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.