Poems – Spring 2013


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on an afternoon walk

to Oddicombe Slope one ‘Monday the 7th’ in the 1930’s—
sat at ease on a sandy bank in his holiday suit
and polished boots   adjacent to a clump of spur valerian

comfortable veined hands clasped like mine now sometimes
with a balding smirk for the photographer   who’s shivering
with the slight wind in the long grasses      maybe

—but your imagination is quite dumb to tell about this
any more than it could have soon assessed the accuracy
of the story they told me when he died a few years later:

that my grandfather had gone ‘walking in the country’; now
after seventy years have passed he still saunters along
the same path to Oddicombe Slope somewhere in Devon

on the same summer’s day   breeze in the long grass
more than contented inside himself and I make sure
this garden always contains a clump of spur valerian

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Oddicombe Beach and Slopes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*

suddenly

I feel a poem coming on—
the first after a few weeks’ fallow;
the bits & pieces of my awareness
conspire to present a kind of completion
to the day: nearby bumblebee
in the dead nettle flowers;
a loud chaffinch and a distant blackbird;
the tractor that goes up the lane;
and the dying sun;   …an answering
chaffinch across the way

it’s the unique sense of completion
that makes the poem—ephemeridae
bouncing in golden light; the scent
of Mexican laurel in full bloom;
the shadow on the sundial;
the book I’ve just finished with;
the small insect that crawls over the last page
and then takes off

the completion and the way I feel…
that there’s a something or other it chooses
to call an ‘I’ that’s at the centre of it all—
non-existent entity held in place
for the time being by a multitude—
by the Ten Thousand Things and just as I think
in my habitual way that it is all an illusion
a beautiful loose orange tip releases
itself from the shrubbery gloom
and works itself my way
to fall gigantically on the pink flower
of a geranium and there’s the scent of evening
the last of the fifth month dying—
lilac in the dooryard intensely purple

and I—this thinking-feeling-scribbling
cipher—its only claim to being is
the collection of this random congeries—
the spontaneous unedited fashioning
into what you could call ‘poem’

‘mind’—irrelevant concept
‘experience’—an unnecessary one
in the sense that everything just happens
and this entity picks it all up with its proboscis

there’s a constant conceptual ducking & weaving
to avoid the formalised  (the conventional)
ways of constructing what & how
one is in the world;   being in the world
is all there is and things just happen

mighty sycamore;    the varied green of shrubs
wood-pigeons making a tree-settled noise;
the lengthening shadow of the house
across the lawn where I have sat all afternoon

the shape of my life draws close around me—
it is a momentary very fragile thing
with a long series of aspects
*

at a railway station

a black & white handsome dog
stands in an apparently patient manner
by his master while he fiddles around
with his bag on a seat on the platform

the dog looks at me through the window
of the train waiting for departure
in an apparently beseeching manner—
when I smile he looks away as though

he can no longer bear human emotions
or confront the unknown or the untravelled
in an arcane manner of speaking
*

they came to Knighton

by train
those many years ago;
all she remembers was the main street
of the town built ill—its tilt
its containment by fir forests
and the long walk at the end of the day
with misery in both their hearts
at the inevitable ending
of an unlikely dream

the stars turned away from the Earth
and the valleys came adrift—
yes it was rainy in Knighton
that day those many years ago
and the mist hung in the tops of the hills
ready to weep;
there was not much comfort in Knighton
*

now the days

months years (rags of time)
are coming to their end
the cat will sit on my knee
for just as long as she deems it necessary
before jumping to the stripy mat
while the gramophone leans into
Michael Finnissy’s happy melancholia
(later replaced by Mendelssohn’s Sextet)
on a grey March evening
when snow is threatening
to disrupt plans for tomorrow

we need some Pied Piper
to come and entice the rats from the heaps
of rotting cuttings where they nest
whence we see them diving out
on foraging expeditions
and some subtle digger to dislodge
the moles from their lawn-enthusiasm
and a man to do the hedges

it’s all got out of hand
while over the road the tide’s gone in &out
a thousand times and the gulls
have followed suit
*

composers of lyrical poetry

create it in a state
of divine insanity like the Corybantes
who lose all control of reason
in the enthusiasm of the sacred dance
says Socrates to Ion—a rhapsodist

supernatural possession—
an excitement at rhythm & harmony
which they seek to communicate—
draw honey & milk from a river
where (in their right senses) they would find
just the ordinary water

whilst you retain any portion
of the thing called reason
you remain utterly incompetent
to produce poetry or to vaticinate

going beyond reason
into a bold excitement of neurons
I draw milk & honey to discover it
mere scrapings in a notebook
and as for ratiocination… well…

