And Donald Justice for all

I had every intention of posting a load of old squit something made up on the spot full of my customary searing insight and flagrant name-dropping, etc, but tiredness got the better of me. Last weekend was an emotional one saying goodbye to an old friend back in Norfolk. We buried the ashes of the wonderful Lorraine Grey. Poems were read (Jenny Joseph’s Warning —I’m sure you know it— and McGough’s ‘Goodbat Nightman’, both favourites of Lol’s and her two children), lovely words were said and a boatload of drinks were drunk (Hence the tiredness the next day).

I think this was meant to be my friend Tracey, sometime around midnight last week, but clearly I had smoke in my eye from the fire

The weekend also involved a wonderful story about the digging of the hole to put Lol’s ashes in, but that’s one to tell over a pint.

Now, you know how I love a bit of coincidence/kismet/ham-fisted smashing together of things to make it appear like it’s all interlinked (delete as applicable)..Well, earlier in the week before driving down to Norfolk I’d seen this tweet from Cameron Self (he runs The literary Norfolk website and often posts pictures from his wake round the Motherland)

I mentioned that the Obelisk (I reckon obelisk is a great poetry word, but perhaps it should be on a banned list) was something I am familiar with – it being in my home village. I used to run past it several times a week (when I was young and ran – we’ll gloss over the 20 or so years in the middle where I didn’t). I also alluded to the story of a man called Anton Wagner (I think I’ve mentioned him on here before). He was a man I didn’t know well, I was too young at the time, but he was well known in the village for maintaining the facilities on the playing field (goal nets, etc) and mainly for being an amazing woodcarver. He lived in a converted barn behind Lorraine and her husband. They got to know him well over the years, and he carved a wooden sculpture of their two sons, Ben and Matt – both sadly lost in a car accident.

I’d not seen that sculpture until Lol’s funeral a couple of months ago, but it was on show in the local church (seen below in this other tweet of Cameron’s as he walks around Worstead) after the burying of the ashes. Then to up the weirdness factor, this article was published in the local newspaper that same day. The article is called ‘Weird Norfolk: What links Westwick’s obelisk, ghosts and stuffed bears?’ and is part of the Weird Norfolk podcast series. Check them out…And surely this story should be part of it.

While I was catching up with friends someone pointed out that my childhood home was a) up for sale again and that a couple of weeks prior the brick and stone arch that connected that house to the neighbours had been knocked down. It set me off thinking about my old bedroom window (where I’d see Anton working on the playing field opposite), the poem I’ve been trying to write for years about that house (something about it being one of the last remaining molars in the jawline of the village—you can see why I’ve not gone back to it) and another poem about Anton. Anton had spent some time living in the obelisk (because reasons) before walking back to his own childhood home Germany (sadly, he didn’t make it), but I have connected it in my head to the story of Peter the Wild Boy. I’m not sure that bit will make it into the poem, or if it will ever get written, but the dots are joining up.

More dots joined up for me this week. When I got back form Norfolk my wife had been tidying up the loft where I work during the week and where I do a lot of my writing (I’m sitting here/there as I type). It lead me to move things around, and to move my desk from under the dormer window – I’ve moved my copy of Derek Mahon’s ‘Everything Is Going To Be Alright‘. It’s looking good up here now, and there’s still loads to be done – painting, new lights, etc, but I thought of this all again this week when I finally started reading my copy of Donald Justice’s Collected Poems. The books was something suggested to me by Andrew Neilson, I think, about two years ago. I’ve been building up to reading it— a collected poems is always quite the commitment. I wish I’d not waited so long though. I got about 30 poems over the last couple of days, but flicked ahead last night before turning out the light. The last thing I saw was this

In The Attic, Donald Justice, Anvil Press

There’s a half hour toward dusk when flies,
Trapped by the summer screens, expire
Musically in the dust of sills;
And ceilings slope toward remembrance.

The same crimson afternoons expire
Over the same few rooftops repeatedly;
Only, being stored up for remembrance,
They somehow escape the ordinary.

Childhood is like that, repeatedly
Lost in the very longueurs it redeems.
One forgets how small and ordinary
The world looked once by dusk light from above…

But not the moment which redeems
The drowsy arias of the flies—
And the chin settles onto palms above
Numbed elbows propped on rotting sills

How wonderful is that? I need to spend longer with it to take in the repetition, the mechanics of it, but it just hits at first read. I’m simultaneously back in that room in Worstead with numbed elbows and watching “crimson afternoons expire” under the dormer/skylight in Beckenham.

