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Sunday, 11 July 2010

A Photograph for the Poetry Bus.

This you may regard as a bit of a cheat. It is my effort for this week's POETRY BUS. We have been asked by Dominic Revron at his always-engaging blog, to write a poem on something. Literally ON something. A poem inscribed on a banana skin was offered as an example. It brought back to mind an incident from my school days. There was a boy in my class who, to put it kindly, was a mis-fit. He was something of a Just William character, and didn't fit in with the boys because boys of that age are incredibly cruel. He didn't fit in with the staff because he was forever arriving unprepared for the lesson (as the phrase was) or not having done his homework. The incident in question concerned him being asked by a master where was his homework. We were supposed to write an essay on a bicylce, sir,he replied. "Correct, where is it?" I couldn't do it, sir. I kept falling off! "Hope you have better luck next week," came the rejoinder, "I'm going to ask you to write an essay on The Great Pyramid! Hopefully, we'll lose you for a few weeks!" Yet another interpretation of the phrase "to write ON". The incident might have lapsed from my memory altogether or become one of those silly moments that stick for no reason at all, except that two days later he was killed, knocked from his cycle by a GPO van on his way to school.

I did try to keep to the spirit of the thing. I tried writing a poem on a sledgehammer, a plastic jug and a football. Nothing. Certainly nothing I could possibly post. And so the cheat, not at all in the spirit, I regret to say, for it captures nothing of the fun of Dominic's challenge, but for better or for worse, here it be:- About a year ago I posted here a poem, with the title A Love Poem. It was in fact a second version of one originally called The Photograph. Since then I have come to prefer the original. I therefore am posting that original, printed, not on the actual magazine photograph, I think - although it well may be - but one in the public domain which can be found here.

Click on the photograph to read the whole poem - or below, now reprinted in response to comments that the above is difficult to read. Apologies for that.

A Sunday Supplement, a photograph.
Cuckmere Haven. Not that we’d
have recognized it, not without the caption.
The cliffs, distinctive, might have given it away.
Taken from above. The Cuckmere
all but banished from the scene -
and much else missing from that day...
pebbles, white upon the beach; and you,
exquisite, dressed to kill, a splash of green;
the sea kale (was it?) by the stream: all tucked
away between the hills and nowhere to be seen.

And so I wondered: what if we
could see as from above, the hills
and valleys carved in us by human love?
What would be there to see?
What would there not?

That day the sun-drenched chalk and beach,
and shady woods had each unleashed
a fierce burn of increasing beauty.

Offshore, the tides and Cuckmere clashed,
Canoes capsized, and men we’d lately
followed from the bridge were stayed,
all balance lost, bare inches from the sea.

It too was like a photograph, our day,
so silent and so still,
with gulls hung poised, like birds of prey,
on tiny cirrus threads. The breakers froze,
refused to break. Creation seemed to us to take
a year to spend that day.

The sun poured champagne on the sea
as tides and Cuckmere whirled together.
One maelstrom. One tranquility.

My love, I saw this photograph
and heard, I thought, our favourite song
being sung in a foreign language.

Haiku #200

Too many injuries
occurring at school sports days -
among the adults


Unknown said...

Dave this is really beautiful (if a little difficult to read!)
"The sun poured champagne on the sea"
This is such powerful image for me
Great take on the poetry bus prompt.

Cait O'Connor said...

I would be stumped too - very difficult to write on.... I like your entry.
Elf and Safety will be on to the Sports Day thing next - watch out!

David Cranmer said...

Terrific poetry

"Valleys carved in us by human love."


Elisabeth said...

I'm so taken by the back story here, about the boy killed on his bicycle, it shades me from your poem, not least because it is hard to read against the photographic background.

It's lovely to chat to you again after my brief time away. Thanks, Dave.

Jim Murdoch said...

I think this was an interesting task not that I took part. What I’ve always liked about poetry, well writing in general, is that you can give it away as many times as you like and still keep it. An artist or a sculptor can’t do that. I gave away a painting once as a gift and it killed me. It killed me so much that I took it back and it’s now framed on my living room wall.

I think the last stanza to this piece is quite magical – love translated is how I read it – but I wish the place had a nicer name that Cuckmere; doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

Helen said...

So glad you encored your original poem. My favorite line of all? 'Creation seemed to take a year to spend that day.' Magical!

Like Elisabeth, I had a hard time with the story of the boy. So sad.

Lucas said...

I remember reading this poem and I think commented at the time - now it reads again with equal magic. "One maelstrom. One tranquility" fits brilliantly in with the preceding imagery.
The photo comes up on the screen OK only I think it needs size. I see it as an A3 poster with words.

