the green, green grass of home

Since I’ve lived in Spain, one of the joys of visiting the UK has been the glorious green of the countryside. This picture was taken yesterday from the top of Brecon Cathedral tower.

Brecon beacons from Brecon cathedral tower

They say if you can see the mountains it’s going to rain, and if you can’t see them it’s already raining.

It did indeed rain later on – several times – but fortunately the showers came when we were indoors or under cover, so the day was pleasantly green and cool for an excursion, quite unlike days out in Spain when we’ve driven up into the mountains in the hope of relief from the heat of Madrid.

I put one such journey into a poem called The Water Seekers many years ago. This is a fragment from that piece:

We stop at a roadside inn:
sour wine and anchovies in vinegar.
The map shows a thin blue line,
but the mountainside
is as brown and bare as the city.

Looking back over this and other pieces I wrote ten or a dozen years ago, I wonder what to do with them. Even then, I knew they didn’t quite work, but that there were phrases and images that had potential. Now I don’t know whether to just forget everything written back then, or to try and fix the problems.

If I decide to ‘fix’ things, should I start from the problem poems, or extract what I think are the few good images and start afresh?

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

4 thoughts on “the green, green grass of home”

  1. I like your poem as it is. There seems to be a touch of Lorca about it if I may say so. I don’t know if that’s deliberate, but it’s far from being a bad thing. After replying to your ‘telephones and translations’ post I dug out a wad of my old poems with the vague intention of going through them, refining them where necessary, and – perhaps – make a book of them on Lulu or something similar, just for myself. It’s a very long time since I last published a poem – and, indeed, lost interest in publishing them. But it would be rather nice to possess a book of them, for no eyes but my own. A small private conceit, perhaps?

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    1. Thank you. I think there are a few more images in the full version that warrant perseverance, but the ending never really gelled; it was quite a long journey poem and it’s always remained unfinished in my mind.

      Sometime, I’d like to take a month away from work (and from the distractions of the internet), and use a couple of dead trees in the process of organising all the snippets of poems I have in notebooks and on scraps of paper. I’d probably find I then had enough material to work with even if I didn’t have another original thought for the next five years.

      As for a private collection, I’d like to take some of my finished poems and hand write them into a bound book – if only my writing were neater. I think the effort involved would add value to the ‘product’, but I’d probably start tweaking line breaks etc. and find that in fact they aren’t finished after all.

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  2. When I wrote poems (I no longer do) I too would tweak endlessly, year after year the same few lines sometimes. I wouldn’t normally inflict an old poem on anyone, but as we’ve talked about Cohen, I thought the one below might amuse you.

    WAITING FOR BOATS (1975)

    This town,
    to which I return each winter and call home,
    gapes like an open wound,
    a running sore in the winter sun.

    Power cuts and strikes turn shops into dark
    whispering places with diminishing stocks.
    The terrifying Glaswegian milkwoman swears
    on her daughter’s life she delivered the milk
    that wasn’t on the step yesterday.
    Strangers with love-hate fists thump the door
    in passing. Hounds out of my nightmares
    prowl the alleys in salivating packs
    (I wonder sometimes about the bones they gnaw).

    Leonard Cohen, sweet melancholy friend,
    let’s keep all this between ourselves,
    and not write songs about it.

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    1. I think my record is about seven years for a seven word ‘haiku’. (Though I suppose I may yet go back and tweak it some more.)

      Thank you for posting the poem. I won’t reciprocate with anything from my own 1975 notebook: it’s a clichéd collection of romantic nonsense and angst, without an original image to be found, and I’m very glad I’ve had the sense not to share it with many people.

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