38 years old. Laughton’s chosen sphere was the female intimate, and within this context she was an expressionist of some ability. Her work presaged that of Eavan Boland and of Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill. There is a certain fragility and darkness in Laughton’s expression which imbues it with shadow. Her art was masterful, not least in the poem In a Transitory Beauty,
Maternal the shell
Cradling the embryo bird,
A transitory house,
Fashioned for brief security,
Of purposeful fragility,
A beauty built to be broken.
In a Transitory Beauty by Freda Laughton, from A Transitory House (Jonathan Cape, 1945)
There is a surviving photograph of Freda Laughton, it shows the poet in three-quarter profile, she has applied fresh lipstick for the camera’s gaze, she looks content and somewhat wry. We begin to see the confident poet who had found her muse, collated a collection and was an essayist and reviewer for The Bell Magazine. These are some of the facts of her professional life that we know. Poetry is a revelatory act of participation in the world, yet unfortunately for us, Freda Laughton’s work was let slip from view. I deeply regret that I was not exposed to her work in college, or as part of my later reading and studies.
The North, Issue 61 was guest-edited by Nessa O’Mahony and Jane Clarke.