December 13th, 2018
Poetry ignites the cogs of my imagination in ways I forgot were possible. I love to write in irregular verse, but I lost my way a long time ago.
Poems that don’t rhyme were my specialty as a child. I remember on the last day of term just before Christmas, probably in 1988, my wonderful cigar-breathed teacher Mr Barnes set the class an assignment – to write a poem about Christmas. (It might have been 1986. He was my primary school teacher in second-year and fourth-year juniors, of my 1950’s built East Hertfordshire prefab school, that even had a quite small and tortuously underheated discreetly fenced off swimming pool!)
So either at the age of nine or eleven I took the holiday homework very seriously. I waited very patiently for inspiration and just after a luxurious dinner on Christmas day, a quite loud argument was brewing between my father and my granddad. I wish I could remember how the argument began, and to be honest, I can’t even remember much about it all. It was something to do with a certain type of hand grenade used during the second world war, and how long many seconds it took for them to detonate. I was on the side of my granddad, he was probably more knowledgeable in my view, he had gone on a lot of long walks through unforgiving terrain as an army officer in Burma in the early forties.
I didn’t dismiss my father’s arguments though, when not working he would spend a lot of time sitting in his chair reading his daily or Sunday express, or doing the crosswords, and there were plenty of historical books on the shelves. He was no fool.
I started writing down words as the war of words settled into peacetime and I roughly wrote down my thoughts. Later on I got hold of my trusted penguin thesaurus and discovered grown-up words to replace my childish ones.
It was a short poem with no rhymes. It mentioned the argument in the form of a tennis match with no umpire, or something like that. It was entitled ‘Christmas Noise’
I think the poem is lost forever, but the last line was ‘I love Christmas!’
It made it into the school yearbook I seem to remember. The girl I first loved, who sat next to me in class, had her poem published too. My first and maybe last ever peer in the poetry world.
I am not proofreading what I write here, so it might be a mess.
I suspect I will not have much time to read Micah Clarke today, I’m learning to daydream properly again, at last!
From Micah Clarke by Arthur Conan Doyle:
“My father, as I remember him first, was tall and straight, with a great spread of shoulder and a mighty chest. His face was craggy and stern, with large harsh features, shaggy over-hanging brows, high-bridged fleshy nose, and a full-lipped mouth which tightened and set when he was angry. His grey eyes were piercing and soldier-like, yet I have seen them lighten up into a kindly and merry twinkle. His voice was most tremendous and awe-inspiring that I have ever listened to. I can well believe what I have heard, that when he chanted the Hundredth Psalm as he rode down among the blue bonnets at Dunbar, the sound of him rose above the blue bonnets of Dunbar, the sound of him rose above the blare of trumpets and the crash of guns, like a deep roll of a breaking wave. Yet though he possessed every quality which was needed to raise him to distinction as he prospered and grew rich he might well have worn a sword, but instead he would ever bear a small copy of the Scriptures bound to his girdle, where other men hung their weapons. He was sober and measured in his speech, and it was seldom, even in the bosom of his own family, that he would speak of the scenes which he had taken part in, or of the great men, Fleetwood and Harrison, Blake and Ireton, Desborough and Lambert, some of whom had been simple troopers like himself when the troubles broke out. He was frugal in his eating, backward in drinking, and allowed himself no pleasures save three pipes a day of Oronooko tobacco, which he kept ever in a brown jar by the great wooden chair on the left-hand side of the mantelshelf.
Yet for all his self-restraint the old leaven would at times begin to work in him, and bring on fits of what his enemies would call fanaticism and his friends piety, though it must be confessed that this piety was prone to take a fierce and fiery shape. As I look back, one or two instances of that stand out so hard and clear in my recollection that they might be scenes which I had seen of late in the playhouse, instead of memories of my childhood more than threescore years ago, when the second Charles was on the throne.”