Monday, 18 May 2015

Radio poem


Today's radio dial's not just a dial.
It's a display: gives you more information
running, but goes to blank at rest. Old-style
analogue dials, over the base gradation
of kiloHertz and metres, still when still
were effervescent with their banded cities.
And when I was a boy, with time to fill,
I could sing at the possibilities
for hours. They belonged with binoculars,
maps, number-plates, star-charts, but came to displace
astronomy, which was the previous
interest. Today I'd call the phase
that happened next addiction. I first found
Radio Moscow's English under June
sunset, and it became a nightly round
by the autumn of 1971 -
Tirana, Moscow, Prague, Warsaw, and later,
drab 1972's political
balance, west dictator for east dictator,
the fifties sound of Radio Portugal.
But why - given ten words to improvise
some verse around, an email parlour game -
pick as a subject for the exercise
the story of a former hobby's claim?
Because the words suggest it. I can say
how new and various the short wave shone,
what pleasures it delivered in its play.
The pleasure of the hunt, the catch, was one.
CBA Moncton, netted from my bed
in Nottinghamshire winter - that was great.
But Radio Tirana, wishing dead
so many, I could only hate,
and hate's a noxious pleasure, lashing sweat.
That was the sour inside the bright kumquat.
Then hate and hunt gave less and less to get.
I scanned the dial for them, and scanned, and that
was the addiction, radio quagmire.
But I have seen the quagmire sink, not me.
I put restraint on radio desire
as early as Lent 1973.
It faded slowly, surged in my French year,
and again more than ten years on, a freak
throwback stunt for One World Week, but there
it ends. The world's got other ways to speak.

And I shall not be one of those who fret
to hear of kids addicted to the net.

The above was my entry in the CV2 2-day Poem Contest 2009.  The key point of the CV2 contest, for those who haven't followed that link, is that the entry has to be written in 48 hours and include ten words specified by that organisers at the start of that period.

My excuse for blogging the poem is that I have recently tweeted the concluding couplet, thereby presumably rendering the poem ineligible for entry in competitions that disallow published material.

Another piece of poetic fall-out from my foreign-radio phase is this haiku of January 2013, 'Tirana's trumpets'. And you might also be interested in this article, published in Cambridge University libraries information bulletin 60, 2007.

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