CiCi said...

Ha. Great haiku. Adults are so much trouble.

Madame DeFarge said...

I like the haiku. Presumably the injuries are from overcompetitive parents in the egg and spoon?

Kass said...

So many favorite lines in this poem:
"...what if we
could see as from above, the hills
and valleys carved in us by human love?"
"Creation seemed to take
a year to spend that day."
"...The sun poured champagne on the sea"
"... our favourite song
being sung in a foreign language."

I even liked not being able to read it comfortably on the picture.

The Bug said...

I enjoyed this a great deal - & in fact it may make me pay more attention to our next road trip. Who knows what poetry lies beneath the surface of those ordinary days?

Carl said...

There are so many things I like here Dave. The story of the boy and the teacher made me laugh and then made me sad when i read on. I could see you wandering the house with a sharpie writing poems on everything. I have the urge now to write a poem on the door of my fridge. I won't in the name of martal harmony...
My favorite line was "The sun poured champagne on the sea." What an image. Great Post.

Carl said...

marital harmony. OOPS.

Gwil W said...

Nice one, Dave. Looks like a lovely spot.

Rachel Fox said...

My favourite of yours to date, Dave. I think you do well with love!

Jinksy said...

I am dazzled by these beautiful words - never mind the champagne sunshine on the sea...

Dave King said...

Many thanks for the comments. As you will see, I have taken the point made by yourself and others and have included an uncluttered version of the poem.

Thanks Cait. I understand that elf and safety have beaten me to it - they also want to ban all the dangerous bits of rugby football - which would leave what, I wonder.

Thanks. Appreciated.

Hi. Good to have you back. I understand the sentiment. I began with ideas of a photograph of me sitting on a lawn mower or some such contraption, writing a poem on... but the memory of my classmate, which is as vivid now as it ever was, shaded me (to use your telling phrase) from doing so. Much thanks for your feedback.

You're absolutely right about the difference you draw between poetry and the visual arts. I would have found it very difficult, I think, to have earnt my living painting for that very reason - ev en though that was my intention at one time.

I very much appreciate the remarks in your final para. Yes, you read my last stanza correctly. Rightly or wrongly I have always pronounced the name of the place - and river - as Cookmere. Does that help?

Thanks. The line you picked out is certainly one that I was pleased with. And yes, I still have a hard time remembering the boy - and, of course, how we treated him .

Thanks for the comments on the poem. I am sure you are correct in saying that it would make an A3 poster. I was a little disappointed that it came up no larger when clicked on.


Exactly so.

Thanks Kass. Maybe you should ignore my uncluttered version, then! (I understand what you mean.)

The Bug
That's very true... but to me this was no ordinary day!

Dave King said...

I quite liked martal harmony! I coined one of my own the other day: thankles for thanks! As I mentioned above, I began with my ex-classmate's joke and the thought that I might sit or stand on something unlikely, but the sadness won in the end and in deference to him I couldn't do it - not that he'd have been offended, he would have approved, I think. Thanks for your contribution.

Poet in Residence
A beautiful spot. Beside the Seven Sisters, which a lot will know. Between them and Beachy Head.

Interesting that, I've always considered it my weak suit. Maybe I should reconsider...

Thanks jinksy - a toast to you, for that. Champagne, sunshine, whatever.

Gwil W said...

Now I remember. I've walked over the 7 sisters. A breezy day.

The Grandpa said...

Beutiful poem; engaging, if tragic, story; strangely delighgtful haiku.

Peter Goulding said...

You have a very distinct way of creating mood and atmosphere, Dave. Old-fashioned, but old-fashioned in a good way that many modern poets could learn from

Totalfeckineejit said...

For me,Dave, simply the best poem you've written that I've read (so far) Truly wonderful.

Argent said...

"The hills and valleys carved in us by love." Lovely.

Karen said...

Cheat or not, I love it, Dave. I remember your other posting of this, and I think I prefer this one, too. Just lovely.

Dave King said...

Poet in Residence
Ah, I've not done the top bit - only down below!

The Grandpa
Many thanks for those comments.

That's really encouraging to hear. I started late, maybe haven't found my final voice as yet. Thanks.

Wow! I'm bowled over! Really, thanks so much.

Good to have your comment. Much appreciated.

That interesting to hear. Thanks. Strange, though, how I went off it and then came back to it!

Dr. Jeanne Iris said...

This is wonderful, Dave.
My favorite line(s):
"what if we could see as from above, the hills and valleys carved in us by human love?"

Dave King said...

Many thanks for that and a warm welcome to my blog. Good to meet with you.