I am still experimenting with formal #poetry.

Counting our the meter, referencing the form, etc.


Following on from yesterday's political poem affair, I got up in the morning, sipped my coffee and knocked off a political poem....

A passing cloud, black, distracts the sheep at grass;
in unison, forty seven brown marble eyes watch it pass,
weigh the darkness, sniff the rain, keep at the task
of lambing.

The one eyed farmer stands astride the stile, dry stone wall,
he notes, in need of repair. Counting the string of moles
turning coins in his pocket, his dog he calls
by whistling.

The sheep know the dog has teeth, on cue they bleat.
Tracing the path of the pipeline, the farmer leads
his dog, moles on a string, to the next field
for lambing.

Its more of exercise, than a piece. Practicing the triplet and refrain form. With some scales regarding repetition, internal rhyme, enjambment, and pacing thrown in. Alright, it's a bit of showing off really, but, that is strangely appropriate given the activities of Nudelman and friends.

Which left the rest of the day to fill.

My notebook offered no inspiration. I considered doing something about the current Scramble for Africa. Along the lines of the 'the Gatling's jammed and the colonel is dead' with a touch of 'there's a quiet hush in the close tonight', and drawing parallels between Gordon and the present game of hunt the Mahdi in Mali. What rhymes with MINUSMA?

Instead, I decided to go back to the brain cleansing sorbet of writing nonsense. The difference this time being that instead of using sounds, I would use actual words, count the meter, and see what comes out. An accept and build improvisation, if you will.

A Moment of Tension
Amidst the bracken, ferns, the spreading birch,
we find a red brick, half buried. Not much
of a find. Digging it with your toe perched
on point, I trace a faded denim stitch
of your knee length skirt, to a dead nettle.

This morning, spreading toast with marmalade
we talked of little, preferring kettle's
song to accompany the rustling crack
of nylon jackets, rucksacks, boot tying.

The brick tumbles out, half split, with a ring
of grey loam about its middle. Turning,
with that smile, you half skip along the track.

This is the finished version. In the original, 'faded denim stitich' was 'faded denim track', with the rhyme structure being rhyme, half rhyme, rhyme, refrain - assuming you will allow marmalade to be a half rhyme of nettle and kettle (which you probably won't),

There are two things going on here. The first is the art of the ordinary, and the second is that I deliberately made choices in which nothing happens. Thus 'we' whoever they are, find a brick. As she, one presumes by the skirt, digs the brick out with her toe, the other person's (their sex is not specified) hand/eye is drawn by the line is the skirt to a dead nettle. This was rather a big choice, as three or four times, I found myself wanting to write about the scent of the perfume, the sunlight through her hair, something highly personal; and defining of what is happening, and who these people are. I was trying to make something happen. To take it out of the ordinary.

And to stop the soap opera writer in me having the people kiss, or do something meaningful, I pulled out of the scene back to breakfast. This going back in time reigned in the image I had of these two people, in the future, on top of a hill drinking coffee, from a thermos - which is ordinary, but because the time is moving forward, it is a narrative, it is making things happen - it is me, the writer, making things happen.

The brick tumbles out, she smiles and walks off.

End of meter practice, pens down.

All of which makes the process seem effortless. I suppose it took about four hours, plus a couple of hours thinking through the suggested rewrites received in feedback. There was much tapping of the forehead looking for the correct rhyme. Much culling in of words as they broke through to the next line for fear of wasting any of those ten precious beats. A fair bit of tea drinking, and pacing around.

In truth I was a little surprised by the reaction the piece received, a little tearful even. To have a piece described as 'brilliance!' is somewhat shocking. The poem made the short list for editors choice on the Poetry Forum.

So for the final practice of the day I decided to see if I could turn these notes....

the years expand through candled cakes, park swings, broken arms, weekend trips;
through puckered lips, we exchange goodbyes, calling, cajoling, in the grip
of the school run. And, sometimes filtered in moonlight we say hello, slipping
out of character and into role.

.... into a sonnet.


The years expand by candled cakes, park swings,
kissed scrapes, weekend trips. The rota of meals
negotiated, shouts, hard bargaining
tears over peas, sausage, chocolate deals
broken, The chair takes on our silhouette
pressed down by monster cuddles and stories.

Pecked tokens of goodbye, without regret,
outweigh moonlit greeting; when closed eyes
remind us, that tea and kindness, are not
all we share. No ring was ever stronger
than your embrace. Ten hands entwined, knotted,
around the single vision to conquer
those sunny uplands, seen in a baby's thumb,
which showed what was not, and what was to come.

T'missus likes it.

I'm more pleased to have got through the test of form.

Cue random picture for the facebooks window...

The Blue Book, now with cheese pixels, only £1.84