Commentary on Christopher Cauldwell: Illusion & Reality

9 thoughts on “Poems – Spring 2013

  1. Wonderful!
    Poem #1: a lovely sweet way to honor your grandfather and to remember your roots.
    Poem #2: first off, I had to look up chaffinch. We have finches here (North American), but to my knowledge no chaffinch. They are lovely though and apparently native to the British Isles and parts of Asia and Affrica and few other place. — It’s nice to know that others “feel a poem coming on” and it’s not an odd thing afterall. Thank you! —- Not to chase the 10,000 things but to let them pursue you is the essence of enlightment. I knew you were an old soul.
    Poem #3: lines to ponder
    Poem #4: sad — Unrequited love?
    Poem #5: time passes
    Poem #6: indeed it is supernatural possession

    … anyway, what I make of it.

    Haven’t read “Illusion and Reality.” Will have to check it out. Always learn something here.

    Be well, Colin.
    Jamie

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  2. Blundell’s series of poems here begins with, “on an afternoon walk,” a five stanza poem written in tercets that at first reads like a prose poem. It has a linear structure sprinkled with images, “veined hands,” “long grasses” but in the center of these images is one image that shifts the poem out of linear time. Spur Valerian acts like a table center piece, a conduit for the speaker’s corner eye imagination. ; things begin to move away from prose as the spur valerian keeps us tethered to the country path. In the fourth stanza the once seemingly prose narrative disintegrates, “walking in the country; now/after seventy years have passed he still saunters along” (10-11). The poet by deftly structuring the poem this way manages to first separate the grandfather, grandson, and speaker into three beings, so when the time-shift happens we readers can join in on the changing forms. This separation/integration dynamic is beautifully crystalized in the image of a common plant, but is there such a thing? This common flowering plant has medicinal properties that help ease anxiety, and anxiety is a fixture of our post-modern world. This reminds me of how Wallace Stevens used center-piece images and Dr. Williams. The prosy element of the poem has vanished, it served its purpose. The final tercet like the rest of the poem doesn’t fall into the language of sentimentality. Instead we as readers now feel the poem’s emotional pull and we are free to enjoy our own content, sitting near “a clump of spur valerian” (15) and in the “breeze in the long grass” (13).

    From an old photo to “suddenly” we are given the pure pleasure of dancing along with the poet’s muse. This poem is so much fun, as it leaps, buzzes, lights, darts, bops and dives along, it almost feels like a crime to give it a go on my side of the page. Like a spring snapped open by a wondrous entity the language is song and dance crafted by a gifted hand and ear, just listen:

    bouncing in golden light ; the scent
    of Mexican laurel in full bloom ;
    the shadow on the sundial ;
    the book I’ve just finished with ;
    the small insect that crawls over the last page
    and then takes off (11-18)

    It’s delicious!

    A very fragile thing this thing called muse and after reading this poem I’m a bit stunned by the waste produced by a formulized world. “the shape of my life draws close around me” (51).

    “at the railway station” is a lovely satirical poke in the buns aimed at us human dogs. It’s a sad and riotous juxtaposition of dog consciousness using an anthropomorphic lens. The poem is asking us, maybe begging us to just stop all out inane contributions to the civilized world. The “handsome dog” knows, so why can’t we? How many of us each day continue to wag our tails on the outside as we cringe inside at our fellow human beings. I love the dark insinuation that we’re all standing at some railway station dreaming we’re going somewhere. The dog is black & white and the poem takes this to task, “or confront the unknown or the untraveled/in an arcane manner of speaking (10-11).

    I’ll leave the last three poems for my own musings. They echo many things including Yeats’s old rag & bone, the shadowy lines of time, and a tip of the hat to the oracles of ancient wisdom that signal us all ; Outside oneself, beyond oneself and the inevitable return to the things that carry us: books, the cutting of hedges, and a man sitting near a clump of spur varlerian.

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  3. I measure time
    by the arrival of a bird
    in my tree of life
    a few notes
    and its gone

    Colin, I knew Knighton well, a friend of mine bought Monaughty Mill not far from there. At the time I considered moving to Knighton, so I checked out some of the properties on sale, I found a pub on the market, no garden, just a yard with a cellar under it. I tried to borrow the cash from my mother, to buy it, it was £75, she said no.

    love

    John

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