It’s only a coincidence if you make the connection, but I think this just about counts.
Last Sunday evening I caught the end of Antiques Roadshow, and one of the participants was looking at a watch that I think belonged to their father that had radium on the dial.
It reminded me of a poem, but I couldn’t remember who had written it. I suspected it was Lavinia Greenlaw, but I was comfortable on the sofa and despite my books being 5 feet away I couldn’t face getting up to check. I turned to Twitter to ask, and very quickly it was confirmed that it was indeed by LG, from her first collection, ‘Night Photograph’.
The poem is called ‘The Innocence of Radium’ and it’s an excellent poem. The likes of which I don’t think Greenlaw writes anymore (this is not to knock her later work – I loved The Built Moment).
However, let’s get to the (TBC) coincidence. As part of the conversation on Twitter, I alluded to a review of LG by Ian McMillan that I had in an old Poetry Review (Think I’ve referenced this edition before), where he describes Night Photograph by paraphrasing John Peel,
“As John Peel once said about an album by Napalm Death, experiencing this is like renting a cottage by the sea.”
As an aside, I would sell a kidney to be in a rented cottage by the sea at the moment.
Anyhoo, moving on. The coincidence starts the next day when I dig out the aforementioned quotation (I wasn’t sure if I remembered it correctly) and while flicking through the rest of the mag I land upon a poem by Mick Imlah called ‘Past Caring’. That looks familiar, I thought.
It was familiar because I’d read it the night before in his collection, ‘The Lost Leader‘.
The Poetry Review issue came out in 1994, ‘The Lost Leader’ was published in 2008. That’s quite the wait, although I know Imlah was quite slow in his work-rate. Comparing the two versions of the poem I can see that the intervening years saw:
1. The removal of an em dash from the last line of the third stanza
2. A change from upper to a lower case v in valentine in line 3 of the fifth stanza
3. In the fifth stanza, what was ‘ And sniffing the neck I feel suddenly dear to you’ became ‘And sniffing the neck I feel suddenly near to you (which I think works better given the rhyme it offers with the last line of that stanza. It’s like he knew what he was doing.)
4. Two more em dashes are removed from the final stanza in line 4 and the final line.
5. What was ‘The fish out of water that stubbornly stays but the more fish’ became ‘The fish out of water that stubbornly stays all the more fish’.
What does it say about Imlah’s thinking? Probably not a lot more than he wanted to make these changes that were largely niggles. The most significant of them, for me, occurs in the fifth stanza. The change of the rhyme and the lower case valentine making the poem work a lot harder.
Alternatively, they could have been typos in one of these publications, but I don’t think so.
Here’s the final version of the poem.
I can’t claim to be anywhere near as good as Mick Imlah or Lavinia Greenlaw. (Please note I never will claim this), but I can ham-fistedly segue into saying that I finished two poems this week that have taken a long time to finish. One has taken at least a year (I can’t find the notes I made at the start, so may well be a bit older) and another was started in 2017 and is a rare example of something from NAPOWRIMO, especially given I don’t take part in that anymore.
Both poems have gone on quite the journey, turning from small notes to being parts of a sequence and then back to being standalone poems again. It took a lot of cutting to get them done. I was quietly convinced I’d nailed them both at least six months ago, but I was wrong. I still may be wrong now that I think they are actually done, but they’ve gone out as part of a submission this week, and I feel better about them than I have ever done.
It’s meant I can now crack on with a draft of something I made notes on towards the end of last year. It’s a poem inspired by my surprise trip to Berlin in 2016 for my 40th. Inspired by, but not really about…I don’t know what it’s about yet. However, that trip is where the header image for this post comes from. And to get really spooky on you it mentions Radium. *Mind blown gif*
More spookiness, I mentioned Ian McMillan earlier. Tonight is the TS Eliot awards, hosted by one Ian McMillan, and judged by ..doo doo doo doo doo…Lavina Greenlaw, Andrew McMillan (son of..) and Mona Arshi (Her collection, ‘Dear Big Gods’ found itself at the top of my book pile last night).
Good luck to all involved.
THE WEEK IN STATS
59.3k running – Carrying on with the Run Every Day in January thing. My foot is sore, my legs are tired, but all miles are good miles…This week includes my first half marathon run of the year and 4 PBs. Not bad. I feel awful now though.
0 day of 2 x 7-minute workouts, but the above means I don’t feel so bad
66 days of insults between my friend and me on Twitter. He started it.
0 x rejections:
0 x acceptances
3 poems worked on: Out of Office, Phantom Settlements , Berlin
2 poems finished: An Out of Office Message, Phantom Settlements
2 new Submissions: The North
40 poems currently out for submission
57 Published poems*:
45 Poems* finished by unpublished
31 poems* in various states of undress
554 Rejected poems* Eg I’ve decided they are not good enough
1 Reviews* written. 2 still to do though, so must crack on
14 day* without cigarettes..Thumbs aloft!!!
24 days without drinking. Nearly cracked last night.
1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green
* To date, not this week. Christ!!
Knocked Kneed Cockneys
Mick Imlah: The Lost Leader
Matthew Caley: Apparently
Frank Wood: Racing The Stable Clock
Kae Tempest: On Connection
George Kendrick: When All Is Said And Done
Viagra Boys: Welfare Jazz
Sad Eagle: Demons On Toast Playlist, My Computer is Old Playlist
Emily Wells: Promise
Explosions In The Sky: All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, Live Bootleg, The Earth is Not A Cold Dead Place, Friday Night Lights (Studio Demos), Friday Night Lights (OST)
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: Euclid
Life Without Buildings: The Leftovers
The Turtles: Happy Together
The Twilight Singers: Dynamite Steps
Miles Davis: Sketches of Spain
Sara Watkins: You In All The Wrong Ways
Satisfaction Unlimited: Think of the Children
Scarce: Deadsexy, Circus Boy
Van Morrison: Moondance
Vetiver: Complete Strangers
The Waterboys: This Is The Sea
Harold Ashby: On the Sunny Side of the Street
Kathy Smith: 2
My Morning Jacket; The Waterfall II, Z
Cassandra Jenkins: Hard Drive (On repeat)
East River Pipe: Goodbye California
Earlimart: Hymn And Her
Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia
The Wedding Present: Bizarro, Going, Going…
Waxahatchee: Saint Cloud, Out In The Storm
Modern Studies: The Weight of the Sun
Matt Berninger: Serpentine Prison
Hand Habits: Placeholder
Spiral S8 E7-10
Call My Agent: S1E1
New Girl S2 E21-23
Eavan Boland: The Historians
Arun Jeetoo: I want to be the one you think about at night