Image by Caroline Forbes

Monologue in the Valley of the Kings

Anthony Thwaite


Monologue in the Valley of the Kings

Anthony Thwaite


Poem introduction

People occasionally ask me "which is your favourite poem?", or "which do you think is your best poem?", or "if there was only one poem of yours that was going to survive, which would you like it to be?". And I quite often, rather riskily, name 'Monologue in the Valley of the Kings'. I think I can remember how it came about, more or less; I was working in Libya in the mid-1960s, and went with the family on holiday, it must have been the winter of 1966, to Egypt, and went to both the Valley of the Kings in upper Egypt and to the Archaeological Musem in Cairo, and that seemed to start something off, but then it was back in England in 1967 and going to the mummies in the British Museum that gave me a lot of it. It took a long time to write! Initially, it wasn't a poem about Pharaohs and whatnot at all, it was something about the secret self, but it was all going wrong, but suddenly all this Egyptian stuff started coming into it. It is, in fact, meant to be spoken in the voice of some hitherto undiscovered Pharaoh lying there deep in this Valley of the Kings in his tomb, and he's talking to an archaeologist in the present day, up on the surface, who is looking for him.

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