January 31, 2007

February Poem of the Month


the key you wear
around your neck
opens a door
cut from a tree
used to hang a man

i am still that man
a son of god
but love not
to be crossed so cruelly
for wanting to love thee


Something very weird happened last night. I was reading Susan Cooper's book "King of Shadows" for a review with some Schubert playing. On page 164 there is a reference to a girl wearing a key around her neck. Through a series of concentrated Proustian associations, I was back in 1974 and the above poem - which I wrote then but have long since lost and forgotten - popped verbatim and complete back into my head. Whatever you think of the poem - it's the poem of a nineteen year old I used to be in a relationship and a world long gone - this experience must have interest for how the mind works and/or how poetry is retained and written. I'll try to reassemble the clues at the scene of the crime. I was living alone in an illegally sub-let student bedsit room in Weymouth. (see "Gap Year, Weymouth" in "Exile In His Own Country" for another poem reclaimed from the same shipwreck). I had the key to that room on a string around my neck to avoid losing it. My girlfriend from the otehr side of town wore a cross in the same way. I used to spend most of my supplementary benfit on the rent, a classical music album and a book instead of food every week - a Romantic education. I was studying the Romantics and I had bought "Schubert's Greatest Hits" -an intro to another kind of music. I had heard my hippy uncle rehearsing a play of manners at the college in which a character says "I love not to be crossed". I remember being a bit complacently proud about stealing that clever satirical line of wit back for the Romantic agony. The poem came complete then just as it did again last night. Its emotional directness, ardent conflation of sexual and spiritual yearning, inferiority complex flirting with messiahanic complex, are embarrassingly naked to me now but the fifty year old writing this apologia is still proud of the simple lyrical blast I wrote then instead of all this fiddling about now. There are worse crimes than being eighteen/nioeteen, studying Romanticism, an being desperate to get laid by the last coy mistress of the 70s.
I suppose I was trying in my own way to preach the Everlasting Gospel with Blake, Leonard Cohen and other such heroes of my late teens.
I'm going to do a workshop in Weymouth early next month and will be having a look at the physical door in Abbotsbury Road that suggested the symbolic one of the poem. I really did believe Jesus would have been appalled by a religion in His name that was to do with locked doors rather than liberation. I really did believe that everyone had the potential to be a Son of God. I still do. It was a bit hard on the girl to blame her for crucifying the Jesus she worshipped, perhaps - she was much more Martha than Caiphas - but I still do believe that our modern Church/Chapel would be among the frontrunners to crucify the Messiah if he did return so I have to stand by that too.

January 27, 2007

City Go On The Attack


(as broadcast today on Radio Bristol and published in the Western Daily Press)

08:00 - 27 January 2007

How many Os in Middlesb(o)rough?
Some people think there are two.
There's one - except this Saturday
A nought at the end will do.
But what will the City figure be?
What number will settle the score
With credits to Murray, Showunmi
Maybe? Just the one? Maybe two. Maybe four?

Gareth Calway, Bard of Ashton Gate

January 18, 2007

January Poem Of The Month

Sending Coventry

Put our first away win
For months on a pedestal
The goals went in
Bang! bang! like a pistol
Our attack like infantry
Their defence like crystal
We went to championship Coventry
And sent them to Bristol!

January 10, 2007

In Time of Warne

In Time Of Warne

And now the battle’s over, let us praise
The awesome victors, never down for long,
But when they’re down, immeasurably strong:
At Edgbaston just two runs short, outplayed;
At Manchester, Lee’s Last Stand saved their day;
At Trent Bridge, following on, they still piled on
A total only just too few for Warne
To spin the English difference and erase.

And when they’re up, not even England’s best
- 500 plus in Adelaide, Perth, Day One –
Can stop the outback ranger, wild McGrath
From storming back to win – to pass – each Test,
His face a grinning sun, nor subtler Warne
From lifting cricket with his Last Hurrah.

© Gareth Calway, official poet laureate Bristol City FC,
on temporary loan to Sportsworld.

As broadcast on the BBC World Service, Jan 2007.

Sportsworld's producer rang me up last Friday evening and asked for an accolade for Warne and McGrath. I drank a few glasses of (strictly non-Australian) red wine, gritted my teeth and wrote this sonnet. The next day I broadcast said sonnet personally by phone while 149 million listeners worldwide hung on every word, including one woman as far away as Dersingham, Norfolk - a "first time World Service listener"- who contacted me later to declare herself a "first time World Service listener", and also, I assume, to be enthralled, not just by the glorious poetry but by the towering sporting achievements of two Australian cricketers over the last decade. Extraordinary that two men who have made me miserable on so many occasions should be the inspiration for this world-flung sonnet and also for this unexpected connection with a new WS listener living over four miles away. Sportsworld has twice called my contributions 'prose' - I think (and hope) they mean 'verse' - but for those who wonder what my prose tribute to the two great antipodean sportsmen would be, it's this - thank God they've gone, the smirking Aussie b******s.

January 02, 2007

Anthem for a Doomed Series

Anthem for a Doomed Series: Melbourne, Dec 2006-12-28

(With sincere apologies to Wilfred Owen for repeating tragedy as farce.)

What broken winds for these collapsing losers
Only the laughing Bronx-jeer of the crowds,
Only the monstrous blast of Aussie boozers
Can knell this mournful blue sky lined with clouds.
Another innings ending in disaster,
Another ‘rescue’ bowler hit for four,
The “sound-the-cazoo” rally-charge of batters,
Another chance not taken: that’s the score.

An orchestra of media explanations,
Diminuendo notes of patchy play,
The dirge-ereedo of bowling plans astray,
The cello notes of Aggers lost in drums,
The sigh of Hayden, Symonds still not taken,
The groan as loss becomes annihilation.

© Gareth Calway 2006
Official Poet Laureate Bristol City
(Unofficial Poet In residence Sportsworld, BBC World Service)

I hope all this is wrong with regard Sydney of course and last night's batting was probably England's best all day in the field since Adelaide. I hope I'm writing a pastsiche of a Great English Poem without it being a parody for Sportsworld next Saturday. (By the way, if you have an idea for a great English poem to pastische for Sydney that fits what's happening there this week, please let me know and I'll try to oblige). I hope we all have a Happy New Year basking in sustained English sporting success. But at present, the hope that springs eternal is lost on holiday somewhere along the Great barrier Reef.