Monday, July 18, 2005

Snowdrop 7.1

People do strange things when they attempt to write poetry. They go in search of a "voice", or they look for manuals that instruct on how best to ride the muse. Sometimes they embrace form like an evangelical finding a splinter of the One True Cross. Other times they rebel against fashion and strictures. Some of the poetry can be good, some bad. Most poems turn out indifferently: the world gets another opportunity to shrug - so what.

So where do I fit into the scheme of things? Well, I've done the teenage angst thingy - most of that "poetry" was accidently lost in a fire, for which the world is probably marginally grateful. I went looking for a voice. I've done the workshop thingy, too - keen to impress people with my skills at turning excretions into something with a fighting chance of publication.

So it came as a bit of a shock when I realised that it's no longer the world that's shrugging its shoulders: it's me instead! I've lost interest in posting my works-in-progress to fashionable (and some unfashionable) online poetry workshops, offering my 3 crits to colleagues and watching other people struggle to offer comments on how to turn my current work into something fashionably poetic.

So I've gone walkabout. I've abandoned the workshops and headed into the hills to see what I can produce without help and advice, without a view on whether the final product is fashionable, fit for purpose, publishable. And what I've found is scary!

I discovered that what I wanted to do more than anything else in the world is write a long poem. A really, really long poem. And I wanted to do it in form.

Now this is scary to me because I always thought that what I wanted to do was write science fiction novels. But I'm crap at finishing things, which is why I turned to poetry in the first place - it's short, and thus finishable.

But ever the optimist I started my new project, and 18 months later I'm still writing it! It's slow work, maybe nothing more than half a dozen lines from each session. But with the help of a surprising spurt of energy in April I've managed to compose, unpack and reform over 1,000 lines of draft poem - almost halfway through the project.

I'm currently writing Part 7 of my wierd oddessy - and (the reason for this post) have just managed to squeeze out 20 more lines of first draft. If anyone wants to see my progress to date, they can find it at this link. The following is the latest lines, forming the first poem in Part 7 - see if you can guess the mangled form, and enjoy!

Portus Lemanis

The ghosts of mussels garland the stumps
of salty logs that line the strand
of muds and chalks; Lemanis squats
like a tumbled drunk dunking its toes
in the channel waters, waiting to die.

Harbourside shops are shuttered, cloth
and tattered wood welting the structures -
nothing to sell. Nobody's home,
only some history hashed on a wall:
christiani ad leones, christianae ad lenones

A ship is tethered, her antemna broken
from the malus with rudens roping the parts
together in chaos, her carina muzzled
by the muds and the mists: no mediterranean
sun shall ruffle her rostrum again.

A shiver catches across her shoulders -
her feet are naked, numb to the pain
of gravels and thorns. Her thoughts have halted:
she knows her eyes are eager to trick her
but this is beyond her, a Yank of a lie.

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