I have known the beauty and power of his poems for a while now, and hope that some of you reading this will follow his work further - Luna Park is available to buy from Amazon and other outlets, as is his most recent book, The Third Inkling, on the life of the writer Charles Williams - 'novelist, poet, theologian, magician and guru.'
Grevel's poems here also include a tribute to his dance adventures in Latin America, and a beautiful reflection upon the life of his unborn grandchild - the size of an 'apple pip'.
You can read his own blog at www.grevel.co.uk
I’ve never been one to plan my books of poems in advance. I know that some poets conceive a book the way rock musicians of the 1970s and ‘80s used to develop a ‘concept album’, with all the pieces telling a story or centring on a theme. But for me, that would risk the work becoming laboured and losing spontaneity.
But that doesn’t mean that my poetry collections have been random assemblages. Each book – and I’ve now published seven book-length collections – has mirrored a phase in my life, and themes have emerged naturally, connecting poems in an organic way.
My latest book, Luna Park, turned out to be in great part an exploration of the magical and mysterious, with the moon itself, as the title suggests, making several appearances, along with ghosts, dreams, a graveyard yew tree, and a covey of Latin American tobacco spirits. Yet none of this was consciously planned. Somehow it just happened.
Luna Park itself was a derelict funfair I saw on the shores of Sydney Harbour, Australia, some years ago. I was fascinated by it, and longed to get in there to explore the colourful and slightly spooky wreckage of what had been such a happy place. It wasn’t to be; but the place haunted my imagination and at last turned into a poem, whose title neatly suggested the realm of the moon with all its magical associations.
Finding a lovely and curiously haunting painting by Cumbrian artist Linda Cooper, of a woman showing the new moon to her cat (the cat itself almost invisible at the right of the picture) I felt I had the perfect cover image for my book.
But not everything in Luna Park is dark. There are poems from Mexico and Cuba – ‘The Key’ is about going to see my wonderful dance teacher in Havana for a salsa lesson – and ‘The Apple Pip’ is about my granddaughter before birth. It was written after I read an article explaining that an unborn child at six weeks is about the size of an apple pip. A delightful image! As I finished it, editor Liz Gray asked me for a poem or piece of prose expressing what I would say if I had just 99 words left, for her anthology 99 Words. I counted the words, and found that the poem had just 99 words. So I sent it. (It has one more word now – don’t ask me which!)
So Luna Park contains poems of life, death and perhaps the worlds between as well. Something, I hope, for anyone to enjoy, in one mood or another.
Forget the Opera House, forget everything. What I remember
is Luna Park, unreachable behind
chain link fencing and KEEP OUT signs.
The ghost of a funfair, due for demolition –
a landscape of fantasies that would be
nowhere soon. I could see The Bug,
a giant ladybird, shiny scarlet
with black spots the size of car tyres;
The Clown, vast face coloured like an iced cake
with red nose and corrugated ruff.
No hint of what they did or how you rode them.
The top car of the Ferris wheel teetered
as if each moment about to go
over the top, though it was only the wind
that rode there. The roller-coaster’s three cars were stuck
at the bottom of their downward graph.
I stared a long time through the wire. Then
followed the others away. A pale moon
rose over Bondi, whitening empty breakers. Lights came on
along the rocky shore but Luna Park just faded
into blackness until the moonlight
sketched in a few of those thin girders
exposed by fallen plywood. I still hankered
to find a gap in the fence. Here I am
ten years later, like a child with no money,
hopeful, face pressed to the steel mesh.
This time the key comes down in a white sock -
small enough, it looks, for a child. Yesterday
it was a twist of paper, the day before
a spectacle-case, plastic. That’s how you visit
in Havana. Expected, you squat -
hoping for shade—on a doorstep across the street
to squint up at the flaking elaborate
balconies—blistered shutters, washing, bicycles--
waiting for a familiar face to appear.
Or, coming unexpectedly, you stand
on the pavement to yell, and whistle shrilly
with two fingers if you can, until the same face
peers down at you. Then she’ll disappear
to fetch the key, return to choose a gap
between infrequent cars, motorbikes, rickshaws,
and at the best moment toss it down
wrapped in something soft and conspicuous.
You run out like a cricketer to catch it
but never do, it skitters on the warm air,
pirouettes sideways. No, you will always
miss, it plunges to the dust while she leans
over to watch you pick it up and stroll
to the cracked, sun-pitted street door.
Turning the key
this moment, I step through and shut myself
in the cool musty dark by the electric
waterpump and the black serpent-coil
of cables writhing from the rusty fusebox.
I stand to breathe a moment, then start up
the twisting marble stairs, climb the five flights.
She will be waiting by the stairhead
to kiss—‘¿Como estás?’—and take the key,
then slam and bolt the door, slip off her trainers,
choose a CD. Now we shall dance and dance.
THE APPLE PIP
Small as an apple pip, they say,
my daughter’s baby sleeps and dreams
and from the wool of sleep now draws
the new thread of a thin-spun life,
from clouds that catch among the stars,
from ripples in the blood’s dark streams,
from breath and rain, from north and south.
I wooed my love with apples once
and now love plants another root
and unexpected pulls the quiet
around that tiny knot of life,
the seed that grows a labyrinth,
the child within the girl who lies
curled in her bed within the room
within the house, within the house.