I have a friend who writes poetry.” Do you find it a struggle ?” I said, ” You know,…getting all the words in the right places ?”
He smiled. ” It just flows down my arm, into the pen, and onto the paper.”
I wanted to strangle him.
I’ve always found writing poetry difficult – which is why I’m still trying to do it,I suppose. I hand write poetry.Fountain pen. At the moment it’s a Conklin Durograph. I like the shiny line of ink it gives. It encourages me.I get something which might be a first line. I go away, have a cup of tea, and come back ten minutes later to see if I still like it. I don’t. It reads like baby drool. I start again.
It is a slow process but slowly…very slowly…something starts to peep out. It takes days. One took over a month.I cover sheets of A4 pad with scribbles, question marks, slashings out until…it’s there. And I’m usually shocked. This isn’t what I intended at all. This…thing…has crawled out of some dark corner in my brain. I read it again and…yes..it works…I quite like it, actually.
But this time it was different. Two days ago I had a line in my head – ” This man could give a voice to stones” – I had no idea what it meant. Maybe I thought the man was a magician, a wizard. Then a line of Ted Hughes hovered- ” this house has been at sea all night.” And I was off. It was about poets.
The next verse was easier. Ted did external. This had to be about inner weather- and I thought of Elizabeth Browning and Sylvia Plath. I liked the idea of poetry as a pulse handed from poet to reader.
I think the last verse is about poetry as subversion.Nothing is certain except that nothing is certain. So suck it up. Or something like that.
So there you are. And here it is.
This man could give a voice to stones,
cause trees to shriek in a December gale,
see through solid flesh down to the bone,
make houses creak, and ancient timbers fail.
This woman annotates her pulsing blood
and makes it roar again in others’ veins.
She pleads the possibility of good
and, dying, leaves that rhythm in our brains.
These are the poets, vilified and cursed,
who wear their souls turned inside out
and lead us, struggling, to face the worst-
where faith is sin, the only virtue doubt.