Signpost Fifteen, ‘Joshua’, Rebecca Bird

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This gorgeous poem by Rebecca Bird is sure to inspire you to write a poem. I’ve chosen it partly because it’s fabulous, and partly because of the subjects: staying up all night, friendship, night-time in the city. All of these are evocative and work perfectly as poem prompts.

The title is clever in its simplicity. It’s simply a name, but immediately makes you want to know why Joshua has inspired a poem ­– what is it about him?

Here’s the poem, by kind permission of the author. It comes from her first collection, Shrinking Ultraviolet, published this year by Eyewear publishing. You can buy it from the link at the bottom of this post.

 

JOSHUA

I keep thinking we’re back in the city, racing drunk
through dawn, night finally clicking off the boil

and you, steps ahead, shining halogen light under your chin
as if the sweet burnt lamps knew you like butter.

This is where I return to you – yes these streets,
where a milk float yawns past, the puddles in neon

as we start to make sense; the closing dark
is where you belong – the large laughs

still glinting from our teeth –
champagne blushing cheeks.

The sun will arch an eyebrow your way:
this day doesn’t begin without your say-so.

 

This poem is so evocative that every stanza is a poem prompt or two in itself. I love the beginning, “I keep thinking we’re back in the city”, because things that I “keep thinking” almost always end up in a poem, and also because it must be something important, or nagging at the poet, so we want to know what it is. “Racing drunk” is a great description, which gives the image energy, then “night finally clicking off the boil” is one of those inspired ideas which you wish you’d thought of yourself and reminds me to keep my notebook handy at all times and notice things around me which may be worthy of a poem. I mean, how many times have I seen/heard a kettle click off the boil and not realised how useful the image is? Der…

The second stanza is delicious. The poet has placed the word “sweet” there, then cleverly used the idea of the buttercup under the chin. A daft thing we used to do as children. So “sweet” + childhood daftness = lovely feeling of childhood freedom and exuberance in the reader. Rebecca Bird really knows what she’s doing!

The third stanza has a lovely, “yes” in italics, as if the certainty of the fact is important and “these streets” places you right there in the poem, with the yawning milk float (wonderful image) and the “puddles in neon”. And who doesn’t love puddles in neon?

The fourth stanza takes the poem to another level – a philosophical level, where “we start to make sense”. Joshua belongs in the “closing dark”, a bittersweet image, paired with “large laughs”. I’ve never heard the word “large” put with “laughs” before. This – again – shows the poet’s skill in bringing the reader something fresh with every line and reminds me to never lazily stick a word along with another one, just because that’s what I’m used to. That would be dull, yet is incredibly easy to do.

The penultimate stanza has “glinting” and “blushing” along with “champagne”, so we have a fizziness that makes us smile. There’s also a faint hint of weddings there, which is intriguing.

I adore the image of the sun raising an eyebrow (once again, the poet has used a fresh word, i.e.“arch”, not raise, as I just automatically did) and the final line is fascinating and leaves us with so much to think about: Why does Joshua have this much power? Power over what or whom? What happens next? What happened before? I don’t know about you, but I really fancy a night out with Joshua!

 

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Once again, please let me know in the comments if this blog has inspired you to write a poem. Personally I’m going to think of times I’ve stayed up all night and think back through friends I have and maybe some I haven’t seen for years. Do I associate particular places or events with that person and – if so – why? And I’m going to walk round with my eyes open today and try and notice some more clever images or sounds to go in my writer’s notebook, like that kettle clicking off.

***

 

Here’s the link to use for buying Shrinking Ultraviolet. It’s a cracking collection of poems:

https://store.eyewearpublishing.com/collections/eyewear-20-20-aviator-pamphlet-series/products/shrinking-ultraviolet

You can read about the author on her website, www.rebeccabird.co.uk.

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