Apologies to Jude on National Poetry Day

This website’s voice has been a bit quiet in recent times. In fact, truth to tell, it’s hardly got going since its ethereal splash of a launch back in the early summer to coincide with the release of ‘Umpteen,’ my recent album of songs. And that’s really rather bad given the time and effort dedicated to its creation, nurturing, refinement, elaboration and sustainedly patient upkeep, by its original artificer suprema, the not-trumpted-enough designer Jude Abbott. Indeed, employing the most diplomatic and delicate of nudges Jude has sought on a couple of occasions to cajole me quietly into action, ie into typing a few words, and I have truly been on the starting blocks a number of times, ‘going to’ write this , that and the other, and yet some barrier always steps in between the intent and the doing. I’m sure Jude got fed up of gentle encouragement, though the fact that the lovely woman has stopped has made it even worse somehow. (Sorry JUDE!!!!) The feeling of guilt compounded by the self-deception of being too busy with other stuff. None of it will wash really. A writer ought to be a writer. Surely the medium shouldn’t matter? Isn’t it even easier to knock out a modicum of webshite for the great digital keep-net than it is to hew out those granite fragments of song, poem or story and engineer them on to the old fashioned paper page?

Looking around at the state of the world it is too easy to cite an inability to find words adequate to respond. Say nowt for a writer surely equals do nowt. Beyond the horrors of Syria and the Middle East, and the more hidden oppressions perpetrated at every corner of our screens and media, beyond even the domestic post-referendum linguistic and moral squalor, xenophobia, demagoguery and downright nastiness pouring down upon us via the broken pipes of political discourse, while we still have the means, there really is no valid excuse not to be out there saying, singing, doing.

I caught the tail-end of book of the week or whatever it’s called on radio four this morning. A libyan writer was telling the story of his twenty year search for news about what had happened to his father, a political dissident kidnapped in the mid nineties by the dictator’s heavy gang. I was struck by a couple of lines he gifted to the passing ear-hole. Talking about why forces of oppression and terror always crack down on ‘art’ – and yes I know it’s nothing new but sometimes it’s like hearing a marvellous old song that at one time used to be with you all the time; it refreshes you, re-energises you,  reaffirms you, reconfigures you vis-vis your despair. Art and the imagination represent our ability to keep our minds open to possibilities beyond the stuff that’s dished out to us, beyond the parameters that our set for our minds, beyond the headlines (Woo! Think even about that word for a minute!!) the ‘headlines’ drawn in the accumulating sands of our unseeing. Art makes us blink, ponder, wonder, consider, weigh up; it can help us to see through and see again, and yes it can encourage us to act again, even if those actions are the necessary intellectual precursors to doing or making.

So in the spirit of starting again for the umpteenth time and perhaps because we’ve just got back from Orkney where I’ve been catching up with mi George McKay Brown, and perhaps because it’s national poetry day and the stuff is everywhere and I wanted to join in the chorus, I picked up a few lines that I started ages ago and had no idea where they were going, and yet managed in a short burst to complete them. And in some ways I find it felicitous that although it’s distinctly personal, I think it’s about some of the above-mentioned things. Though it might take another post to say how and why. I’ve called it Toddler.

Toddler

I’m finding my feet

And wishing they were wheels

Driving the pap-pap

Of my jumping jacks

Through the wild expanse

Of my mother’s caravan

 

I’m stretching my hands

In front to hold

The steering wheel

That circular mirror

Small-plate-sized full

To the brim of myself

 

I’m practising turns

Threading a way

From bedside to table

Backing at last

To park in the space

Between two wardrobes

 

I’m revving my engine

Savouring the sound

Of my own brum brum

Humming along

Nicely and nowhere

Everywhere to go

 

I’m pausing for an endless

Serious moment

At the junction of window

And wonder, oblivious

To gaps in the thunder

Of oncoming traffic

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