At the time of writing I find myself in the weird place of willing Spurs to win…especially after yesterday’s shocker from Arsenal…I’m also in the middle of making an amazing pizza sauce, so will be stopping to check the scores and, like any good journalism, I’m having to credit my sauces. Sorry.
Right, as it seemed to work last week, I’m going to build in the same approach and dive straight in with a poem. Then, hopefully, by then the reason for selecting it will make sense.
Philpott is very tired. He would like to stop.
He would like time. He would like time to be careful and slow
like the man down the road who trims the lawn with his kitchen scissors.
He would like to watch the sun on the carpet,
watch it travel from the wall to the chair by the door.
He would like to listen to the noises of the house,
to hear the hair on his own arms stir.
Perhaps it’s a sign. Ill people have to stop.
They stop and listen to the call of pain.
Perhaps illness is coming and he’d better move
quickly before it’s too late, move quickly
before stopping happens. He isn’t in pain
but this wanting to stop-it may be a sign.
Already he has keys in his hand, his leather briefcase
and his brisk face on. He has wasted an hour
and there’s work to be done.
Taken from Pearls: The Complete Mr & Mrs Philpott Poems by Helena Nelson. Published with permission of the author.
I don’t really think I need to do much by way of introducing Nell. Her achievements in publishing for HappenStance and as a reviewer** should really speak for themselves, but I’m not sure her work as a poet gets enough credit. I’m not the person to write an in depth review of her work, but I can certainly point you towards this look at Pearls by young Mr Stewart as a good place to start.
I can say that I have long enjoyed her work. I remember buying Starlight on Water long before I made her acquaintance. And, for those of you that enjoy a tortured and misguided attempt at a connection, I note that the first stanza of the book ends with the word ‘pearls’. Her work is rich and varied, there is an undercurrent of sadness and anger that shouldn’t be, but is surprising when you first encounter it. It is certainly a body of work I want to go back to after opening Pearls this week.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes a poem just hits hard and is the right thing to read at the right time. It’s been one hell of a week at work and in life this week. Despite the wonderful news this week that I now have a publication date for my Red Squirrel pamphlet and that work can now begin in earnest on it (not that it hasn’t already, but you take my point, I hope), the week has been dragged down by the continued decline of our eldest cat, an unexpected and unwelcome outlay on a new washing machine, and a hectic week that has barely allowed for a moment to pause.
So when I sat down to read my copy of Pearls this week after it had made its way to the top of my TBR pile, I found myself being absolutely smacked round the chops (in a good way) by reading the poem above. I felt Philpott’s pain. I was there with him in every sentence. There’s a poem in my own ms that I’ve just sent off for its next round of editing called ‘Reading The Signs’ (due out in the next issue of The Frogmore Papers if you fancy a sneaky preview) that is, to my mind at least, the story of the hour that Philpott feels he has wasted.
What shocks me most of all though is that the poem felt new to me, I was sure I hadn’t read it, but in checking my copy of Starlight*** I note that I had read it before. My inability to recall poems is well-documented, but I’m going to chalk it up to the fact that between its publication in 2003 (earlier if it was among the original Philpott poems found in Mr and Mrs Philpott on Holiday At Auchterawe & Other Poems) and last years collecting together of all the Philpott poems, the poem has undergone a transformation. In its “original form” the poem has become mainly couplets – whereas before it was made up of stanzas of varying length.
The second couplet as is now once read: “He would like time. He would like time to be careful and slow / like the man down the road who is trimming the lawn with kitchen scissors.”. The sixth couplet now names illness, but before it was vaguer, “Perhaps it is coming and he had better move”. I could go on, but the new form and the changes serve only to improve the poem. The couplets give the reader an extra pause for thought. The message lands better for the pauses. Perhaps the pauses only serve to amplify the state of mind Philpott finds himself in.
I’m only two thirds of the way through Pearls, but I find myself turning the corner over on almost every page. I don’t know if it’s because I am older now, have been married for longer, or have just become a (slightly) better reader, but I’m finding these poems are landing more with me now than when I first read them.
Now, it’s the 60 minutes into the Spurs game. If I allow for the fact that they scored on the fifteenth minute that means it’s been an hour since I started writing this. Yes, I am going there.
It’s been a (not) wasted hour and there’s work (pizzas) to be done.
* Her Shoestring Press collection Plot and Counter-Plot is also available via the HappenStance site
** Not just at Sphinx, her reviews can be found elsewhere. I haven’t read it yet—that’s for later today, but her review of Don Paterson’s The Arctic should be a good one
*** Check those sources, folks…
THE LAST WEEK IN STATS
0K running., knee still bad
4K walk run..if about 400m of light jogging counts.
0 lengths of the local pool
1 day without cigarettes…really, really need to knuckle down here to help with the above
0 days since drinking.
3 x focus groups for work
4 questionnaires written
1 burnt out washing machine
1 renewed driving licence
0 loose ideas/articles gathered (this allows me to kid myself I am writing all the time)
0 poems finished:
0 poems worked on: For Ever Given
1 rejections: Poetry London
19 poems are currently out for submission. No simultaneous subs
83 Published poems
1 review finished:
0 reviews started:
1 reviews submitted:
2 reviews to write:
1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green
* To date, not this week. Christ!!
Fergus Allen: The Brown Parrots of Provedencia
Katie Griffiths: The Attitudes
Helena Nelson: Pearls
Ann Peebles: Straight From The Heart
Liz Phair: Whip-Smart
Television: Marquee Moon, Adventure, The Blow-Up
The Verb: Cities
Native Harrow: Old Kind of Magic
J Mascis & The Fog: More Light
Gladie: Don’t Know
The Afghan Whigs: Congregation, 1965
The Foxhole Companion
Thao & the Get Down Stay Down: Know Better Learn Faster
Terry Callier: Welcome HomeMercury Rev: Yerself Is Steam
Hifi Sean & David McAltmont: Happy Ending
The Go! Team: Get Up Sequences Vol 2
Bardo Point: No Hashish, No Change Money, No Saki Saki
Billy Nomates: CactiComets on Fire: ST
The Reds, Pinks & Purples: Dust in the Path of Love
Lael Neale: Aquinted With Night
Buffalo Tom: Let Me Come Over
Teenage Fanclub: Endless Arcade
SMYL: The Day My Father Died
Sam Burton: Nothing Touches Me
A series of new singles: Inc Girl Ray, Kara Jackson, & Rachel Chinouri
Talk Talk: Laughing Stock
The National: Juicy Sonic MagicJefferson Starship & Paul Kantner: Blows Against the Empire
1 new washing machine
Headphones for Rachael and I