Tuesday, 23 February 2021

JOHN KEATS, POETRY, LIFE & LANDSCAPE

 

I am so pleased to have the opportunity to share with you a new book about John Keats on the anniversary of his death. The wondrous Suzie Grogan just published this amazing book of her journey in his footsteps and influence of the landscape on his work. Over to you Suzie.



John Keats has been with me for many years, since my teens in fact, as a poet, as a man of letters and as a wise companion – his letters are full of the most wonderful insights into matters both worldly and personal. He has taken me on a journey with poetry that has given me a love of the art and an appreciation of what makes a poem a ‘good’ one. I have studied him in depth, but my appreciation is not just academic. Following in his footsteps has taken me into landscapes both historical and contemporary, with poets famous, and less well known. I would always advise even the most cynical person to find a poet who speaks to them as Keats does to me. As I say in my book, John Keats: Poetry, Life & Landscapes, ‘poetry distils the very essence of what it means to be human and to experience the joy, pain and occasionally sheer routine of being alive.’ It is not mere dreaming. It comes from somewhere deep within us.

Keats is not known as a poet of ‘place’ as Wordsworth is for example but walking with him it soon became clear that he was as influenced by landscape as any poet. The ‘landscape’ of London for example – both central and outer limits (he was born in Moorgate, trained at Guy’s Hospital and is best known for living in Hampstead) and of the home counties – Oxford, Chichester, Winchester, The Isle of Wight. In 1818 on a walking tour of the Lake District and Scotland he wrote no ‘classic’ great poetry, but images he absorbed on that journey are crucial to his development as a poet and appear in work he wrote the next year. ‘I never forgot my stature so completely;’ he wrote: ‘I live in the eye, and my imagination, surpassed, is at rest.’



 As impressed as he may have been by a view, however, he was still influenced by daily events of personal, local and national importance, as many poets are.

When we are at school, we are often required to read poetry out of context and without knowing much about the poet, their motivation or biography. This doesn’t always matter – poetry can speak to us on such a deep personal level that it is almost as if we had written it ourselves - but it is why so many still think of Keats as a poet ‘out of this world’, alive only as he reads the classics and dreams of the past. His place as a poet of landscape and of history, affected as much by contemporary events as his peers, like Shelley, has been the focus of the most recent scholarly work and has established Keats as a robust and pugnacious man, a loyal friend, a keen traveller and a poet of place. It is time we dispelled forever the myth of the consumptive youth, lying limp on a sofa in Hampstead and being nursed in Rome until his death from TB aged just 25.  

Thanks Suzie. It is interesting how people are parceled up into simple ciphers that can easily be sold to the public. 

You can read reviews of her book [and purchase a copy] here. It is an excellent read, treat yourself.

Until next time.

Friday, 19 February 2021

HYDRANGEAS FLOOD THE HOUSE

 


In this endless lockdown I am finding it increasingly more difficult to write. I draw much of my inspiration from the outside world and that necessarily has contracted to what is local, within walking distance and I know I am luckier than most. I have beaches and parks within minutes of my house. I give thanks for that.

All of this is the lead up to this post's poem which is about sleeping or rather dreams.

the night in five segments

1.

hypnagogic patterns

or people endlessly morphing

projected on the cave wall of my skull


always I wonder if I’ve seen them before

weigh their significance


fall into the black


2.

but for not as long

as you might expect

just one hour or two


hydrangeas flood the house with the smell of winter


the night is still


3.

so I don’t look at my hands

though there is something I must do

this buzzing internal puzzle


I walk through that door and

am under the ocean


4.

awake at three or four

this house a dreamscape

the floor boards in the bathroom

wooden warm smooth


the tree dances in the street light


5.

this final waking in

the winter's miserly light


a rich day waits

ritual begins


at the kitchen table

I recall the hectic night


I have been working on this poem for the last couple of weeks and I hope it conveys that dreamlike world we experience waking in the night. I shall put it away until the summer now. As I have said many times before, time grants us distance to see the flaws in our work.

Here's Ryley Walker. He has a new album out in April. This is a taster.

Until next time.

Friday, 12 February 2021

THE CLOCK IS RUNNING DOWN

 

Sadly I attended the funeral of my mother in law last Friday. It was, like all these Covid times, unlike anything I had ever experienced before.

I shall miss her. She was a good woman. She was a strong woman. She was part of that generation that came of age in the Second World War. She did not have it easy. She made a good life for herself and her family. She welcomed me into that family. I shall miss her.

double masked


eleven people in a chapel


the clock is running


down


on our fifteen minute slot


if I had though about it

and I had not

I would not have imagined it this way


cut


with flashes of every sad ceremony

I had ever attended

If this poem is anything, it is therapy. Sometimes we have to write to make sense of life, meaning only becomes clear when words are on the page.

