A selection of poems written over the past few years – with a few notes, here and there, about how they came to be written, what I was struggling to convey …
Signs of spring pigeon like a sailor see-sawing over grass old grey fox cocking his leg scratching sodden leaves dogwood orange against dark earth dull grey mantle of cloud hardly moving even now on this cold morning buds on the old English rose fat as yeomen stretch and poke first green fingers of Spring on its way Summer afternoon sweat-shadows under oaks damp grass lolling baked clay pans where cattle stamped and flicked - flies worrying eyes and ears buttercups shiver - a pauper’s breath tipping yellow to silver cold at river’s skin a heron prods as if to nudge a fish to life
There is a rhythm to walking that gives muscle to the words as they come to mind and images just emerge like beads threaded on to the line of the walk. The small white church of San Rocco stands high on a rocky bluff beside the sea – it is a popular place, magical, even with lots of people coming and going ….
Pembroke walk gorse-ribs black-spiked on burnt scrub leaning leaning scuffed by heel on pocked trail stonechat calls from granite nob as if lowering sky pulls it out of him crusted gate scabbed latch finger-lift to open twist of boot on glistening boulder look back at dark hill wonder at such wonders song of stone elegy of burning drift of eyes to silver cloud Pilgrims at Camogli even now they ascend hundreds of steps like sparrows chirping until at San Rocco they stand outside by a stone wall gazing out to sea where infinity holds them silent for just a moment
Two poems, two of many, written while travelling by train:
businessman with shiny slow-polished shoes reaches up to take down his jacket unfolds it with care strokes the soft lapels smiles as if he is the richest man alive * flat river sun flashing silver-grey corrugated roof bungalows pirouetting from side-to-side birches high on a bank golden willows tracing waterways through fresh-green meadows five geese heading east us on a train heading the same way ___________________________ Just so everything is just so: room, bed, scarf draped over a cupboard door, breeze pushing curtain with poppies in rows, cars and a football crowd, sliver of dark night, cup of water on the table each thing has its penumbra of uncertainty quivering signature of what it is ___________________________
Around February time, our small pond is filled, overnight, with a horde of frogs. It is mating time and for just a few days they are busy …..
Frog bacchanal chirruping in dark pond carnival of legs, pale throats oodles of spawn water churned paddling of sinuous oars a week ago they were breathing skins deep under ice now they cavort like sumo nymphs stirring water to a gruel of silt and murky waltzes Owain, son of Urien, appears in an old Welsh tale, The Mabinogion. Having heard a story told by his friend, Cynon, in which Cynon follows a mysterious black-haired man to a magical well, Owain heads off for 'the remote regions of the world' in search of the well. After many fantastic adventures he finds not only the well but the Lady of the Well - needless to say, he falls in love with her. The image of Owain setting off for 'remote regions' stayed with me .... Owain’s exile a long road palms, sunflowers, gardens of tombs, carnations and violets a night of longing tomorrow I will walk and walk until I meet the sea and I will quench this thirst on the flat horizon where sun meets water and another day drowns _____________________ I’ve been writing poems or poetic texts since my late teens. I grew up in Whitwick - a small mining and quarrying village in the Charnwood Forest area of Leicestershire. Middle England. Coal and granite country. Most of my spare time – and I had lots of it – was spent wandering in the woods and common land around our solid square stone house with its jackdaws and breeze-whispering Scots pines. As far as I remember I started writing to try to evoke moments of observation, insight and ecstasy in those long hours of meandering through bracken, bilberry bushes and gorse. My friends and I spent days looking for bird’s nests, watching lizards skittering across the granite outcrops or spying on rock doves rising and falling in the quiet air that hung in the abandoned quarry behind our house. We made dens in rock-groves lined with bracken. I helped my uncle with harvesting on his nearby farm. Days of walking, climbing, watching, pondering. My scribblings were usually short – reminders and summonings-up of moments of intense experiences of connection and being-in a particular place. Moments when I dissolved into the landscape and felt the flood of life. Here are a few of those early texts: Cardiff reverie from here first floor window I can see right along Splott Road a name like rainfall scooters turn off it all ways cars and trucks go all the length of it, only the odd one whipping suddenly left or right two kids with fishing rods in leather and canvas cases stalk along the pavement and make trees and hills of houses a gorge of the street dog becomes coyote and neighbours grow feathers Apaches howling and dancing around the belisha beacon what nerve it takes to cross the bouldered road – swirling high water of the Merrimac Thoreau, watch out, these kids have their Walden in the gutter [I studied at Cardiff College of Art] Two poems from October 1967 I. the years rotate…. lopped-off stumps naked round ends of fir branches radiating out at the horizontal tall fir body with crinkly bark furrowed old skin magpie on the eaves looks under runs bounces the rippled roof thrust down lurches into the greenery thick needles close around him hidden he clacks away cluclac klalak low cloud gropes along small whisp of fire-smoke drifts & rolls fades into grey tree-tops II. Robert drags a branch of birch still silver in parts scrapes the gravel makes tracks in the driveway turns it over & over until it pivots on the bramble bushes curves of spruce hang down comb the air just above his head bundles of brown leaves drift around the wheels of the Vauxhall ivy in the distance darkens the first six feet of a dead but standing straight unbranched birch again There is no sign there is no sign of me anywhere where I stand I am not there and everywhere I turn I find no part of myself no spores in the air I cannot see the flat evidence of grass and no arms to hold the non-existent heart the bewildered eye that cannot see itself things and events roam through my head and there is no sign of my not being anywhere