On Poetry:Inspiration

City Jackdaw

For me, my poems serve as a diary. When I look at them I can remember where I was when I got the idea for each one, and what it was that acted as the initial inspiration. The opening poem in my book, Heading North, is called Midnight, July.

The title indicates the when, but not the where and why.

The words for this one came when I was sat in the back garden with a coffee. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and I was looking up at the stars and wondering whether we could be alone or was there life somewhere out there?

We writhe 

with a rage to know 

the unknowable,


blind to great masses

that dance in dark orbits. 

And a soft, summer wind 

on a night beneath stars 

is no balm.

While I was sat there, neck craned in the quiet of the…

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The Swifts Are Screaming

Above the house, the swifts are screaming.

Can you hear them, Clarice?

We are bogged down by time and heat and lethargy.

I’m thinking of an old poem of mine, Dog Days, written under the sledgehammer of a July, noon-day sun:

who can deny /the sapping sun/at its highest point /lording over /our genuflecting /straw gods

We are all genuflecting, lowering our weary, supine brows. It’s been a hell of a long summer, and we’ve not yet reached July. Who could have foreseen this, who prepared? Not we little men, we average Joes and Josephines.

Not tonight, you-know-who.

Tomorrow is more of the same, that has been foreseen, but nothing lasts forever, nothing lasts at all, and storms are due to hit the day after that.

And then we batten down. Straw Gods and rush men.

Children of the corn. Drinking in the rain.

Storm Lore And Sundry

I’m getting old.

Yesterday, a clap of thunder woke me in the garden. The last thing I’d known was that I’d been reading a book in the shade. Looking up, I could see that there were clouds up there, obscuring part of what was otherwise a bright blue sky.

But they were white clouds, empty of rain. The few rounds of thunder was the only anomaly to that warm afternoon.

Later, I heard that there’d been flooding in Altrincham and Rochdale which is, what, ten minutes away from here? They had been besieged by downpours while we hadn’t had a single raindrop.

This afternoon, however, we got the full works: thunder, lightning and torrential rain.

I do love a good thunderstorm, and consider it a waste if one should occur in daylight hours.

I’d never been afraid of storms, even as a child, though I know many people are. I can recall my brother and I, back in the seventies, going around to my grandparents’ house and asking my Gran if we could play that game again.

“What game?” she asked.

“The one where we all sit beneath the table.”

The previous week there’d been such a storm, and my Gran, susceptible to omens of doom and taking no chances, would hide beneath the dining table until it passed. Taking us with her for company.

I wonder now if she’d ever heard of that old custom of leaving both the front and back door open, so that any lightning or thunderbolt would pass through the house. I think she’d probably have seen that as tantamount to making an invitation. And, even if she did indulge in such a practice, she’d of course have to cover up all mirrors and shiny objects that were known to attract lightning.

If you should be caught outdoors in a storm, it was vital to know your tree lore, such as:

Beware of an oak

It draws the stroke

Avoid an ash

It courts the flash

Creep under the thorn

It can save you from harm

I think we’d be best off staying indoors, though, covered mirrors, open doors or not.

In the current climate, battling this virus as we are, our social distancing measures have worked well in the good weather that we’ve been blessed with. Queuing outside shops, two metres apart, one person in, one person out, no more than two inside at any one time. . . . under regular deluges such as this one, today, I have a feeling that all order would break down, despite our good intentions.

To test this theory, I chanced our attic window a few inches to see what the shops down the hill were like. There wasn’t a single person outside any of the shops, and it looked like there were several people huddled inside the chippy for shelter from the almost horizontal onslaught.

Just as I thought. Never mind Corvid-19, the last thing you’d want to catch these days is a chill.