Here are some of the poems from the session on 14th August.
Firstly, on an Olympic theme, we kick into action with some poems by Paul Freeman.
LEGACY | Paul Freeman
the way a sand-coloured grasshopper kicks
itself into the long grass. But despite a Twitter spat
with UK Athletics in which he bigged
himself up, bragged of bringing home the bling, he could only kick sand
in his own face. Thanks to a leap of the imagination,
the Greeks would kick off their sandals
to listen to the tale of Tithonus,
whose wife kicks open the doors each day
and whose tale would kick Tennyson’s
imagination (The woods decay…).
Tithonus’ own imaginative
leap to avoid kicking the bucket, to stay
the sands of time, ended, after years of being a mere twitter,
with his kicking himself into the long grass – hop, skip
and jump – sporting all the signs of his immortality.
(Note: More information about the Greek myth of Tithonus, and Tennyson’s poem, can be read here.)
Paul also entered a series of couplets for The Poetry Society’s website. A rhyming couplet appeared each day to accompany the events. Here are Paul’s with an introductory note to let us know who or what they were written about.
OLYMPICS COUPLETS | Paul Freeman
It’s the first of August, so exacting ex-track cyclist Wiggins with his auburn
sideburns, turns alchemist, extracting gold from his maillot jaune.
After stepping out of the comfort zones of their beds, the athletes
in the food hall take each tray as it comes before stepping up to the plates.
Not far from Westminster Bridge, the gold medal-winning runner
doth like a garment wear the union flag. Now, Earth has not any thing to show Mo Farah.
(Incident at the start of the men’s 100m final)
The man who had the bottle to throw Bolt off his stride
was rewarded with a punch by the judo champ at his side.
(Australian swimming commentator Ian Thorpe’s annoying verbal tic)
Look – if America is declarative, and Spain – no? – interrogative,
then Ian Thorpe instructs us on the Aussie imperative.
(Website error about American sprinter Tyson Gay)
The filter on the US Christian website does not discriminate against the contextual:
fourth in the men’s 100m final was one ‘Tyson Homosexual’.
(Track cyclist Victoria Pendleton finishes her career)
For Vicky’s last race tonight, with her bike re-tyred by a mechanic,
expect tracks of tears across the boards, expect the velodramatic.
(The Brownlee brothers win gold and bronze in the triathlon)
Why Brownlee left and where he went was a mystery –
but I’ve just seen him and his brother on the podium for Team GB.
(Long-distance swimmer Keri-Anne Payne)
Oh, GB’s girl in the goggles, so easy on the eye!
Thank Google for obliging my ogling – how I love to watch Payne dry!
After the psychedelic show-jump course, I needed a head massage;
and it’s easy to scoff at a toff on a hoss, till she prances to gold in the dressage.
Continuing the sporting theme, here’s a poem from John Williams.
STAFF MATCH | John Williams
Ring fenced in their busy lifestyle, the match
on scanty grass, office v maintenance.
Can’t say beautiful as they take your breath
jogging from the tunnel to the pitch
a bit adrenalysed, free of their chitties and tot ups.
They manage practice kicks, botched traps,
stranded in their gear trading anecdotes
their wives will never hear. They rub shoulders,
the Hades kickers with boots like an axe,
and those that take it in the bellybutton.
Who carries their togs in a supermarket bag?
those who pause for a sound check in their hearing aids,
struggle to circulate a pass but stand in the nets
as stinging rebukes sizzle over them. One good kick
and their hair sticks up like an old white dandelion.
And wearing the brightest colours
those always on the verge of being snapped up
by a major league team for a 6-figure sum,
hoofing the ball over the big lights
to the flashbulbs waiting on the touchline.
FINAL FAREWELL | Paul Fox
In the gloom of Intensive Care,
The machines that kept him alive
Rattled their deadly rhythm –
But he lay there – dying – still
“He may appear comatose
but he can hear what you say” they said.
We were together, my father and I,
And what should I say?
On the edge of the final abyss;
The darkness closing in fast.
So I leaned forward and whispered softly,
“Ay up , Dad, Arsenal are losing 2-0.”
And if he heard me, I know he died happy.
THE LESSON | Paul Fox
And at that time, Mr Portman
Called the children and staff together,
That they might learn from the rich kaleidoscope,
Which was his life.
“It was in Rio” he began,
“Climbing from my Porsche Cayenne, I was startled
By a bundle of rags which suddenly moved,
But then I saw that it was in fact a human being
A meagre, thin, wasted creature –
He had seen the packet of biscuits I was carrying
And a thin scrofulous arm reached out, begging silently.
For a moment I thought of my five star wealth
And of this creature’s existence
And I was ashamed.
Did I give him a biscuit?
No! I gave him two biscuits.”
Bo Crowder contributed this impressive narrative sonnet-sequence.
POWER TAKE OFF | Bo Crowder
He swept the old grey tractor of cobwebs,
‘My girl you should get out more,’ he muttered,
pressed the starter as the engine stuttered,
the trusty exhaust coughed, a smoky breath
of black into the air. He backed towards
the mower, hitched her up, he slipped the gear
P…T…O… it moaned. Down he got bent near
its groan, still closer just to be assured.
