Stocking fillers [10]. Kinda blue


Of late I’ve been taking some comfort from the fact that Anthony Wilson has revived his poetry blog, and I look forward to each new post, partly because there’s sometimes a wistful quality about them that chimes with me for complex reasons I’ll not be sharing. His latest one struck a chord. Particularly because he’s writing not just about struggling to write poetry, but also with the idea of putting it ‘out there’. I’ll add the link in a moment but I just want to share this extract in which he ponders on the ins and outs of keeping away from ‘social media’ …. which he elected to do for the sake of his spiritual/mental well-being; I understand that, totally.

“On another level altogether, it (ie, this deliberate withdrawal) just feels  lonely. I have been battering away at some stuff for a while now, which, thanks to the help of some very kind people, might one day see the light. Some of it is emerging, slowly and cautiously. But it still feels lonely. My instinct is to hide, both the poems and me. Yet out it must. I wish there was another way.

On the plus side, a huge advantage of following McLaverty’s advice is that it can insulate you from what Heaney describes so acutely in the ‘Singing School’s’ final poem, ‘Exposure’: ‘friends’/ Beautiful prismatic counselling/ And the anvil brains of some who hate me’; and ‘what is said behind-backs’. The poets I look up to, Kennelly and Heaney among them, seem to (have) be(en) able to navigate a path between the private and the social (in the fullest sense) which fulfils the obligations of each without cancelling the other out. I aspire to be among them.”

Anyway, while I, like Anthony, am tentatively working on new stuff that may or may not turn out to be the real deal, and while I am less and less confident about sending stuff ‘out there’, whether as submississions or competition entries, I’m re-engaging with new poetry from other folk. I can’t cope with writing appreciations of new collections every week…there’s a bucket list that I’ll deal with as and when. In the meantime, to keep the Cobweb ticking over, I’ll go on making do with stocking fillers. I think today’s suit my mood. And the first one lets me share my pleasure at encountering a new word. Haruspex. Did JKRowling pinch it as the name of a character at some point? If she didn’t she missed a trick.

A premonition

Things could only get better. Or worse.

It was hard to tell. I was cleaning a mackerel.

Or maybe it was a chicken. Definitely

not a rabbit or a squid. But the light that fell

on the wet insides made a kind of pattern.

One of those like when you see the face of Jesus

in a muffin. Though it wasn’t that kind of pattern.

I mean, it wasn’t Jesus. It wasn’t a face at all.

It was more runic, I suppose. Though that’s not it.

Anyway, it was the strangest feeling.

One that says: something awful is about to happen.

Not instantly, but fairly soon.

It wasn’t a cataclysmic flood or purgatorial fire

or death of the firstborn sort of thing,

but it would be awful in a diffuse,

non-specific way. You know when

someone writes in a story about 

a nameless dread. It was exactly that.

I thought perhaps I should tell someone,

but thought I might feel silly. So I didn’t.


And here’s another that was kicked off by a workshop prompt. I think I must have been reading Middlemarch , and, as usual, being much moved by the way Casaubon’s need to be remembered by posterity makes him blind to the fact that he’s essentially a sad failure in the here-and-now

When I come to write my memoirs

I shall hesitate over many things. Pens

for a start. Inks. Nibs. And paper. Lined or plain?

And a routine. A fixed time every day, like Trollope?

Stop after two hours, mid-sentence, regardless.

Or after two thousand words. Or as things dictate?

Middle of the night, esprit d’escalier. Perhaps

a dictaphone? Though transcription is a bore.

An amenuensis would be nice, 

but who would you trust, and they’d want paying,

regular hours. Food and drink and board?

Who knows. Anyway, that’s out.

Notebooks, perhaps. But not Moleskines, in case

people notice, and ask if you’re a writer and then

tell you that they do a bit themselves

and wonder if you’d like to take a look,

and tell you how they’re fascinated

by Temperance, or the evolution of the urban bus.

And then, of course there’s the problem 

of chronology. Alpha to omega? Or start

at the end, work back? Or in the middle?

How do you know where the middle is?

Will there be photographs? And the voice?

Wry? Authoritative? Detatched? Assertive?

Ironically diffident…like Esther Summerson

I have great difficulty beginning my portion of these pages.

That would irk, I fancy. As to a publisher…

a small press, or something with some clout?

Fuck it. I’m off on Facebook.


See you next week. Hopefully. xxxxxx

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