Thursday, 25 August 2011


This post is going to be very brief as I am on my way out of the door to the Purbeck Folk Festival, where, as regular readers of this blog will know, I am Festival Poet.

Before going though, I wanted to share a poem with you that I wrote some time ago that is linked to festivals. I had a dream that I was at a festival and watching a parade of clowns, there was something about Charlie Parker-the great Bird, being the only person who could have resolved the saxophone solo. When I woke I jotted down some words, then later after much revision came this:


The big top is burning down.

Nearby we are erecting another tent

That will flame in its turn.

We all want to see the circus,

To somehow be part of the bacchanal

(Secretly we fear the clowns).

Look! The clowns are marching.

Purposeful, oblivious of the smoke,

They blow crazy themes

On cracked instruments.

The tarnished saxophone breathes a solo

That cannot be resolved.

The parade passes us by.

The proud clowns discordant.

We want to walk in the procession,

To weave through a field

Where tents outnumber the stars.

Looking at it now there are a number of things that stand out; I think the poem loses something from the last stanza being only five lines instead of six. Form is more important than some people would have you believe. There is also something unsaid, at the time I remember thinking that as some people die others are born and this became tangled up with the idea of tents, the clowns then become what I tend to refer to as The Big Parade (this is from spending my youth watching old films).The Big parade is an old King Vidor film I saw as a student, essentially it’s a war film, though for me the phrase came to mean the pageant of life, the people walking the streets as you go to the library or shopping or just for a walk, all that flow of humanity. I think this may have been a theme of the film, I can’t remember. Before you say it I know 10,000 Maniacs used it as the title of a song-but that was after I’d seen the film, honest. I am that old.

However, I digress. What does this disclosure lend to the poem? Whatever you want it to. People will respond from their own lives, with their own experience and what it means will be unique to them.

Someone once asked me if I ever wanted to write an autobiography, the thought had never crossed my mind, my life hasn’t been that interesting. Then it occurred to me that every poem is a slice of history, a fractal of biography, and aspiration, to transcend the personal and attempt to speak to all people. I hope this poem makes sense for you; I still like the last two lines, if I was to write it today I suspect they would be the starting point. How times change.

Anyway I must away to Purbeck. Have a good weekend whatever you are up to.

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