Friday, 2 March 2012

Poems in Orbis

These poems are about to appear in Orbis 158. They have had the benefit, as Orbis poems tend to do, of editorial suggestions by Carole Baldock.

'By degrees' was my entry in the 2008 Keats-Shelley competition, whose theme that year, I seem to recall, was the word 'lost'. Keats-Shelley has a way of giving its entrants one-word themes that are very stimulating. 'A sentence' was written in 2011, probably for the Rhyme and Reason competition on the theme of 'time'.

The competition pattern re-asserts itself!


Soon it will be a twelvemonth since you lost,
whether by jump or push, your livelihood,
and ran to earth your heat in online post,
recycled Booker, climate science booed.
I lack much science, but, ad hominem,
am consoled, although saddened, when I see
your posts, the different ways of signing them:
two of them, a matter of geography.
For readers living in the USA,
you sign as ‘Dr’ at your new address;
for audiences here in the UK,
who know you, you still sign doctorateless.
Is this the old tradition of the prophet
honoured abroad, at home less well regarded?
Well-meaning, earnest? Other readings of it
spring up like Jack, and will not be discarded.
I cannot say what method’s best to measure
the profit of this title that you use,
not money, true, but cachet, psychic pleasure,
against what, as it’s false, you stand to lose.

The phrase ‘a prisoner doing time’,
tautologous, suggests the hand
of a sub-editor – ‘prisoner’
taking the place of ‘pervert’ (banned)?

I have no proof. Editing good,
censorship bad, I know. What time
changing ‘pervert’ to ‘prisoner’ took
was at worst a minute’s waste, no crime;

if hours, a background process, not
the trial months, the years of jail,
the decades from his bullying
strictness to this shock. And those measures pale

against the time he’s doing time for
against the lives he’s doing life for
against the time against the lives
against against against the lives
against against against against

against against against against

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