This is from January 1997. A poem about walking in the dark, colliding with the dawn…
Darkest Before Dawn
Movement, just there, branch
Like a windscreen wiper
Over moon. Ineffective.
Then stillness till the screech
Of car beyond
Reminds me of houses
And all that goes with them.
Pennines, slumbering jurassics,
Backdrop to the carnival
The midway of the valley.
If only I were out there,
Looking back at where I am!
How we hold the past
Like a scrapbook, defacing
The future with memories!
My feet paused here last summer
And a snowfall later
The star-and-shadow sky
Looks much the same.
And however far my feet might
Take me, the return
Will be just memory in reverse;
Even though my hand
Can blot a constellation
It is only for my eyes -
I cannot halt the time
Or change the motion of the skies.
If only it would all stay still,
These moments might collect
Like evidence, a photofit of being.
Too soon, the sun, edge
Rising to slice at sky, opening
The wrists of morning.
I wrote this about a girl I once knew. She was agoraphobic. I tried to imagine what it was like and this poem was the result! An illustrated version of this poem first appeared in FLUX magazine, an arts and culture magazine I think is still going and on sale in the newsagents of Manchester
The world is too vast today,
Tops of buildings
No nearer than nebulae
And dizzy as stars.
How you must envy the girl
Who does not fear the sky,
The clouds her wig
In procession of pleasure,
Intimate with blue.
Love is always too far,
Distant as colour from monochrome,
Perfect as the world that waits
To suck and spread you out.
How you must envy the man
Who sits and shivers
In his dark, hating the walls
That squeeze out atmosphere,
Unafraid of openness.
Your view is cinemascope,
Lens at every angle,
Surrounded by voices
That hush and shush you
As eyes hammer nails into flesh;
Light drags you this way and that,
Kissing you and kissing you,
Greedy as a vacuum
And as merciless.
No choice but to ripple inward,
Hit the deck as life snipes,
Crawl from the crowd
And find some womb to hide you.
How you must envy the walking
Who do not suffer hurt from space,
Who do not need to fear,
Who do not feel the stretch of emptiness.
It’s the middle of the night, and I remember during long periods when I was unemployed and frustrated, I would emulate Marcel Proust by maintaining a nocturnal existence. I’ve always been of a nocturnal bent, really – I love the interesting pause in the world when everyone else (at least locally!) is asleep, and I am free to wander in midnight’s kingdom with my thoughts and dreams. Here I am in the middle of the night again, I’ve been working on my business all day, it’s become really late, and I’m getting that middle of the night melancholy feeling. So I thought I’d dig out this strange little poem which dates from around 1997 or 1998. I haven’t written any new poems yet. Maybe I will. Maybe I need the catharsis that comes from shedding the old poems, like shedding a skin, getting rid of them in a sense, moving them from the hidden confines of my hard drive…
Old sorrows in the night,
Rain like a galaxy at the window
Under streetlight, web of darkling
Fantasies my cold soul,
In its madness, spins.
The sky is my fretboard:
A million notes I play like chaos,
A thousand twangling nothings
That stir the heart like pain
And overture the morning.
This stillness, its grief:
The quiet mind filled
With the prophecy
Of dawn seeping upwards
Like a lapping tide.
And there, that edge of sun
Like a rough blade
Hacking at the wrists of clouds,
Lets out its slick of red
Spraying light like an artery.
New sorrows start the day:
Rain like a bloodstain at the window.
Under the chill sun, meanings twitch
At curtains, birds gather:
Familiars, hieroglyphs, portents.
I deliberately didn’t post anything on Valentine’s Day. It would have been far too distasteful to dig out a love poem and post it just because a particular day demanded it. Last post was a simple love poem, this one is about something more specific. Just one of those nights with an epiphany, an awakening of sorts. And the starfish, sometimes, still lingers…
Sleepless in Surbiton
Shadows patrol the ceiling like the bulks of boats
As fish might see them from their dark.
You float beside me, stirring now and then
Like a buoy that signals the edge of deep water.
Rest won’t come to me, maybe because
I haven’t learned how to dream here yet,
Or because, close to your seaweed hair, I know
That this last sinking is all I will have left of you.
Our bodies turn and touch, two pebbles
Stirred by the churn of water, snatching breath.
If you wake I cannot tell, can only sense
The flutter of your heart, frantic as oxygen escaping.
And then you turn away with your deepening secrets,
And I look at you, lying like a metaphor
Of sand presenting itself to the ocean, and outside
Blackbirds signal dawn like gulls on a dreary spit.
