Vintage verse - the shame and the pride
There’s something disturbing about plunging back into that maelstrom of youthful emotionsthat makes me want to run for shelter. Oh, the melodrama of thwarted desires, the fears of incipient madness, the elegies to nature and the river of life! (I’m quite getting into the mood for metaphor now.)
But, actually, there is good stuff here too. And some poems that are nearly good. My message to fellow writers is, therefore: don’t throw out your poetic babies with the bathwater. Even if some of the phrases make you groan, don’t give up on the whole lot. For every cringe-making expression of love, loss or despair, there is probably quite a good line embedded in your verse. The youthful poet seems to swing between the extremes of cliché and originality, so you’ll probably find both when you go back to the roots of your writing. And, after all, who wasn’t a poet at the age of eighteen?
‘It’s the editor from America on the phone for you!’ they said in tones of wonder.
Eric Winter wasn’t actually calling from America (that would have been equivalent to signalling earth from a space satellite) but from London.
‘Loved your poem!’ he said. ‘I just read it out at the Albert Hall. We’ve been doing a big concert there.’
What? I was both thrilled and embarrassed. The event was so out of keeping with my everyday world that I almost ignored it. And I don’t still have a copy of the magazine where it was subsequently published.
Perhaps it’s not too late to try again?
And while I’m rooting through the past, I find references to my glorious rise and disgraceful fall as a contributor to Jackie magazine, also in my teenage years. But that story can wait until my next blog post. Till then, here's one of the better poems from my teenage collection, written in 1967.
All in green and yellow
We leap up the dandelion hill
where white ponies snort for joy
and celandines swim by marsh-lined streams
All in singing
the breathtaking bound to the top of the hill,
Tossing away the spread of the view to watch
two bees humming in harmony, and
a new swarm begin
All in a blow of white
the mayflower, the cream and bitter black tree that
waits for fetching home by those who do not forget.
We have not forgotten, we hug
huge spiney armfuls till petals float in our hair
All in running
down, down the flying grass
while hedge birds circle above
and the old oak swoops to meet us.
It is all now,
to swing on its flaking branches
and watch the sky upside down