Come in, it's lovely to see you. Pull up a cushion and stay as long as you like.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Reflections on poetry leading to other things

After talking poetry with a friend last night, this morning I take two of my favourite collections down to the water where I sit and slowly read from them. Each poem a treasured memory yet also something new on each re-reading. In one book is a short essay on prose poetry as a form, which I devour. I begin to reflect on poetry.

People are taught, at an impressionable age, that poetry is the poems themselves. Some say poetry has to rhyme, and many like to decry it as meaningless, never reading it, preferring meaning handed to them through various media without any thought involved. Some people are so moved by a poem that it changes the course their entire lives. Some teach it but never write it, reducing it to dry academia. I cannot imagine life without poetry.

Matsuo Basho studied Zen buddhism and dedicated his whole life to the Haiku form, giving up everything in it’s pursuit and attaining a profound mastery. He even invented his own poetic form the Haibun. 

One of my favourite quotes, that I have written in a notebook somewhere, comes back to me, by W B Yeats. ‘Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.’

From where I am sitting I can see across the short stretch of water. The tide is out. On the other shore, between some trees, I can see the top half of a house with a tall chimney, painted white. Immediately I begin to imagine a story. On the sea bed a boat leans to one side, stuck there until the water returns. 

A woman jogs past, her running shoes make a tapping noise on the concrete and her lycra top a ssshhhhing sound as her arms brush against it, in rhythm with the movement of her legs.

The breeze has a rhythm to it, a flow, and the birds call to each other. But I am restless now, and nearby there is a large shallow pool of water, left from when the tide was high. I have a yearning to put my bare feet in it so I walk over and remove my shoes and socks and roll up my trousers. The water is cool at first but soon warms. Initially I step tentatively as if drunk, trying not to fall over, but soon become looser and more confident in my stride, stirring the sediment. Something primordial awakens in me. 

The fish in me wants to dive in and swim away, and live my life beneath the water. The puritan in me wants to give up caffeine and live a chaste life. The fornicator in me wishes for the horses giant cock and an endless supply of willing women. The contemplator in me wishes for Einsteins mind and the Monks concentration. The poet in me wishes for paper and pen and a white walled room. And for days like these.

All of this is poetry, as clear as the poems printed in the books in my bag. Here is rhythm, and form, and white space, and couplet and stanza.  Here is prose, short story and novel. 

On the surface of the water reflections shift as each wave makes it’s way across the pool, carried along either by it’s own momentum or by other forces, until it runs it’s course. Just like we do.


  1. I read a nice piece the other day written by Blake and quoted by a Buddhist writer:

    "He who binds to himself a joy
    Does the winged life destroy
    He who kisses the joy as it flies
    Lives in Eternity's Sunrise"

    I think I said to you before that I like your "Questions"poem: it put me in mind of parts of the Bhagavad Gita. All good stuff, and very inspiring.

    1. Thank you very much Barry. I appreciate that...