And I slip from your side like a tide going out,
Leave in those rockpool eyes, this starfish of my heart.
A simple little poem, probably best consigned to the poetic dustbin, but since it’s 12 months before it would be appropriate to publish it again, I thought I might as well include this very short old poem from my student days (we’re talking about February 1990 here!). I am still working up to actually starting writing again, any new poems will be published under the poems 2006 category. I really hope I can start producing some high quality poetry again (assuming I ever did before!)
Letter in February
She likes the snow. I am gladdened
By the warmth it gives her, the little
White flames of beauty clinging to her hair.
She is mystery, and comes from
The home of the snow. The flakes are
Her nostalgia, an intricacy of memories.
The snow is my love, irrevocably drifting.
I wrote this poem when I was supposed to be working. As the title suggests, I was in an office at the time. It’s quite a sad and desperate piece, but then the futility of humdrum daily life can often be quite sad and desperate. I’ve been very busy lately running the business that is supposed to give me more time to write, but this poetry blog will get there. I already changed the name, and put it in my own name. There’s ego for you. But I think putting my name to the work is a fair exchange for sharing them with the world for free I do write more cheerful, less serious poems, but I have to admit I do have tendencies towards the melancholy. It’s a habit I’m trying to break, though!
OK then, Office Hours. Dedicated to the millions who look from the window of their office, and dare to question the 9-5 slog…
Sky snares attention,
Roofs lean towards the perpendicular
Of desire, shadows
Serpent in corners,
Billow and writhe
In peristalsis of fire.
Surely some tenderness
Waits in the fingers that press
Into the blindness
My days describe?
Nibble in the guilt of winter.
I have no bones
For the nipping dog to shake but mine;
My clacking life portrays its end
In the thousand little failures
That the hours cast up.
And I have done little
But bleed since the wound
Whose hand casts the spell
That diminishes success?
When will love fill this mirror
Where I hang my emptiness?
What future can declare itself
Against this endlessness?
I’m starting with some old stuff. This one’s about thinking and writing, and that’s all I’ll say…
A footprint on the moon? Yes, a step
In the once-happeningness of pilgrimage;
Then, the furtive overlapping of cloud.
My heart tills an alertness of love,
Setting store for tomorrow’s troubles.
I hunker down by the field of drought
To see what can be kept, what withers.
Seasons choose wetness or dryness
But human frames adapt, improve and swell
The harvest of mere accidents.
Still among scatter-crow panic I drop safe
In a hearth place of anywhere.
This hold of mind. This net of being.
These lines I press and furrow, my smudge
Among the the fingerprints of vision.
Welcome to my blog, which I’ve called Blog Poetica for the time being. It could change – life’s like that, constantly evolving. I have changed so much in the last ten years it defies expression, but that’s what this blog is about. It might seem like a personal blog, but it’s not; it’s my art demanding expression. Anyway, you’ll find out more about me as time goes on – hopefully through my poems.
For too long I let the “powers” that be, ie the editors of poetry magazines, dictate their terms and basically bury my poetry under a morass of criticism, vituperation, personal attacks and rejection. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy some level of success. I got paid for my first poem when I was 18, had quite a few published, and gave numerous performances. I waited for that breakthrough, that elusive moment which stands clear in the mind – “I’ve made it!” It never came, and as the rejections outweighed the acceptances and the criticism dulled the positive edge of the encouragement, I began to feel under pressure as circumstances vied with my beliefs and sent me on a strange path, to be sure. Full time work destroyed my creativity, and what little I had left wasn’t willing to stand up to the constant pile of rejections telling me, in essence, that I was not a poet, that I was not even a good writer, that I basically had no idea how to write a good poem. There were voices, friendly voices, that spoke otherwise, but they were muted by the thousand slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. To borrow a phrase…
But now I’m back, having been through a mill of sorts. I’ve worked out a way of making a living that will give me time to write – and I’m going to self publish through the Internet medium of the blog. Thanks to the internet, I don’t have to bow to the whims and outrageous prejudice of a few poetry magazines editors, whose only aim, as far as I could see, was to destroy the inspiration and kill the spirit of a genuine poet (and human that I am I took their criticisms and attacks personally!). I will publish my poetry here on this blog, and as an experiment I’m also going to see if I can make some money out of the blog – yes, unashamedly, I’m going to make my poetry pay (or cry trying!)
Soit! As the French might say.