You can read another poem about my mother in law here.


Annabelle Chvostek has a new album out in March. Here is the second single.


Until next time.

Friday, 5 February 2021

A TENT ON THE FLAT ROOF

 


This is based on a real incident. As it happened in the 1980s I think I am safe to tell about a friend who camped for a summer on one of the flat roofs of the university we attended. He maintained that no one looked up and anyway his tent was well concealed. The quote is from John Milton.

the hungry sheep do not look up- Milton

Clive climbed that wall

shinned up the side of A Block

kept a tent on the flat roof

and lived up there the whole summer

confident he would not be discovered

as if he had worked out an equation

the rest of us had missed


I had the idea for the poem as I was falling asleep one night but wrote it down a day or two later. I like to let the ideas percolate these days.

This second poem was written in the summer.

unbeknown to you

this patch of grass

has razor sharp reflexes

and as you absently

place down your glass

they conspire to tip it over

and feast on the spilled red wine


The poem is what it is, a brief observation, though the stalks of grass did appear to be on springs, pushing upwards as the glass tumbled over.

Joy Crookes is recording her first album at the moment. Here's a reminder of just how good she is.

Until next time.

Friday, 29 January 2021

THE WEDDING GUESTS LIKE A RIVER

 


I usually remember my dreams on waking and some times they organise themselves into a poem. 

dream number two


the wedding party spilled from the building

not caring relaxed laughing


I searched you out noted you had changed back

into the dress you wore the day before


there was no need for words

there never had been


the cars quickly became bored with waiting

their horns began to honk


the wedding guests like a river

flowed into the souk


I was left on the pavement


You can read number one here.

dream number three


I dreamed you last night

you had not aged


I cannot remember what you said

just your smile


that quiet calm that was

always at your centre


that’s all

I woke up feeling one skin short


as if I had slept too long

and woken in the wrong world


I was pleased with the feel of all three poems, they capture that longing.

The wondrous Annabelle Chvostek has a new album coming out soon. I for one can't wait. Here is the first single Walls


Until next time.

Monday, 18 January 2021

NO ONE SPOKE

 


It was customary, having completed the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, to burn the clothes you had walked in on the beach at Cape Finesterra before sailing back to where ever it was you had come from. I have not undertaken the pilgrimage myself, but I met my wife and her sister at Santiago after they had completed the pilgrimage. I was thinking of our trip to Finesterra the other day and was inspired to write.

Cape Finesterre


finally the fire caught

aided in no small part

by the razor wind

that cut across the beach


we watched the clothes we had worn

all those long miles to Santiago burn


then looking beyond the sea

to where our former lives waited

knew they would be lived differently


no one spoke

These days you are requested not to burn your clothing on the beach, too much pollution, especially from the synthetic fibres that comprise much of modern walking clothes.

I suppose the kernel of the poem is the question of how do you return to your old life after such an experience? A question I think most people face at some point in their lives. 

Here's The Alpacas. Their album Pictures of You is well worth a listen.

Until next time.

Friday, 15 January 2021

YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE

 


The Mad Emperor Across the Water continues to break records even in his twilight days, though being impeached a second time is nothing to be proud of, but nothing else in his tenure has been either...

Since the start of the pandemic there have been at least five, sometimes seven, cruise liners at anchor either in Lyme Bay or Tor Bay. They are both a spectacular and a sad sight. I cannot help but think of the people who staff these empty, floating hotels and how they would probably like to be back at home with their families.

This poem is not about the ships. 

Wallshill summer 2020

the three of them

stop

by the wire fence

by the flowers

by the memories


by the sign that reads

danger crumbling cliffs


the other side is all space

and sea and rocks

they take in the parked cruise ship

waiting it out in Lyme Bay


the views are amazing he tells them

you only live once

doesn’t matter if you die


and like the gentleman he is

he parts the wires

so they can limbo through


I would like to stress that the people in the top photograph are nothing to do with the poem. I have used it because I like the composition and I would like to thank them.

This second poem is from an email, it relates to a project I was involved in some time back. When I read the email I thought it was a poem in itself, a found poem. 

Directive


If you could gather some poems

filter down to three max

pick some very different topics

our audience has limited interest

war, mental health and feminism

are all hot topics at the mo

or, maybe one that is,

uniquely Marjons- that could fly!

I love the enthusiasm of the narrator and their take on the world...

I have been listening a lot to Untitled [Black is] by Sault. A superb album. Here is Widlfires.

Until next time.