Friday, 4 January 2013


Even as we eat earth in the grave, there is slow change. Nothing is static. An arresting image. There are those who will tell you that if you want to hook the listener or the reader, then you must do so at the outset, make them want to continue. I am not so sure myself.

I think the poet and the writer, needs more than one trick. For me the topic influences form. A poet cannot tackle every idea in the same manner. As the idea spills on to the page it may suggest structure. I was talking about this with a couple of other poets recently and one pointed out that the first line that tumbles on to the page may in fact be the last line, or find its true place in the middle of the poem.

The knack, if it can be called that, is to keep working on the poem until it has its own shape. Then put it away for as long as you can. When you look at it again, you may see flaws that escaped you earlier, when you were too close. Sometimes you get it right and they are whole.

The skill is knowing when to stop. I once refined one of my poems to the point where, when I showed it to another poet, they described it as a skeleton, the bare bones of a poem. I have to say, I never did anything else with it. I suppose I threw the baby out with the bath water.  Another arresting image to end on.

I am going to end with a love poem. During the Freeze Frame broadcast I confessed that I rarely write love poetry. I find it very difficult to capture the mood, the emotion, the essence of what I want to say. I fear I will sound like a bad pop song, hackneyed and vacuous.

The poem refers to a painting I saw in an exhibition years ago in Barcelona at the Diocese Museum. It is by Georges-Hanna Sabbagh, an artist from the 1920s. I cannot find the painting on line, so you will have to take my word for it.

A naked woman sits in a chair, her back is to the bay window, outside it has snowed, we look down on a cityscape, people (and a dog,) walk the snow streets. Inside the woman looks down at her feet, which are on a bright rug. She seems comfortable in her body, lost in her own thoughts, oblivious, or indifferent of the artist.

Desnudo Sobre un Piel-Misremembered Impressions of an Oil painting

Huddled people hurry through the snow.
Inside the room,
She sits with her back to the window,
Naked, her robe casually open,
She rests, Defiant of winter.

She looks out of the painting
Directly, into the eye of her beholder.
She is smiling.
Contrast this with us,
We lie in bed,

Flick through this art book.
My hand traces the line of your thigh,
The descending curve of your stomach.
I kiss your breast.

Until next week.


  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I love the fact that as a poet and a writer, you recognize the power and the limits of words. This frees you to create the beautiful imagery you do in your poems. Lovely.

  2. That's a great poem indeed. I've always been interested in the relationships between artists and their models. There used to be a painting in the Southampton Art gallery of a woman called "Miss Lyn" I think. It was modest yet with a calm sexuality that conveyed the relationship. I never wrote the poem I thought was there and now the picture is gone and I cannot find it anywhere. You are so right about the poem process. I rarely come up with the beginning.

  3. Your description reminds me of a work I saw recently at a local museum.

    Thank you for sharing the poem!