All that philosophising and grumbling in 1995! Though some of the fundamental principles
still hold good. I suppose when you are insecure and uncertain about which direction
to take you go in for posturing. Now after all the hard work and ups and downs of
putting oneself about, the relief of having shaped and formed so much that needed
to be said, there seems to be nothing more important than just getting on with it
as and when you can.
Play the dogged game of learning through trial and error, and somehow stifle each
and every excuse you make for not writing. And just as a poem is never finished but
allowed to slip away in its imperfect state, so also there's no hint of work coming
to an end: the illusion of much more to come has to be entertained and taken seriously.
But I can't throw off the inner tug of war expressed in
Radio's blurred hours at the screen,
tapping in and out one lot of words
after another, chasing some voice
that won't be heard, cobbling chunks
to look like stanzas, all for shadows
already breathing down my neck
with how they're lost or what to cut.
Finish Edit. Power Off. Catch
the first, slow bars of some quartet.
Draw breath with the violins before
they go vivace. Prance about sketching
phrases in the air, absurdly alive
(Outstripping Gravity, p.68)
Ostensibly about anticipated workshop sharing, to which I am indebted and in which
I am a firm believer, provided its lessons are followed up. But it's really about
a conflict: the jubilant freedom and release of making while 'out there' the inevitable
listening shadows lie in wait. But then aren't you lucky to have a readership at
And years of reading reviews and reviewing books of verse that are not always interesting
or congenial has taught me how 'relative' and mercurial response and judgment can
be. Most critics like most poets are performers.
I used to envy those who do what I would call 'real' work:-
Caravanning at Ael-y-Bryn, the brow
of the hill, I rock to the wind.
Wet or shine quarrymen turned roofers
are hunched on ladders from 8 till 5.
They strain arms and bruise fingers
stripping the roof. Tapping and chatter
dwindle to a syllable or two before
a wrench that sets my teeth on edge.
Slates that will do again are stacked
with a kind of awe: the last from Blaenau.
Good reason then to let the rogues fly
and shatter in straggling heaps.
Locking in half a dozen rows below
the ridge, they look at what they've
made to measure, beating the weather
back with something of themselves.
To think they might envy me screwing up
pages of invented snags while they
do their quota, knowing whatever's
hammered home will see them out.
(TECHNIQUES: Exposures, p.69 )
This began life in 1987 and distils a lifetime's respect for physical endurance and
craftsmanship; but I'm now convinced that writing is important work, a job that is
required to be done, and if not done will somehow make you and others the poorer.