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A Moment in the Field: Voices from Arthurian Legend

The old stories and the old characters are not as old as they are deep. They need to be awakened regularly to tell us their secrets. They require an enchantress to bring them back and help us hear them. Margaret Lloyd performs this priestess, Merlin, Cassandra, Mercury service here in splendid and powerful fashion, showing how our daily passions, strong and subtle, light and dark, give us our humanity. You need courage to take these poems in, given the hot blood and sharp edge that Margaret Lloyd brings to them.


     — Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul and Dark Nights of the Soul


The power of Arthurian legend, and of the hold romantic love has over human beings, is shown again here in this moving sequence which speaks almost entirely in the voices of the women of the stories. The harshness of landscape and culture these people were subject to—the women, the men, and the children—seems only framed differently, but very close to our own. Margaret Lloyd has gathered all this to her with haunting empathy for human life and the life of the natural world.


     — Jean Valentine, author of Door in the Mountain, winner of the National Book Award for Poetry


Margaret Lloyd uses the names and stories of legendary women, and some men, to write a book of love poems in a fresh, contemporary voice. The emotional force of the poems lies in the eternal truths of human feeling, of women in love, women betrayed, women as mothers, lovers, widows. The men speak too, as their human selves in love and pain. Margaret Lloyd gives the old stories new life in this excellent collection.”


     — Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales and author of A Recipe for Water



This is a deeply impressive volume, with Lloyd offering poetry that is often profoundly moving, in a language that is beautifully controlled and strikingly unfussy….this is poetry of simple, flexible language that has been very finely honed.


     — Matthew Jarvis, The New Welsh Review, 2007


In her fine new collection of poems A Moment in the Field, Margaret Lloyd channels voices from Arthurian Legend to create poems that sing of the timeless and difficult contradictions of love and desire. These are not poems of the perfect heart, but of the real heart, the heart of imperfections, of vulnerability and tough fragility; of the spirit that resides in the heart and of the heart that answers to the calling of the body….Her craft is one of subtle and sensual observation, of a precision that captures the nuance of difficult choices, of the challenges of fidelity and loss, of the sometimes terrible impact of forces we have no control over.


     — Jonathan Blake, Diner, 2007

Lancelot’s Surrender


Take the armor from my thighs,

the plate from the cage of my heart,

iron from my soft mouth.

Against every instinct, I yield

my stomach, chest, back.

All the places of my body

I defend in war, I cede

to you in love. Place your hand

where no one does. Search

my wounds, walk in the private

monastery of my gut. Against

every instinct, under your hand,

under your mouth, I submit

and I surrender.


A Moment in the Field


Since I first saw him knighted in the court,

in the day and in the night,

in my mind and in my body

I have summoned him. Now

I look at an iron stake and the fire,

waiting for the sun to climb

under the pale blue sky that binds us.

Now, for a moment, I have given up.

The noise of the crowd is a new silence,

the sun on my shoulders, freedom—

a freedom I felt only before

when I was the daughter of a king,

walking in another field

in the first warmth of May.

What can my eyes follow

but a pale yellow butterfly moving

away from me, leaf after leaf?

Not that I am not afraid of burning,

but for a moment,

I tell you, I feel free. Almost

not wanting him to come out of the forest,

throwing a gown over my chemise,

pulling my body up on the back of his horse,

binding me, binding me to him once again.

Last Kiss


I had to faint three times

I had to be lifted up three times

when I saw him walking

through the air between us.

Nothing kept him from me—

not iron bars or bloody hands,

not my cruelty, not his love for God.

I demanded from him more

than I demanded of the king

and he accomplished it.

After the great wars,

after Arthur’s death,

for eight days he rode west

finding me in the abbey

walking in the cloisters with the sisters.

I had to faint three times

I had to be lifted up three times

when I saw him moving

through the air between us.

Though I wanted, like Gawain,

to choose the wound I would die of,

when he asked for one last kiss,

I said no. I said no,

not looking at his eyes,

not looking at his mouth,

but instead at a scar on his cheek.

And again I said no,

sending him into the forest

knowing this time

there was no coming back.

I had to faint three times

I had to be lifted up.

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