As a poet, I hate clichés, of course I do. But sometimes, only a cliché will do. So I’m going to use one right now. Here it comes, are you ready? OK. There are no strangers, there are only friends we haven’t met yet. There, I’ve done it.
I started writing this blog for my own benefit, to see how PhD would fit into my life as a poet, what would have to go to make space for it. And since I started the blog, I’ve frequently been amazed by the number of people who read it every week. I have sometimes been to poetry meetings—readings and so on—when people I’ve heard of or know by sight but don’t actually ‘know’ yet approach me to say how much they enjoy my blog every week, how much they look forward to it. Well that’s good, because I love writing it. This month I am in line to have the most readers in a month since I started writing it regularly a couple of years ago and there is nothing more satisfying for a writer than an audience.
But today was extra special. Someone I hadn’t met yet, didn’t even know by sight, claimed to be my biggest fan. Obviously she doesn’t know about the Pro-Breeze oscillating 30in tower fan in the conservatory, because that’s a very big fan; but I’ll take the accolade none-the-less.
She reminded me that writing, and particularly writing poetry, is such a joy to me; I came to it late, after I retired from my other life, and it feels like the life I was supposed to be living all along. It fits me; I’m happy in its skin. No-one told me poetry can be a life, that it can be what you do with—what you make of—your life. When I ‘did’ poetry at school it was all the Male Romantics: Shelley, Keats, Wordsworth etc; Byron was out: far too risqué, far too risky; sometimes we got a dose of Philip Larkin if the teacher was in a forward looking mood. I didn’t even know there were women in poetry. Women poets were the silent minority, possibly the unacknowledged ‘Anon’ of the anthologies of poetry in the school library. I didn’t discover the likes of Carol Ann Duffy, Adrienne Rich, Fleur Adcock, Jackie Kay and a myriad other women poets, until I did the BA literature with the OU when I was well into my fifties.
But as Percy Bysshe Shelley knew, and as I’ve waited a lifetime to discover, poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds. I can’t comment on the quality of my mind, although I think it’s pretty sharp; but I can vouch for the mental happiness. Poetry is the result and the cause of the happiness that comes with knowing I’m in the right life at last.
So I thought I’d write an extra blog this week especially for her, whatever her name. This is it. Hopefully it will serve to help me break my readership record, but that would be a by-product. I’ve drafted a poem to go with it, a poem about poetry, inspired by a favourite Minnie Driver song. I offer it especially to my self-professed ‘biggest fan’—and I’m not talking about the Pro-Breeze. Thank you, whoever you are, for reminding me how blessed I am.
The Best Poem I Haven’t Written Yet
I’d bet everything I’ve got in my pocket
some loose change, a torn tissue
a humbug leaking from its wrapper
a Metrolink ticket, a till receipt
a smart phone, a notebook and pencil
an original thought, a stupid question,
a lifetime of memories, the ones I’ve forgotten
a straight rhyme or a slant rhyme,
a strong rhythm, five feet, an end-stop
or enjambments, caesuras, white space,
a study in form, some stanzas and images,
a world lingua franca
to find, balled with the fluff in its unexplored corners,
the last of my three wishes
that one poem…