I’m not sure it needs to be doing anything more to explain itself than that, although I’m sure it will reveal more and more to me.

It puts me in mind of this excellent and thought-provoking post by Jeremy Wilkely. He nails something I’ve often thought about Ekphrastic poetry (NB I am not knocking that kind of work, but I often feel like I struggle to comprehend it without getting the key (eg seeing the work that inspired the poem). That said, it could be the same if you write poems in eg work jargon, about myths, etc – unless you know the source then perhaps something will not be revealed to you. This doesn’t preclude enjoyment of the poem, but…that’s a can of worms for another time. Especially once I’ve written my ekphrastic work after this week’s visit to the Tate Modern.


2 walks in woodland areas
1 rejoining of the National Trust
1 half term week spent with the family
1 trip to Camden
1 trip to Tate Modern
1 trip to the tip
1 trip to Worstead
5K in the last week. Really slow week there, but I think I needed the rest
0 x acceptances
1 rejections: Assumed the North have said no. I expect it’s the same with New Welsh Review, but if they want a little more time to think I’m happy to give it to them
1 poem finished: I Thought Dewars Was A Whisky Until I Tried Cryogenics
1 poem worked on: Bedside Manner
0 new submissions:
26 poems currently out for submission.
68 Published poems*: Was 69, but one was not used in the end, having been accepted.
43 Poems* finished by unpublished
26 poems* in various states of undress
554 Rejected poems* Eg I’ve decided they are not good enough
1 review to write (I’ve read the book)
7 days without cigarettes…
0 Days since drinking
1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

Idiot Lanterns
Factory Settings
All Tureen Vehicles
Visiting the Garden Centaur


Carcanet New Poetries VIII
Stephen Payne: The Windmill Proof
Poetry Review Summer 21
The Friday Poem
John Ashberry: Selected Poems
Lisa Kelly: From The IKEA back Catalogue
Donald Justice: Collected Poems
Bad Lillies 4: Ghosts (while listening to Cowboy Junkies’ Ghosts)

Superchunk: ST
Earlimart: System Preferences
Paul Buchanan: Mid Air
My Morning Jacket: Live At Red Rocks 2019
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin: Are You Normal?
Pernice Brothers: Goodbye, Killer, Live A Little
Frightened Rabbit: Pedestrian Verse, Sing The Greys
Dinosaur Jr: Hand It Over, Without A Sound, Farm
Richard Hawley: Coles Corner
Low: C’mon
Whoa Melodic: ST
Brandi Carlisle: In These Silent Days
Michael Chapman: Wrecked Again
Julien Baker: Little Oblivions
Explosions In the Sky: Live, The Earth is Not A Cold Dead Place
Pains of Being Pure At Heart: ST
The New Pornographers: Together, Twin Cinema
Yo La Tengo: Painful, I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One
Sea Power: Machineries of Joy
Hold Steady: Live In London 2019
My Morning Jacket: ST
Magic Hour: Will They Turn You On Or Will They Turn On You, No Excess Is Absurd
Self Esteem: Prioritise Pleasure
Gracie Abrams: minor
Grant Green: Green Street
Laura Barton: Plastic- The Biography
The Archers
King Tubby & The Aggrovators: Dubbing In The Background
Cowboy Junkies: Ghosts
Jane Weaver:Flock
Tonstartssbandhtt: Petunia, Sorcerer

The Wire S5
Black Widow
The Walking Dead


Poetry London 100
Poetry Scotland


2 thoughts on “And Donald Justice for all

  1. Thanks for the mention Mat! I should say it’s not me that nails it, it’s Armitage… NB I have also been reading The Windmill Proof (it’s great) and am always listening to The Hold Steady (it’s poetry).

    • Fair point, let’s say you nailed bringing up what he said and added to it. I’d forgotten that part of his lectures.

      Yes to TWP (Stephen’s book, not The Wedding Present. Although yes to them too. Christ, would have been quicker to type out The Windmill Proof).

      Excellent news about The Hold Steady. Are you, by any chance, going to the London gigs in March, Specifically the 4th of March one? Will happily buy you a series of pints there is you are.

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