“That rusty tractor giving you some stick?”
A bright and breezy wife has much to hide,
he didn’t turn. The hairs stood on his neck,
‘I don’t need your help now, so go inside.’
“Are you still mad at me my love, my dear?”
He heard the words, inside he felt the fear.
The work: the woman: sapped his strength, well
he wilted with the effort, understanding
the land is hard, but wives are more demanding.
A farm falls to the first born and he fell
first for the farm, full in his flesh, his bones
absorbed. He thought it best he shouldn’t doubt
the calls, the absences, the late nights out.
She crept home like a thistle throwing rhizomes.
Pushed to the headland of his mind she had
grown wild, nettled, as untopped fields are prone
to do. Like wicked words they’re not alone
for long, finding truth in lies, good in bad.
The sun had shone for three days on the trot,
He had to cut the hay before it shot.
He pulled the cover back and oiled the shaft,
had her denial set his mind at rest?
A gift a trusting smile, and yet the best
of actors show or tell. Somehow, her craft,
he recognised as rot. A spoiled sack.
Her words ‘No I never,’ echoed hollow.
Truth from lips so quick to melt, slow to crack,
was like a running hare, too fast to follow.
Just then, she kissed him and in his ear let slip,
“Your overalls are worn, I’ll stitch you up,”
and carefully she tore a hefty rip,
down to his waist. He never saw it drop.
As he leaned by that spinning shaft, she reckoned,
six feet of farmer, wrapped up in a second.
POETRY IN POOLS | Bill Harper
A pool, a mirror framed by trees
Is ruffled by an inspired breeze
Shimmering surface patterns change
Revealing depths half-hidden strange
Image shapes, metaphors that lie
Suggestions of reality.
RAINY DAYS | Reuben Parr
I see you pressing forward turning blue to black,
You’re upon us with no warning just gutter-busting force,
Turning collars up for those without hoods or umbrellas.
With a sense of urgency we’re scattered like ants,
Hauled up in doorways you get the better always
Expected but never prepared, we’ve no chance
With sandbags for the destruction you have in store.
Then again at night with bullying tactics, crashing the air
Like an incensed rock and roll band lighting the sky
Stobe-like as you play Mother Nature’s greatest hits.
I’m not scared you can only hit me once so catch me if you can
Unlike the irony that comes with a hose pipe ban.
This next one had us reciting lines from Beesley Street and other favourite John Cooper Clark verses …
JOHN COOPER CLARK | Mark Davenport
The Lowry of word
Rhymes fall from his mouth
It should be absurd
This tall pole spouting
Pictures of Salford
Ranting from ’76
Spitting adjectives into the front row
Spikey crow cawing lines
Speak to the beat
Beat the speech
Make words your obsession
Not a literal recession
Don’t be part of the regression
Be an exception
Free of the procession
Write off the chains
Use your brains.
And, last by no means least, a energetic, racy, somewhat medieval-sounding tale from Wendy Brockie.
IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD | Wendy Brockie
In the beginning was the word of course:
No chance of the seas rolling, the thunder unleashing primordial chaos,
The stars swirling in the heavens,
Before being granted permission,
No getting into heaven without having uttered certain words –
Every chance of getting into hell if you utter the wrong ones.
There was a light knock on my bedroom door
The night before our wedding.
‘Make me your wife,’ you said.
‘Send for no priest for permission,
Write and recite no words,
Do it now, with the stars for witnesses.’
‘Rape is a serious offence,’ I said.’Death is the penalty.’
Why, except to dishonour me, would you so offer yourself?’
‘You could call your midwives,
Denounce me before the court as a whore unfit for marriage.
We are equal in what we may lose,
So we must be equal in trust.
Take me now, and I am yours until beyond death.
Is not my presence permission enough?
I do not want our beginning to be the word.’
She lay open to me and enclosed me,
Heaven opening as I rode her hard beneath me.
She was my steed, my lance against the world,
Surrounding me like armour,
Doubt and fear slain at a stroke.
The antics in the cathedral could wait,
Each piece in position in the playing board of the nave,
Bishops, ranked by raiment, rooks in the rafters,
The pawns in the game lined up like ninepins,
Waiting for the word.
Hours later, under the canopy before the great altar,
White velvet, silver silk, precious ermine enclosed us,
Emeralds on our fingers, quills scraping parchment:
Devorguillah Mathilde Christabel Ignatia of the Dominion of St. Mavarre
And the sovereign prince
Therion Deogenitas Jacquest of the House of Zadkiel
Named and published on this day in marriage, never to be put asunder
Subject, of course, to the successful consummation of the marriage.
I smiled at her.
Provided that an heir is produced,
She smiled at me.
And that on condition that consanguinity remains unproven.
Who would know, since my ancestors
Were none too particular where they stuck what?
So much for the word.
I would not trust it to get me through a day, let alone eternity.