I have decided to alternate my posts between the background and characters of CO2 and writing about poetry. I first became interested in poetry after I heard Leonard Cohen’s second lp Songs From a Room when it came out in 1969, I was thirteen at the time and having read in a music paper, that Leonard was a poet, I rushed to the local library and borrowed the collected works. I think in retrospect that it was at this point in my life I made the decision to be a poet.
I did not really show much of what I was writing to people until I was in my twenties, when I started to get the hang of it. There followed a period when I would sporadically send poems off to magazines or competitions and some would get published, most would not. It was not until the 1990’s that I began to seriously apply myself to the craft, before that I would wait for inspiration and when I first began, influenced no doubt by the fallacy that the Beats never revised (they did, they just kept it quiet), favoured spontaneity over craft. While it is true that technique by itself creates hollow poems, I have honestly never seen a poem that was not the better for revision.
Here is a very old poem, from 1974. It’s very much a young person writing, full of indescribable desire and wanting.
I sat on the beach
Wanting to be a seagull,
To be able to fly away.
A forlorn Icarus
With no wings to burn.
A solitary figure on a cold beach,
Wanting an ideal
That was out of his reach.
Looking at it all these years later I think it could do with revision, for a start I am not enamoured with the repetition of the word beach, why would I be a forlorn Icarus? At least by being forlorn I am alive. And that rhyme at the end.... This was the oldest poem that made it into my first book. What do you think of it?
I am in a period of waiting at the moment, waiting for CO2 to be drawn and waiting for my second poetry collection Blessed by Magpies, to be released by Lapwing Publications. So here is a taster from the book.
The first poem is one I posted on my old blog a soon after writing. It is a popular poem when I do readings.
THE GREAT ELVIS IMPERSONATORS RIOT of 1996
I saw Elvis thump Elvis,
Knock him to the deck,
I watched Elvis head butt Elvis
And Elvis fall on his sequined back.
Elvis’ pink sock was visible
As he put the brothel creeper in,
After that it was all a flurry, capes and karate chops,
Flying fists and flailing quiffs.
Who Called the cops?
I heard it was Elvis.
The Rapid Response boys didn’t give a damn,
They just bundled Elvis after Elvis into the van,
And it was Jailhouse Rock all over again.
This next one I started while on holiday in Wales, it took some work to get it the way I wanted it, I had to remove the extraneous details and I’m still not happy with the makeshift hospital line. I find that sometimes I have to do much research to get an authentic vision but the trick is not to burden the finished work with that research.
ABERAERON STATION 1917
On the platform the soldier smokes,
Each match a one handed conjure.
Sacks of grain, stacks of uniforms,
Are to be loaded on that train,
Once the wounded have disembarked,
Transferred to the makeshift hospital.
On the platform the soldier sighs,
Charts the limits of the killing zone,
It is here, in this rural exchange.
A tribute is paid in goods and lives,
With the possibility of healing,
Should you return.
When we were on holiday in Abraeron, a coastal town in South Wales, I read about how the big hotel had been converted into a hospital for the wounded troops and it made me realise just how every part of the country had been affected by the First World War. I was struck by the transaction there must have been on the railway station platform; the injured exchanged for materials that enabled them to continue fighting. Such scenes must have been re-enacted all over the island. It must have been a terrible time.
This last poem is another about magpies, do you say “Good morning Captain” and salute when you see one? I do.
The copper penny set
In the vast blue is ignored
The Captain rises
On awkward wings
Makes hard work of flight
His cold eye is set
On the silver sliver
Of the tardy moon