Tuesday, October 25, 2005

El Portal Del Mare

Just back from Menorca and have added a new pub to my all time favourites list. It may actually, along with Groggans Bar in Dublin, the Diggers in Edinburgh and the Plovdiv Pub in, well, Plovdiv, make the top four. El Portal Del Mar is in Cuitedella, just before the Plaza de Colon in the old town. It has the most amazing oval bar which straddles three different heights of the floor. There are chairs of three separate sizes all the way round the bar so everyone is at the same height at drink level. Brilliant. Has a poignant kind of decayed feel about it essential to the most promising pubs. I could have stayed there all day. In fact I did.

The pebbles in the pavement swim,
palms sway like seaweed,
the little streets wash away
and as we turn to water,
we're faceted everywhere,
skewed in the sun,
reflected fat and thin and ruddy
then gossamer grey
in table tops and puddles.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Poets don't drive, you know

They don't. Show me a poet who can drive and I'll show you a bad poet. This is my response to my wife who is trying to get me, at my advanced age, to take driving lessons on the basis that, since we live in Misty Hollow Brigadoonshire, it would make the quality of our life inestimably better for us and our small children if both of us could drive. She puts forward a good argument but luckily I have Martin Amis on my side who wrote an essay on the subject. The only exception to the 'good poets don't drive' rule is Philip Larkin, but Amis implies Larkin's creativity began to dry as soon as he got behind a steering wheel.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Les Murray

Was at a poetry reading last night that featured Les Murray, the Australian poet. Murray is a great writer and a particular favourite of mine but a strange thing happened half way through the reading: I began to think his poetry was just a torrent of imagery that amounted, when it came down to it, to mere self-conscious trickery. I mean he described his son's fencing mask as 'the composite eye of an insect'. Why? Why describe anyone's fencing mask as 'the composite eye of an insect.'? And then just line after line there seemed to be more and more clever little devices pared and preened and taking their place among the others in a great man's great ouevre and for the first time ever I began to think poetry was just a silly little show off's game.
Maybe I'm cracking up.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The first Muttering

It's Monday morning and the clouds are lying low in the valley of the Scaur. Penpont is a very eccentric place , bit like Dylan Thomas' Laugharne, except he had three pubs to choose from and I have only one, the Volunteer Arms, open at weekends and at various other times when he feels like it. The village is dominated by a huge iron age hillfort called Tynron Doon. Strange things happen here, or so I am told, and I can well believe it. We've only been here two years, we moved from Dumfries, 15 miles down the road. Being transplanted into the picturesque has had few bad effects, beyond the fact I have to travel by horse and cart/sledge/motorised lawnmower to my work in Dumfries because I don't drive and the public transport system stinks. No adverse effect on my writing, though, I don't think. I've got no idea at all why I keep writing. Nobody pays the slightest bit of attention. I'm successful in a sort of way, but not the sort of way I'd like.

Another Lost Boy on the Cumnock Bus

A little crow in his shiny suit
but he has a voice like something metal put
on metal to scratch cars,
and a good half inch of Vladivar

left between his knees.
In front, olde ladies squeeze
against their seats like paste.
He's not out of his face,

it's just that Big Ted
bounced a brick off his head
the other day,
and now his girlfriend wants his DNA.

He takes a swig. Outside, the valley
where we both were born sways
in shades of green and brilliant yellow.
It's summer and it follows

the plot we've long since lost.
His mobile goes off:
No Da, Im sober and I'm dressed.
Aye, I really am. Honest.

The little box goes dead.
He sits and gravely nods his head,
then stares quite sadly up at us,
as he lobs his bottle up the bus.