Thursday, 7 December 2006

The Thing That Startles

This is my response to Poetry Thursday's challenge for this week. Great list of questions to work from - Thanks Cam and Dana/Poetry Thursday.







This is a picture I took last year of Back Beach at Riverton, Southland, NZ.

'Waves' by Eleanor Farjeon

There are big waves and little waves,
Green waves and blue,
Waves you can jump over,
Waves that you dive through,
Waves that rise up
Like a great water wall,
Waves that swell softly
And don't break at all,
Waves that can whisper,
Waves that can roar
And tiny waves that run at you
Running on the shore


I believe this was the first poem I heard and truly appreciated as poetry.

Or it might have been ...

'Someone' by Walter de la Mare.

Someone came knocking
At my wee, small door;
Someone came knocking,

Tver - small door
Originally uploaded by Dona Juanita.

I'm sure, sure, sure.
I listened, I opened,
I looked to left and right,
But naught there was a-stirring
In the still, dark night.
Only the busy beetle
Tap-tapping in the wall,
Only from the forest
The screech-owl's call,
Only the cricket whistling
While the dewdrops fall,
So I know not who came knocking,
At all, at all, at all.



Both poems anyway, blew my six-year old mind. The power of words had begun.
When I was thirteen, 'The Force That Through The Green Fuse Drives The Flower' by Dylan Thomas also impacted.
(I seem to recall reading it at Wendon School, under a birch tree, around me the sound of blackbirds and the smell of gorse in flower ... but that could be a fancy.) Another poem I had pinned up for a long time on my bedroom wall, was part of a longer poem by Browning.
The year's at the spring
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in his Heaven -
All's right with the world!


There it was in between a picture



of Eden Kane on one side




and Frank Ifield on the other.

(You'll be relieved to know my idea of 'good-looks' has changed! since those days.)

I was forced to memorise a number of poems at high school. The one I remember most was 'Ode To Autumn' by Keats. I relished the words as if they were food in my mouth.

I read poetry because it encapsulates something that is either universal or which I have experienced myself. I also read poetry for the delight of words and language being used in ways that surprise me. Much like the reasons why I watch a movie or listen to music, I like the experience of fine-ness. Of being entertained. Of having my need for an artistic or creative experience satisfied. For the way it engages with a part of my brain and lights up neurons that nothing else lights up in quite the same way.

I write poetry and have done all my life - ever since I was seven years old. It is a way of expressing myself that appeals to me. It is a way of chronicling my life and experiences. It forces me to reduce an experience or episode down to its sauce. (Yes, that's sauce, not source.)

Poetry is also a good way to get revenge on your enemies - or on anyone that has done you an injustice in the present or in the past. Oh yes! There is nothing quite so satisfying as getting your own back in a poem. Poetry can be a very handy weapon. I guess it all boils down to expression - it is a form of expression. A way of speaking out, or of.

My experience with reading poetry differs from my experience with reading other types of literature mainly because poetry is more succinct and faster. I have been known to read an entire book of poetry before going to sleep. But I always read a poetry book more than once because poetry is designed for multiple readings. I have a heap of poetry books and I read them over and over. Until about the last five years, I spent ten years reading poetry alone - nothing else.

I find poetry in landscape, everyday conversations and quirky episodes, memories, people, my family, love, hate, music, books, walking, loneliness and moods ... I find poetry in cafes when I sit by myself and write about what is around me. I find poetry most when I travel, when I am out in the country, when I am subjected to new experiences and when I go back to the place where I was brought up.

The last time I heard poetry was last week at a Poetry Reading and which I was part of. There was an abundance of poetry - some good, some bad. Some exquisite. Of my own? Well, I couldn't possibly comment.

I think poetry is like a song without music. Like stillness. Like something elusive caught, dissected and examined. A thing that startles. A thing with the power to quietly astonish.

***
Yesterday I wrote a poem about a song-thrush I saw out on our lawn. I haven't seen one for some time. They've been scarce in our quarter over the last few years. I was reminded of another poem I love, 'Pied Beauty' by Gerald Manly Hopkins.
(Here is part of it.)
Glory be to God for dappled things
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced - fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle trim.


***

How could I hope to follow that? But anyway, here goes ...

Song thrush
Originally uploaded by Viche.



***

Watching Out


You are a long-legged, lawn-giraffe.
My mother
at seven years old,
covered in freckles
and no front teeth.

Your beak is a sewing machine's jab,
a needle, a stiletto's heel.
A mottled-skinned gardener,
you grub
for worms.

When the grey cat hunches, a missile
poised, I clap my hands
to warn
before shadows dappled
now and pretty, turn

to steel and a hot-breath, sun-round mouth,
picks and rips
the tiny bone-cage that is you,
trapped under feathers
of burnt-honey suede.

***

31 comments:

paris parfait said...

Lovely post, which resonates on many levels.

nj1712 said...

I find poetry in landscape, everyday conversations and quirky episodes, memories, people, my family, love, hate, music, books, walking, loneliness and moods ... I find poetry in cafes when I sit by myself and write about what is around me. I find poetry most when I travel, when I am out in the country, when I am subjected to new experiences and when I go back to the place where I was brought up.

Exactly. Loved this! It is a good thing to step back sometimes and say, "why do I do this? what does it mean?" And then to continue with renewed focus and joy.

natalie said...

The above comment (nj1712) is me, by the way. Beta appears to have renamed me.

Deb R said...

Aaahh, wonderful answers, CB.

And I love your new profile photo!

January said...

Yes, I love your profile and new picture, too!

