I set out believing I was a reader, a collector of books. It was marvellous that the children I taught could write engagingly – and it would certainly stand them in good stead when they became readers too. Years into teaching, struggling with the burdens of so many unread books, I was plucked from the classroom and deposited in the National Writing Project, because I had been snared by word processing.
The Project had several key principles – one was that teachers of writing should be writers too. How can you expect them to, if you don’t? So I started to write, to record observations, to explore poems as models, and to enjoy technical formality. And in those days, teachers often met and worked with professional writers – today, they simply have to work with the National Curriculum.
And then there is David. Always wise, and always a writer, he has been a continual example and inspiration. If you are reading this, you are one of David’s fans as well, and look forward to his monthly collection.
I too have a poetry website, and publish what I write on it. The url is www.jahuddart.com, and I email my friends with regular updates, though in not so timely a fashion as David.
The Point of Vanishing Stability I wrote after a week’s sailing in very stormy weather off the west coast of Scotland, which explains the context.
Some poems rush into the world, almost fully formed, and find their connections to the wider sinews of life, almost instinctively. This is one of them – would they were all like that!
The Point of Vanishing Stability
In a yacht, the point of vanishing stability
is reached when the vessel decides
it has had enough of gales and tumult,
and will overturn. In the boat we are on,
this is a measurable angle, defined
by calculation and testing. We are pleased
to learn it is 120°.
Summoning up our mathematical imagination
we place the mast well below the surface,
with our boat springing back to save us
as we tumble about our ends.
It is a phrase that seizes. Passing
straight from the workshop manual
to the page of possibility. As we charge
the waves, and crash through with
jovial insouciance, the world and
its endless chaos breaks upon the
decks to tumble past in salty streams.
And so we trust to all designers
that the keel will hold beneath, that
the mounting pressure on the sails
will spill from the tops like so much
laughter. And so with all the lubberly
uproar from our safety-conscious lands,
with bitter crowds converging
on the monuments they would disown,
with grave ministers of state who
battle with the tide of numbers
competing for our panic or our grief.
May the bow split water still,
may whosoever did the sums
and placed us in this sea have got it right.
Through edgy fears and sacrifice
we stand fast to the wheel, and
still keep on tacking home, past tipping
points that howl but never come.
©John Huddart 2021