Still out of the loop, or many loops, befogged and becalmed, I nevertheless make a solemn promise that the next post after this one will be final one of the Catching Up series and will feature Martin Malone’s The Unreturning.
I won’t be a review. It’ll be more like a fan letter. I’m not up to analysis and summary and critical aperçus. Enthusiasm is the most you should expect. But there will, fingers crossed, be a lot of poems to enjoy.
A short post tonight, then. As you know by now, ‘stocking fillers’ are mainly stand-alone, one-off, ‘where did that come from?’ poems that more often than not are limited to outings at open mics. But some appear because a prompt in a writing workshop touched a nerve. I think these are the ones I’m most grateful for. Every now and then, at Poetry Business Writing Days, either Ann or Peter Sansom will invite you to think of a writer …novelist, poet, dramatist…and one of his or her creations, and then imagine them meeting somehow in a wholly unlikely location or circumstance. Jane Austen and Mr D’Arcy at a Ban the Bomb march, say. Dickens and Mr Gradgrind at a parents’ evening. As I say, the best times are when you’re ambushed. Why I should think of R.S.Thomas and of Cynddylan I have no idea, and why I should imagine them rubbing shoulders on a Parish trip to a Silver Blades in Swansea or Chester, even less. But here they are…and they even ended up in print, which I’m very happy about.
Cynddylan and the priest at Silver Blades
Hard and slippery, there’s no purchase,
unless, for one, consolation of a kind in bleakness,
the indifference of god, his chill disciplines
and the fear of falling, the nothing of stilled water
and the darkness under all,
and for the other
the thought of earthfasts rising in his frozen fields,
a broken ploughshare
and a shrunk clamp of beets in the lee of a barn.
They have no language for not working.
They want for the cold flags of a chapel,
a plain altar, absolution
for what will not be, precisely, named;
just a dusting of snow, the red of the Fordson,
sharp blue exhaust, a clutter of gulls
and a straight furrow.
.[Published as ‘The priest and the ploughman go skating’ Much Possessed. 2016]
The second, and similar prompt was to imagine the meeting of two writers or artists or otherwise famous people under unexpected circumstances. Norman MacCaig and the mountaineer, Mallory on a broken-down bus in Cambridgeshire, say. Pete Townsend and Beethoven swapping anecdotes about deafness. Peter Benchley and Damian Hirst seated together on a long-haul flight……..What happened on this occasion was that my mind sidestepped the ‘rules’. Possibly I’d been up to Heptonstall and Colden, and remembering lots of visits to Lumb Bank when it’s cold and wet and bleak, and the valley can be sinister. Anyway, Ted and Sylvia metamorphosed into the protagonists of a lost novel.
brittle as a mirror
worrying at little lines
exquisite as ants or wasps
half-aware of an open window
banging somewhere in this long dark house
in a clenched valle
of cold chimneys and black walls
cemented with orphans’ bones
of trees flogging themselves to death
balsam flattened by the weight of air
she cramps herself small and smaller
dreams of dwindling
into the fastness of a shell
white under a full moon
in a sky of no wind
somewhere out in the yard a bucket has blown over
rackets about the cobbles like a big man in a rage
like a man who’d smash his fist into a gritstone wall
and sing about the blood
Thanks for dropping by; it’s always good to see you. Stay safe. Go well.