A while ago I was listening to a learned radio programme about the ground-breaking publication of “Lyrical Ballads” by Wordsworth and Coleridge, thus kicking off the Romantic Movement in poetry. In those different times, the two young poets wandered off into the wilds, in full poetic flow, discussing art, beauty and philosophy. They needed some cash and brought out a book to fund the trip. Somehow it seems that those opportunities have gone. Even if one did wander poetically and bring out a book of poems, there would be little chance of main stream publication and even fewer people to read it. I suspect that these days the poets would have filmed themselves for You tube with Coleridge hamming up the Ancient Mariner in full Caribbean pirate flow, hoping to go viral. Wordsworth would be tweeting – “Just seen river near Tintern #mortality #pantheism.”
In that case very little has changed. Although I have never invited poets to wander off with me, (not even the pretty ones), the internet has allowed me contacts, stimulation and influences beyond anything available to the Great and the Dead. A while ago, an American poet Jefferson Hansen mailed me a copy of a small book entitled “The Branded Woman & Other Poems” ( This gentleman had already deranged my satisfied sense of music by introducing me to a band called “Purgatory Hill” play it LOUD!). Inside the book of poems was an invitation to recite them and so I have chosen one called “The Meditating Cougar”. You can hear it here. It is one of those poems that is about nothing much in so far as suffering, chance and mortality are not about anything much. The language is plain and poses no barrier to a reader also just idling in neutral, our own food chain hidden from view, sanitized and packaged. It is a poem that raises the question of determinism and causality in a quiet flat tone that hides the claw hammer of time striking the bell of chance. If that last sentence sounds out of place it is because I am also thinking of another poetic wanderer who has turned up in my cyber salon.
This week, another American poet Jo Von Bargen has published a collection of some of her work “It Ain’t Shakespeare But Oh, How it Glows” which I had the pleasure to review. Whilst Jeff Hansen’s poem is bare of image, JVB’s work is a feast of imagery. I have written of her before and often one of her phrases pops into my idling consciousness. In her poem “Hissing Like Fire” she also chooses a moment from the unscheduled natural world. As an experiment I have recorded it as both a complement and a contrast to the first poem. You can hear it here. I do not think either of these writers belong to a “movement” as such. The internet has no manifesto but infinite manifestations. Perhaps we are at the dawn of “Manifestism”. I feel so lucky to be here.
I have always needed to read poems aloud in order to come to terms with them. It is a process something like peeling an orange as if you had never seen inside one before. Even then – do you understand an orange? Poets send off their little poem creatures as if into a river – perhaps flowing on to the ocean, catching up in an overhanging branch or circling in an eddy. Some may sink dead for a thousand years until some silt bed dries and a tiny body becomes a treasure. A poem with truth from the polished or the rough hewn hand has an ever enduring voice.
I had a big sky day this week. I was doing some familial child care on a windswept beach, conscious that I had written so little of late. I wanted to do a perfect classic Haiku but in the end I just did what I did. It’s legitimacy is simply that I was there and I needed to justify being one of those old guys mumbling to themselves.
Dome sky stretching day
My thoughts fly out to fill you
But you fill me first.