Thank you for this great post! I loved reading your answers, especially this one:
"Poetry is also a good way to get revenge on your enemies"

Nice!

Catherine said...

Your thrush poem is lovely, and your entire post is very eloquent.

Kamsin said...

Beautiful and poetic post! There is something about how poetry touches us which is beyond words, and yet some how your words express so well your relationship with poetry, if that makes sense. Maybe that is part of what poetry is, a way to use words to connect to the things which are beyond language, and by somehow using words in such a refined way, the skilled poet creats something more than the words themselves. Anyway, your post made me want to go open a poetry book!

Endment said...

What a fantastic response to this meme
Great thrush poem
like your photo

chiefbiscuit said...

pp - Thanks PP.

Nats - Thanks - it was great to do this meme set by Poetry Thursday - which I forgot to acknowledge but will fix that right away before they get mad at me! (Blogger must think you are a secret agent!)

Deb R - Thanks - I got brave and decided to post my photo. What the heck, I think faces to names are helpful.

january - Thanks. Yes the revenge part of poetry is soooo therapeutic isn't it?!

catherine - Thanks, from a fine poet such as yourself that is praise indeed.

Kamsin - go On I dare you to read some poetry - by your comments you have a really good handle on it already - I like the way you describe it as 'more than words themselves'. So true.

endment - I like your photo too!

ren.kat said...

This was a pleasure to read- and your poem, as well!

I get very confused when people change their profiles and photos.

:-)

wendy said...

I feel very much like a tiny bone cage today. Love that line...

I knew you were beautiful...and I picked you out from your earlier contest photo!!! You look like a poet..such a grand compliment!

Jan said...

Amazing stuff here;I really enjoyed it. Re the "someone" poem; at school, we had the dreaded "handwriting lessons" ( we used a script called Marion Richardson....never knew who she was, perhaps someone can enlighten me!) but that poem was one we practised with, so at age 8 or whatever, I knew every syllable. THanks for lots of memories in this post!

Remiman said...

Chiefbiscuit,
Dang it! I thought I left a comment here on Thur. Must have hit delete instead of publish..like that hasn't happened before. :-(

So much of what you responded to in the meme clicked with me as in: "Wow that's just how I feel."

"When the grey cat hunches, a missile
poised, I clap my hands
to warn"
I see that so clearly in my mind's eye.
rel

twitches said...

Great response to the prompt! Great pics, too!

Anil P said...

The Back beach looks so primeval, in peace even when it is churning. It's a nice angle to photograph the beach.

mcdinzie said...

the things you learn about your sister you just never knew.

Becky said...

Chief,

You are so incredibly talented.

And pretty too, girl. Love the photo.

b

Dana said...

Such a complete answer! Way to go. I love the photos of hotties that hung on your wall. (The one on the right is pretty good-looking.)

I really like your poem, too. the tiny bone-cage that is you is an exquisite image.

chiefbiscuit said...

ren.kat - Don't be confused - I haven't changed!

wendy - Thank you ... Dunno what to say ... You are too kind!

jan- That's interesting - thankfully I never had to print it out - just enjoyed reciting it with the rest of the class in a very sing-song / dramatic voice!

remiman - Thanks - and thanks for mentioning me on your blog :)

twitches - Glad you liked the pitches!!


anil p _ Thanks, it's a special place.

mcdinzie - Ditto

becky - Aw shucks ...

dana - Hotties over here also means hot water bottles that you take to bed to keep your feet warm ... hmmmm ... the mind boggles!

leonie said...

i love your poem about the thrush. we have blackbird that lives close by that comes to visit and follw me around the garden when i'm weeding... picking up the grubs that i dig up.

nice to find another kiwi in the poetry thursday tribe. i love the ocean and new zealand beaches too!

chiefbiscuit said...

leonie - I thought with a name like Leonie you had to be a kiwi! (I've got a cousin called Leonie.) Thanks for your kind comments.

Rethabile said...

Good read. I enjoyed the avalanche of images in your poem, the poised missile one being perhaps the most poignant. Nice.

Jules said...

Hooray to see the beautiful Chief! Thank you for sharing this post with us. I echo this sentiment you wrote, "I read poetry because it encapsulates something that is either universal or which I have experienced myself." That is why I enjoy reading your work. Have a lovely day.

Clare said...

Magnificent post, CB! I think the one line that really stood out for me was this:
'I relished the words as if they were food in my mouth.'
Ah yes, I thought, that's exactly it...(gorgeous pictures too - and I'm so glad you've put yourself up there now - it's good to have a face to talk to).

Dana said...

Well, hotties over here means people who are just plain hot!

chiefbiscuit said...

rethabile - Thanks for dropping by - I have repaid the visit and loved what I read at your place too.

jules - Thank you so much - I love echoes!! Hello - hello

clare - Thanks for your response Clare - I always savour your comments, and everything you write like food too - truly.

dana - Well, over here we take our hotties to bed!!!;)

Dana said...

Same here!

Anonymous said...

Great post. I like the freckles reference. They are such lovely birds.

Hope this post works, blogger's not handling the beta switch to well.

Apprentice

Cailleach said...

That's some round up of poetic influences! Makes a good read :)

Must have a good rummage through what does it for me!

Tammy said...

Great post and awesome poem!


I really love your photo too :)

HUGS

chiefbiscuit said...

dana - You crack me up - of course that's the perfect response!

apprentice - Thanks for your kind comments. Yes it took me a while to get my head around beta blogger but on the whole it has been worth it.

cailleach - Yes do, I would love to read your take on the questions.

tammy - you're so nice, thanks.

Harbour

Harbour
'how this all harbours light'