His body passed
along the green lane
beside the church
writing with light
paying homage to the agrarian community
The family pets and horses
were buried here:
large against that vast sky.
Fields are palimpsests,
woodlands, fen and marsh,
wet meadows, excavated pond.
Break the cauliflower head.
Leeks sprout from the curtains.
The sole of a boot,
electric all-terrain wheelchair,
almost the grim-reaper.
Silently he creeps
looming in the business of small men,
one foot firmly planted in the past.
Neglected, derelict, overgrown.
One art gives birth to another;
This was our ‘found’ poem, created collaboratively using text from The East Anglians, commentary on a photographic exhibition by Justin Partyka – combined with words and phrases from a guidemap for local walks, with another line taken from a poetry recipe. I had not met my poetry-writing partner before and we knew next to nothing about each other - and so we began rather individually, by selecting the source texts independently of each other and then independently listing words and phrases that leapt out from the page. Here are some of my words:
Next we discussed the idea of using the death of an unnamed individual as a metaphor for something significant dying within the landscape and community. We changed a pronoun, (‘it’ to ‘he’ in the ‘silently he creeps’ line) and substituted ‘in’ for ‘is’ (next to ‘looming’ in the penultimate stanza), otherwise all lines are exactly as they were ‘found’ in the two source texts, albeit integrated and reordered. We wanted ‘ghostscape’ in there somewhere as it seemed central to our shared idea, but it didn’t fit and had to go.
We considered the idea of the shape of the poem, and could clearly identify three stages to it – the funeral procession, the final resting place and the mourners themselves, so the notion of three three-verse stanzas seemed to happen quite naturally. The cauliflowers and leeks at the end of the second stanza had a ‘Stop All the Clocks’ feel – their absurdity suggesting that things were somehow wrong with the world as this individual reached his final resting place. The poem somehow didn’t seem finished, and we originally had the idea of ‘infinite regression’ buried in the final stanza. We knew that it was central to our understanding of what was going on in the narrative and metaphor of the poem, and so we made the decision to finish with that - which is how we ended up with the final two lines in a kind of coda.
We discussed punctuation repeatedly – particularly in relation to full stops. This was probably the most difficult part of the process in terms of trying to shape ideas that were both coherent and allusive. I think there is more work to be done there!
We both knew when it was ‘finished’ – and sat back with a contented sigh! This was a powerful exercise, and one which then reverberated and echoed around the next few pieces of writing that I did. These next two pieces, for example, were intended to be cinquains (but failed, dramatically) and although they are actually based around a postcard image of Framlingham Castle reflected in a moat, overtones of the language and the ideas from the found poetry exercise are clearly present within them.
reflects form and light.
Robust walls are shimmering,
Rupturing battlements reach
across the twilight of time:
Mirror image, captured moment.
reveal and conceal in equal measure:
Castle moat seems to be exploring something about time and history provoked by the reflected image. True Reflection emerged from Castle Moat because the first photograph reminded me of a second – a retouched wedding photograph that also contains a reflected image and has always bothered me – but that notion of ‘infinite regression’ returned to haunt me…