Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Sadness of Telegraph Poles

I read a modern poem on
the sadness of telegraph poles.
It moved me greatly, and I wept
   – insert a simile here, please.

Not enough people dwell upon
the sadness of telegraph poles,
for if they did, I feel that we
   – insert a metaphor here, now.

If you don’t like the concept of
the sadness of telegraph poles,
don’t blame the poem or the poet
   – insert deficient feelings here.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Get thee to a Library!

Commissioned by Poetry on Loan, Halesowen Library,
23rd April 2016

When I discover that my library books
Are due to be, or not to be, returned,
I summon up remembrance of trips past.
How long, I wonder, can it take to put
These books back in their rightful place? Five minutes?
Then I consider every tale that might
Be found within its calm and tranquil walls,
And readjust my schedule: half-an-hour
At least is what I think I’ll need inside
This wondrous horde of books which do beguile
The world; this library in fair Halesowen!
For seven days a week, I’ll find it opens
Upon the hours and times of my desire:
From nine till seven, mainly; ten till two
On Sundays; Saturdays, they close at five.
   I’m greeted by the smiling face of Tom,
A library assistant who is most
Forthcoming with his help – like all the staff!
The books are given back, and thus I can
Return in happy mood to scan the shelves
Once more, and quite forget the time, as I
Ensconce myself beside a much read bookcase.
A tower of several tomes accrues. Although
The library lets me take out twenty,
I stop at six. My watch persuades me that
I ought to make some tracks, and off I go.
   At other times, I take my kids to do
Their homework in the Children’s area,
Where I have seen their hungry minds at work
As they research their projects on computers,
Reserved each day from three till five. When they
Were younger, time was in abundance, mornings
Could last forever and the sanest thing
To do was take them to the library
For Rattle and Rhyme or Story and Rhyme;
And on the weekend, two full hours of Craft,
For there is more to this fine place than books,
You know! What’s new to learn? What’s new to find?
Three reading groups for adults, and a Book
Club too; a monthly local History Talk;
Assistance for the digitally confused
(Alas, ‘tis true, I’m in their ranks); a group
For all creative writers (true, I’m in
Their ranks as well); a room for hire; they even
Have a Japan Club! (Once a month, teenagers.)
   And in this age of fiscal frailties,
What’s there to have that’s free for us to use?
This library, of course! This monument
To wisdom and community; this place
Where we can share and grow and learn and live.
O, great Halesowen, that has such wonders in it!

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Seasonally Affective Dishcloth

Retreat towards the safety of
   An English afternoon,
With croquet lawns, and pots of tea,
   And calendars marked June,
And lemonade and cricket bats,
And tennis lawns and frilly hats,
   And evening light which never fades too soon.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Speed Awareness Doggerel, Parts One and Two

Several years ago, I went on a speed awareness course.

*Just because it looks like you’re taking notes, it doesn’t mean that you are, 
or, 'Beware of poets "taking notes" '*

Part One: Course Leader Triolet

All patronizing, dull, verbose,
Diminutive and witless too,
But interesting? Not even close,
From Patronizing-Dull-Verbose,
Who wants to give us all a dose.
He thinks he’s funny; that’s not true.
All patronizing, dull verbose,
Diminutive and witless too.

(Being diminutive was his only saving grace)

Part Two: Woeful Doggerel to Stave off Boredom

We drivers, who have all been slightly naughty,
Like doing forty-six instead of forty,
Or failing to recall our cars were nifty,
By doing fifty-eight within a fifty,
Or seeing if our cars could speed aplenty,
By going twenty-nine instead of twenty,
Are gathered in a room to be subjected
To idiotic tedium, directed
Towards each careless automotive criminal,
Thus keeping any future speeding minimal. 

Ode on a Six-String

   Guitars are still the coolest thing,
   That you can do with wood and string.
The sound they make is earthy yet metallic,
The shape of them is feminine but phallic.
      They lend an air of cool,
      To geek or god or fool;
   Extensions of our human soul,
   Embodiment of rock ‘n’ roll;
Within each one is waiting to be found,
A vast, orchestral universe of sound.

   Guitars can cast a darker spell,
   To send their poets down to hell;
They steal the Devil's tunes and then return,
And on the way, guitars and poets burn.
      A sonic purple haze,
      To startle and amaze,
   Is what remains for us to hear;
   The poets never reappear,
Forever lost beneath the aural waves,
They take their unplayed music to their graves.

   Guitars: to you we raise our hats,
   You Les Pauls, Flying-Vs and Strats.
Though simply strummed by mediocre hands,
Or held aloft above the greatest bands,
      You make the world your own,
      With each celestial tone,
   And wear the instrumental crown,
   While lesser instruments bow down.
A sonic mesmeriser like no other,
And everyone who plays you is a brother.

A Lesson on Anglo-Saxon Poetry

We silent sit and see the screen
show magic images of the man: Beowulf.
As this tale is told, I tell the class
about the book of Beowulf: ancient poetry.
I try and lead towards learning; help them understand the lines:
a stich, a hemi-stich, a story told
with lilting alliteration in the lines’ lengths.
I pause to point out priceless Kennings:
a wondrous word-hoard; weapons of power.

A Fix

My fix, for fixing’s what I need,
   Is Earl Grey tea, both strong and black.
I don’t do nicotine or weed,
   Or LSD or H or crack,
   Cocaine or speed or ‘e’ or smack.
To get me started, nothing’s finer
Than Earl Grey tea (in fine bone china).

A Brief List, Which Should Be Slightly Longer, of Things Worth Living for

The sound of rain inside a tent,
   A cloudless English summer sky,
A promise kept, a letter sent,
   And knowing those we hate will die.

The memory of a childhood place,
   A lazy morning spent in bed,
A loyal dog, a friendly face,
   And laughing when our foes are dead.

The comfort of a favourite book,
   The friendships time can never quell,
A gentle breeze, a babbling brook,
   And visions of those flames in Hell.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Josef Visarionovič’s Final Dream

I’d started writing a poem about
Josef Stalin’s final dream,
having first come up with what I thought was
a half-decent punchline/ending.

I’d picked the metre,
then started on the first few lines,
after which, things pretty much ground to a halt.

I hadn’t had much sleep the night before,
the osteo-arthritis in my left knee
was interfering with the muse,

and my handwriting seemed to be having
a mini mental crisis all of its own.

Instead (although I’d tried and failed
this several times in the past)
I thought I’d try my hand at writing
a poem in the style of Billy Collins:

a personal, but not quite intimate, piece of
chatty, easygoing, narrative, free verse,
whose demotic turn of phrase
would be so lucid

that even a ‘lecturer’ in teacher training
might understand it.

And yes, I did finally get round to writing down
that half-decent punchline/ending, namely:
Josef Stalin dreamt that after his death
they renamed Leningrad Lemongrad in his honour.