Poetry in some ways is the easiest of the arts. It is solitary and comparatively economical in terms of time-over-task. The technology needed is minimal – just a pencil and some paper. No violins or blocks of Carrara marble.
I have always had things I want to say about love and death and human history, pictures I wanted to create, stories I wanted to tell. Making poetry has been part of my life for more than sixty years. It is a compulsion. I cannot imagine ever saying to myself, I shall write no more poems.
The poets who have influenced me are those the music of whose poetry, its rhythms and syntax has stayed with me as much as, in some cases more than, their subject matter. They have all written poems that I return to again and again, as touchstones and for inspiration and solace.
They include, in alphabetical order:
W.H. Auden; Robert Browning; e.e. cummings; Emily Dickinson; Robert Frost; Seamus Heaney; Ted Hughes; Philip Larkin; Robert Lowell; John Milton; Wilfred Owen; Sylvia Plath; Peter Porter; William Shakespeare; W.D. Snodgrass; Alfred Tennyson; W.B. Yeats
The lines of the poems do not begin with a capital letter unless the line is the start of a sentence. I was prompted to depart from that long tradition after reading the work of the Black Mountain Poets. Like them, I believe the lines flow more effectively.
For the same reason, there are no rhyming words at the end of lines. The only rhymes are what is known as internal and are usually half rhymes: as in these four lines from, for example, UNDER NOVEMBER SKIES:
Rain clouds are blackening the mountains
to the west but northwards, beyond bracken
and gorse that stretches seemingly to land’s edge,
through a gap in the hills, we can see the sea..
Some of the poems, like KLIPTOWN, SOWETO, APRIL 2010, are in free verse, but most average ten syllables per line, with nine and eleven the minimum and maximum respectively. The basic rhythm of the poems is what is known as iambic pentameter – ten syllables per line, in pairs of syllables, unstressed followed by stressed, as in the last line of A JAR OF STICKLEBACKS –
‘a jar with all your wishes, all your hopes’.
But that is only the underlying beat and one from which I freely depart to create a range of emotions, images, thoughts and tones.