Lost Child

I still think of her, my nearly daughter,

who got things wrong way round

and died before she lived.


Clare Elisabeth. Sometimes I see her

in my dream.Always the same.

A busy street. She’s standing on the kerb
,
waiting to cross.
In her late thirties now
with thick ,dark hair,her mother’s eyes.

A clever woman, happy in her skin.


The road is full of cars.

She glances left and right

then looks across at me, bemused,

as though she couldn’t quite recall
 my name,
or where we’d met.


I raise my arm to wave, but then

a big black truck comes to a stop

between us. When I can look again

she’s gone.

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Some Things Matter

Some Things Matter. jpg

Everyone knows about sonnets- you know- 14 lines divided into an octet, a quatrain and a rhyming couplet at the end. Shakespeare wrote 154 of them ( including the ones in his plays) and Edmund Spenser and Sir Philip Sidney were both enthusiastic practitioners. Later on, Milton wrote sonnets, as did Wordsworth, but who reads them nowadays ?

Actually the sonnet has never quite gone away. “ Anthem for Doomed Youth “by Wilfred Owen is a sonnet….had you noticed that ? You don’t, straight away ,because you’re carried away by the anguish and bitterness of the poem. But you check- and it is. The fact that Owen packed so much emotional power, both personal and universal, into such a constricting format makes it even more impressive.Edwin Morgan, Robert Frost and Seamus Heaney have written sonnets as well.

And now I come to “ Some Things Matter” a collection of sixty three sonnets by James Nash, published by Valley Press. James Nash became interested in sonnets after going to a workshop in 2009. Two years later he had written more than 160- and this collection is the cream of the crop.

It’s the best poetry collection I’ve read in years- honestly.

Why ? Let me tell you.

Firstly, the range is immense. James Nash deals with love and loss- the stock in trade of every poet- but he also talks about sending old clothes to the charity shop, gardens, wasps- even a sonnet about bags for life. A sonnet about plastic bags ! That’s brave !

The language throughout is restrained, controlled. It’s emotional and deeply moving in places, but never sentimental. Look at the last two lines of sonnet on old clothes:

“ What if when these garments are gone at last,
I mourn those faded textures of my past”

Notice that he ends on a question. No easy answers here. What about “ mourn”- we mourn for the dead, yes, but also for our younger selves, as we get older. And “ faded textures of my past” sums up, not just a bag of clothes, but our feelings towards a past we can remember, but not return to.

The last point I want to make is about imagery. Good poetry has echoes, resonances, as well as explicit meaning, and James Nash is a master of this difficult art. Look at his Sonnet 24, which is about sitting in the garden one late summer evening “listening to the hidden blackbird’s song.” It’s a wonderful calm moment. And yet it will “ Not be long before the chilly wind arrives” “ Past memories must be hoarded still/ against the darkness and the loss.” Memories will help us carry on “ As darkness falls , and one of us has gone.” He means the end of a summer evening, yes- but he also means the death of a loved one.

James Nash manages to do what few poets can- he puts into words the feelings we all have, and yet are too tongue-tied to express.

Read him.

You can buy “Some Things Matter here:

http://www.valleypressuk.com/