Saturday, 10 September 2011


This is the sequence of poems I mentioned back in February, the one about the "fragmentary vocalisations, unconnected with their immediate circumstances, that one utters in response to awkward memories." At that time, I made a link to another online manifestation of the work, but that manifestation seems to be not always there when wanted.

'Blurts' was not conceived as a sequence, but written as the individual parts suggested themselves to me in 2003-2004. It was published in the language quarterly Verbatim 30(i), Spring 2005, p. 17, following one of the fastest acceptances I've ever had. 2004 was like that.

Blurts turn out, or at any rate their driver, the sense of living in a perpetual jangle of remembered gaffes and peccadilloes, turns out, to be more widespread than I once thought. I have shown the below sequence to people and found, gratifyingly often, that the response is one of recognition. On the other hand, the counting of blurts, by means of a stopwatch, appears to be an idiosyncrasy of mine. I call it blurtmetry, and have used its name again for the present blog. For an account of the genesis of blurtmetry as a hobby, see the British Science Festival 2011 poetry competition, 15th post; however, it found no other enthusiasts, and my family were relieved when I abandoned it after three years.

Verbatim is in abeyance at the moment, and greatly missed.



Some gaffe has bubbled in my memory.
"You idiot!" I mutter, meaning me.
Somebody overhears me and feels meant.
Another bubble's on its long ascent.


Whispering “DEATH!”
is a waste of breath.


My rule -- Don't talk to someone you can't see --
may help me see that one or other hears.
It doesn't stop blurts of apology
to teachers I've not seen in thirty years.


I bark Sorry! staccato
for an old peccadillo –
a sort of self-vendetta.

Recalling what I can’t recall
finds cracks of resolution
in battering the party-wall
edgeways with noise-pollution.


A blurt of the usual sort,
in a prayer, would stick out like a wart.
So in church, when an old thing went off in my head,
I converted the blurt to a silent stop dead –
and “The man’s half-asleep,” people thought.


Another wordless blurt's the thick-blink wince.
Perhaps it was your music that set ringing
the trigger memories, laid down long since;
I did not mean a slight upon your singing.


Treading two steps in ten on words that trigger
the sort of memory that stops me dead,
I'm glad to find the English language bigger
than lists of what I wish I hadn't said.
Indeed, if I went through the dictionary
on purpose to stain every word with me
and PowerPointed® the resulting story
to seminars on lexicography
(“CLEUGH I illiterately mispronounced,
NOUP I wrote in exams, under-prepared,
PORRET accompanied a cheque that bounced,
DRAN and I've just now realised why she glared”),
the words I'd left unstained would make the thing
so gappy as to be embarrassing.


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