Best of 2018. November and December: Tom Weir and Christopher North

 Tom Weir

(and once more, WordPress defeats me. The poem is in couplets. Visualise it in couplets, hear the line breaks)



You used to say there was magic in these stairs—

pistons turning, hammers getting to work,

springs being fixed onto the wings of birds.

I used to tiptoe because, under my feet,

there were clouds about to burst

and one night I dreamt I stamped so hard

rain fell and buried the village like Pompeii.

I still remember the step that kept

all the loose bits of storm, the one where trams

and buses went to be repaired

and the one that held curfews like ice about to break.

You used to say if we opened them up

we’d see men throwing wood onto the sun,

find out where waterfalls began,

but this chill has nothing to do with water.

Why did you never tell me about the one

that hid black ice? Or this one that sinks

under me now like a landmine, leaves me frozen

while everyone else carries on up to your room

to say goodbye and I cannot move?

Part of the magic of this poem, for me, is the way it understands how children imagine, how they are formed by chance encounters and stories whose tellers never imagined the impact they might have, and how our childhood is carried in us, and how we can be startled back into it, and in some ways become as powerless as a child. The framing narrative is kept used to say …. these stairs …everyone else…..your room.The detail is kept for the stories of each tread, the fabulous tales told to a child who will never forget them. And then there’s the power of the image of one rooted to the foot of a staircase and its narrowing closed off perspective. I love the way poem pivots on that one line .why did you never tell me?  In its control and contained love and grief it does everything I want in a poem. Lovely

Christopher North

Finally, a poem about friendship to finish what, out there, in what politicianns like to call “the real world” , has been a horrible year. Thank you to all the poets who have been guests on the cobweb this year, and constantly reminded me that what survives of us is love.

The Night Surveyor: Dartington Gardens

(For Ben Okri)

After the farewell party we grabbed a bottle

and, on your suggestion, headed into the gardens,

pitch dark, rustling leaves, I don’t know how many came.

Giggling, without a torch we found the Tiltyard,

above us Cassiopeia, a slumped Great Bear.

Now be our night surveyor you said.

I declared to the six (or were there seven?):

‘The Cypress is twenty metres from the twelfth Apostle;

the fountain, two chains, fifteen eleven

Starlit dunes of Devon fields gleamed above trees

as we crossed silvered lawns and I announced:

we are four hundred feet above the sea

then led them up endless steps, finding risers with gentle kicks.

There’s this place of seven echoessomeone whispered

someone counter-whispered: No there’s only six.

Full fathom five.. I shouted from the bastion. 

No please not that one surveyor  you murmured, 

O trees of dark coral made?  – ‘No try something else.

Some bow or brooch or braid or brace, lace, latch or catch…

No echo but a leaden voice climbed inside my ear.

Over Staverton, or Berry Pomeroy’s lowly thatch

hung Jupiter, no Venus, or was it Mars?

One shouted:  I embrace the universal me,

voice cracked and small beneath shades and stars.

Two melted into trees: We remaining passed round wine.

The town below lolled in sodium as if bathing

and you yawned Get us back surveyor, I think it’s time.

I counted steps. Shadows rose and fell in bands.

Feeling for damp and stone, plotting silhouettes 

and shadows, gradually we became a chain of hands.

I really like the filmic quality of this, a film by Peter Greenaway…the draughtsman’s contract. The story of the bunch of tipsy chums stumbling around in the dark under a huge starlit sky, stumbling over silvered lawns, declaiming of bits of Shakespeare, the absurdity of it that gradually comes to its senses, and back to earth as The town below lolled in sodium. I love the way the declaiming poet comes back to the role of the measuring and sensible surveyor and the group of friends who became a chain of hands. The whole thing is witty, elegantly constructed, and ultimately life-affirming, lyrical and loving.

So there we are. Thank you to all the cobweb guest poets of 2018. I hope you all have a happy and successful 2019.

Why not make a start by submitting your poems about food, or food related poems, or poems with taste and flavour and possibly a recipe for a better world to The Fenland Reed. It’s a handsome journal edited by lovely folk. Go on. You know you should.

Here’s your link.

4 thoughts on “Best of 2018. November and December: Tom Weir and Christopher North

  1. John, there are two easy ways to type poems in WordPress. One is to switch to the HTML editor, in which one click of the enter/return key gives a line break and two a stanza or paragraph break. The other is to stay in the visual editor, which I gather is your preferred mode, and simply hold down the Shift key whenever you press Enter if you only want a line break and not a stanza break.


  2. Thank you for taking the time, Dave. I think the problem is that a) my guest poets send me Word Docs which I copy and paste or b) I copy and paste bits from earlier blogs. It’s only recently started buggering about. The editing screen that I set to Classic mode is now full of text boxes and I haven’t figured out what they’re all about. I only type new prose commentary text into each post direct in WordPress…that’ seems to be no problem. Onwards and upwards. I just wish all these tech geeks would work on the principle that if it works then leave it alone. Thank you anyway. May 2019 find the world waking from the sleep of reason and ousting all the lunatics and megalomaniacs who have taken over the asylum and privatised/assett-stripped it. xxxxx


    1. Ah, OK. Yeah, there used to be a handy “import from Word” tool in the visual editor and they did away with that, didn’t they? I used to run into problems when copy/pasting my mother’s columns into her site. Fortunately, I trained my dad to use WordPress, so now it’s his headache. I wish I could be of more help, but almost all my sites are self-hosted; the only one on is a very basic photoblog which doesn’t require any fancy text manipulation.

      I agree in general that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but more and more people are adopting dead-simple website creators instead of WordPress, which in most cases are not open source and use crap code, so I do kind of support the impetus behind the move to a more intuitive editor… eventually more intuitive. Right now, it’s total bollocks.

      Echoing your wishes for the New Year. Adelante!


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