Time to post the second-last of my poetry binge. Try not to be too sad.
Before that though, I have this much-vaunted reading list which is like my actual child right now. I’m never going to get to the end of it. On it go books of films I watch (so Sneak is a reading list KILLER) and the best-known, most prizewinning, or first book by any deceased author I haven’t read yet. That last one is in real time, or else I really would never get to the end of this list. Of course there are exceptions – any book recommended by a friend or anything that just really catches my eye goes down as well.
I mean right now I’m reading EL James’s Grey, so I’m not that much of a book snob, I promise.
But I just wanted to recommend more poetry, because honestly with poetry I just don’t know where to start, and it’s nice to keep a record of the things that I’ve liked. So, through my book list (and haunting the Guardian’s Books section at the slightest hint of boredom) I put down a book by Dermot Healy, called A Fool’s Errand. It’s a book-length poem split into “chapters”, and the theme is a flock of geese migrating from near his Irish home to Greenland and back. I’m glad I started reading it after I came to the end of my poetry-writing spree, because it is good.
The geese scene from TH White’s The Once and Future King was my favourite part of the whole book, and A Fool’s Errand just tapped right back into that scenery for me. Right back into that wet, cold, windy place, and the mysterious ritual of migration. The rising restlessness, the false alarm flights and finally the big lift-off, the amazing journey. Around this you see the geese from all angles, above and below, and Healy was a master of imagery. Birds as orchestra – or orchestra as birds? Simple things like a wind through a house slamming an open door become beautiful things, but always still simple, always just what they are. It’s gorgeous and you should read it.
My own feeble attempt is below, as always.Note 1: I’m not really sure this is actually a poem. This is the one that took me the longest. I kept going back to it over a few days, rewriting it over and over. I’m still not sure about it.
Note 2: The poem WAS originally autological – I left it under Spuggy’s pillow for him to find. Original, I know. Obviously that aspect has been lost forever now. But I don’t know, I kind of like that too.
Note 3: All of these things are real things.
– One bird’s nest, vacant
The perfect place to
raise a family.
– An address in Abu Dhabi
and the oily imprint of a woodpigeon.
– One folded letter
on the U-Bahn
in well-formed ill-spelt longhand.
– Half of a yellowed thriller
and an island for turtles
and the trees crept by treecreepers
and the trees drilled by woodpeckers
and houseboats with guard-geese
and an unclaimed certificate in laminate.
– These things and the memory of these things.
– A cliché: this poem