Signpost Twelve, ‘Wordslast’, by Stephen Daniels

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Reproduced here by kind permission of the poet, is the extraordinary poem, ‘Wordslast’. Have a good look at it and don’t worry if you don’t immediately ‘get’ it. The joy of this poem is that it creeps up on you, opening doors in your mind until it becomes part of your own experience:

 

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This poem plays with words, using wonderfully thrifty language (not a hint of a hint of pretentiousness or verbosity).

The title is clever and suggests a technique for coming up with your own poems. Notice when you hear or use a phrase to describe a situation and think about the relationship between the situation and the phrase, then try playing around with the words. I’ve listed some examples below. Here we have ‘wordslast’, which brings to mind the saying, “famous last words” , which implies impending doom. It also brings to mind the idea of a person’s last words; more impending doom. We are further unsettled because the words are the wrong way around (should be “last words”) and they’re stuck together, with no space between the words, which is even more unsettling.

Just one word and we are already worried! How’s that for economy? Pretty cool, huh? Onward…

So, start following through the poem and its story. In the first stanza a woman is shouting to shut the window and the narrator is compliant. The second stanza, we have more orders, but this time ‘screamed’ and with a door. In the third stanza, it’s a gate. The window/door/gate are shut/opened/locked to and fro’ as the word order moves to and fro’. Clever, innit?

Bear with me here because at this point I realised I had ‘Money’ by Pink Floyd playing in my head. In the Pink Floyd song, you are bombarded with a continuous rhythm of opening and shutting tills, suggesting that the influence of money is never ending. In this poem, it’s doors/windows/gates that feel never ending, and the sense that there is something still continuing – even today – in the poets’ mind.

By the fourth stanza, you are beginning to want to put your hands in front of your eyes. The word “incorrectly” sticks out of the rhythm and blasts like a car horn. It’s not going to end well. The fifth stanza is so painful, with  “wideeyes/Eyeswide” and “struggled”.

The final stanza breaks your heart. At first, I thought it was about holding someone’s hand as s/he/they said their last words, but it doesn’t have to be that – as the reader, it can be about whatever you want it to be!

This poem seems to be about a particular event, which carries a heavy weight of shame on the poet’s shoulders. It also seems to be about a continuous practise of people, maybe children, being shouted at and screamed at. There is a plaintive desperation in the repetition, “I said…I said”, “she pleaded… she pleaded”. The poet’s shame shudders in your mind.

You can ponder over this as much or as little as you wish, of course, but I take three things from it:

  1. I really must always explain things to people/children, rather than shouting at them.
  2.  I really must recommend Stephen Daniels’ pamphlet to everyone I meet, and
  3. I really must listen to Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ again.

Here’s a list of examples of throwaway phrases/words that might trigger a poem in you and which you might be able to use with the words mixed up:

Chip off the old block

Clean slate

Insult to injury

Loose canon

Afraid of his own shadow

Against all odds

Fun and games

All in a day’s work

All’s well that ends well

Axe to grind

As the crow flies

At my wits’ end

Better safe than sorry

Bark worse than bite

Bewteen a rock and a hard place

Bites the dust

Bite the hand that feeds

Blessing in disguise

Blow your own trumpet

Busy as a bee

By hook or by crook

Cross that bridge when you come to it

Bright as a button

Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched

Down and out

Down in the dumps

Down to earth

Easy as pie

Fan the flames

Free as a bird

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Stephen Daniels edits Amaryllis and Strange Poetry, both online poetry magazines featuring poetry that has something to say. Stephen is one of the fastest editors to respond to submissions – sometimes responding within 24 hours – so is a great choice if you happen to be impatient. I am very impatient. Stephen will always hold a special place in my poetry heart, as he was the first editor to publish one of my poems. Not only did he publish it, but he suggested I send another of my submissions to Three Drops From a Cauldron (https://threedropspoetry.co.uk/), demonstrating his generosity towards new poets, towards other magazines and towards the world of poetry generally. I mean, what a total dude!

If you’re not already aware of them, do have a look:

http://www.amaryllispoetry.co.uk/

https://strange-poetry.com/strange-poet-people/

I knew I was going to enjoy Stephen’s own poetry and pre-ordered his pamphlet ‘Tell Mistakes I Love Them’ from V. Press. You can buy it from the link below:

http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.co.uk/p/bookshop.html

 

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Door picture from the free website, Pixabay

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Signpost Eleven, ‘Froghopper’ by Jane Burn

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“…imagine what you are writing about. See it and live it. Do not think it up laboriously, as if you were working out mental arithmetic. Just look at it, touch it, smell it, listen to it, turn yourself into it. When you do this, the words look after themselves, like magic.”

(Ted Hughes, in Poetry in the Making: A Handbook for Writing and Teaching, 2008, Faber & Faber)

I love this quote from Ted Hughes because it makes poetry-writing seem the easiest thing in the world. There are so many Ted Hughes poems I could put on my blog, but I think everything that needs to be said about Ted Hughes and his poetry has probably already been said. I think it’s much better to introduce you to this gorgeous, vibrant poem from Jane Burn, which does just what Ted Hughes recommends. It is reproduced here by Jane’s kind permission and was first published in the literary magazine, Butcher’s Dog (http://www.butchersdogmagazine.com/)

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(Just a quick note here to say if you need an explanation of cuckoo spit, you can click https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=490 )

Now to the poem!

Jane doesn’t so much describe the froghoppers, as become them, complete with their own voice; “Mummy born us”, they squeak, or maybe chirrup, “…we be bred in the purple, like majesties.”

Then look at the dense language and description. Jane Burn puts on such a satisfying show! Every one of the senses is stimulated in this gorgeous cabaret of words.

Another thing to take from Jane Burn’s poetry is the concept of the line: every line in this poem contains something captivating. Look how words are used to make this poem exciting. For example, “lick the stink” rather than, “we eat lavendar sap”; “lettuce-frail” rather than just “small”; “eyes, peepy-black”, rather than “small black”.

In fact, I’ve pretty much decided Jane Burn is a poetic reincarnation of Ted Hughes. (You read it first here!)

Jane has this way of filling her poems with image after sound after feeling until you are reeling. I would highly recommend her most recent collection, ‘Nothing more to it than bubbles’, published by Indigo Dreams. The details are on this link, which will also give you more information about Jane:

http://www.indigodreams.co.uk/jane-burn/4593090960

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 So, for writing your own poems? Notice when you are struck by an interesting creature, object, concept and follow Ted Hughes’ advice. Collect your thoughts and ideas as they occur to you over a period of time, then start to form them in to a poem. Try and follow Jane Burns’ example and put on a cabaret!

Please do add a comment if this signpost has pointed you to a poem.