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Sunday 27 June 2010


The Poetry Bus Challenge was set this week at that intiruing site Don't Feed the Pixieso. It required an encounter with a sign, road sign or some such, and a response to it involving feelings hard to define.

I actually wrote this poem first in iambic pentameters, but then decided that it might be just the thing for a first experiment with something that had been buzzing around in my skull for some time: a genre all my own - unless you happen to know differently, in which case, bless you, my child or children! Basically it is the graphic novel in written form - and a good bit shorter! Each verse is a translation into written form of one frame. (Yes, I guess it could be thought a trifle ostentatious, but I wasn't going to let that put me off, now was I?) I was only partly correct in thinking it would suit the challenge - hence, for example, the "epilogue" and the difficulty with emotions. Seriously, though, I found it a breath of wind in the old sails, the shift of perspective, and it could be quite interesting to see how far it is possible to go with a purely visual (not to say "graphic") approach.

My thanks to our host and driver for an excellent and very stimulating challenge.


Two boys - me nine or ten,
Mick early teens -
leaving early in the morning
from a row of seven cottages.
No other habitations to be seen.

They come upon a bird's nest
in bracken by a hedge.
Skylark's! cries Mick triumphantly.
They hide themselves and watch
to see the mother bird's return.

The wait becomes a wait
to see who's using
the dead letter box -
and so the game begins.
They leave their hiding place

and come upon a stile,
beside a way mark arrow
and the words
To Dead Man's Finger.
Mick grins, his finger to his lips.

The next day and the next
they pause beside the stile.
Mick repeats the gesture.
Too far, he says.
I can not pull myself away.

Each evening in the cottage
I draw from my mind's eye
the rock formation: vertical
for climbing to the clouds
or bent and beckoning.

My Aunt inspects my work,
misses the signals in my face
like those from Gran's old-time religion:
excitment, fear and puzzlement?)
Don't be going there!she grumps.

Trudging gloomily the skirts of
empty fields, they reach
another pause... consulting maps,
so obviously lost,
not knowing what to do.

Mick's footsteps lighten
as he points across the field.
A blackened tree beyond the hedge.
Dead Man's Finger, see? he says.
Adds Lightning! with a grin.

Two sticks of charcoal:
thumb and finger
pointing up
beside three stumps
where once a hand would be.


A million years and light years later
with the Blitze of London done,
I ask myself who might have thought
to way mark such a thing
away from busy paths -

and why? In war time too!
Late in the day
I'm wondering
if Mick, my cousin,
told me wrong.


Unknown said...

First of Dave can we clone you, transplant you into our failing educational institutions to teach art and English and Poetry et al?
Only you could come up with such a mind boggling and brilliant new form.
This brought back so many visual memories that I had forgotten that I had. The feel of the physical and mental journey you have created really struck a cord with me
"Two sticks of charcoal:
thumb and finger
pointing up
beside three stumps
where once a hand would be."
I hope that you produce more in this genre Dave, stunning, inspirational

Jim Murdoch said...

Yes, a "graphic novel in written form" sounds a bit ostentatious. But 'snapshots' doesn't and that's what we have here. An interesting approach to make each stanza correspond to a visual image. I suspect that this is a fairly common approach considering how visual poetry it but I doubt too many people will have analysed what they've done an realised that's what it was.

Not sure about "A million years and light years later" - I know one is time and one distance but the repeating of "years" doesn't sit right. Why not "A million miles and light years later"? Just a thought.

Other than that quite evocative. The Epilogue helps.

steven said...

dave a clever form and i like jim's observation connecting the content and style to graphic novels. you're extraordinary!! steven

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Dear Dave, this asks to be read and reread, it attracts in a puzzling way.
I particularly enjoyed "for climbing to the clouds
or bent and beckoning" also for the two alliterations.

Thank you for your comment on Dread and Then.

Dave King said...


Wow, you have left me blushing somewhat. I do thank you for your comments. Not sure I could live up to them though. I hope to experiment a bit more with the idea, yes. Thanks again.


Thanks for that. I did wonder if it might be a bit too simplistic.


The "graphic novel" thingy was actually the explanation of how the idea came about. And yes, giveen that there is nothing new under the sun, I am sure it has been done before. I may even have done it myself, involuntaryily. But that's the point: I found it (on that one occasion, admittedly) a useful way of looking afresh at what was a narrative construction. It was the looking from the writer's point of view that made the difference. I agree that snapshots would be simpler, but to use it in the same way they would have to become stills from a film. Which, come to think of it, might fit the bill very well.


Much appreciate that steven. Many thanks.


Many thanks for the comment. Interesting to hear that you thought it worth a reread or two.

Kay said...

i'm diggin' this poetry bus

well versed.

Kass said...

I like this poem. I like Mick, your cousin, whether an invention or not, he got both of us thinking.

Jeanne Estridge said...

This is really intriguing. What a clever man you are!

Peter Goulding said...

Trying new forms is always good fun and this one seems to work very well. Agree about the millon years (a million miles, perhaps?) but a bold effort nonetheless.

Dave King said...

Seems like a good idea.

Mick was real, though that was not his real name. He was a country boy through and through and I was the townie.

Spare the blushes, but thanks for commenting.

Yeah, I guess I agree about the millions as well. Thanks for the feedback.

Niamh B said...

Really interesting idea, and well executed, the story was well told and "I can not pull myself away" was a line that applied equally to this reader as the narrator!

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

There's some fantastic images in here and a great story of exploration. Interesting at the end when the adult mind questions what the child took as true.

thanks for joining

Argent said...

I for one declare the experiment a success! I thought the little capsules of light and colour worked really well. The epilogue was a thoughtful completion of the piece, adding context to the preceding versicles.

Lucas said...

This poem-narrative is excellent. It does two things - first it captures that long ago and far away time you write about so freshly, secondly it taps into the world of childhood - for want of a better phrase - where what is imagined and what is observed are both real and overlap.
Thanks for this, Dave.

Dave King said...

Many thanks for the visit and the generous comments.

Don't Feed the Pixies
Yes, thanks for that, it is something that never fails to interest me, the way we question old acceptances - and the relevance of memory and the tricks it plays. My gratitude again for a splendid "teaser".

Very useful to have feedback like that, much appreciated. I found the change of emphasis made for a freshness which was not there in my first attempt using iambic pentameters, but I did worry that it was a bit "bare".

That is all-but uncanny: the two worlds, both real and overlapping puts it exactly the way it seemed and seems to me. Many thanks.

Karen said...

I'm with Argent: success! I like the form very much. Each vignette a complete visual.

Dave King said...

Thanks so much for that, Karen. Much appreciated.