Sunday, 5 July 2015

Instead of a minute

On 18 May I posted my 'Radio poem' -- my entry in the 2009 CV2 Two-Day Poem Competition .  Today's post was my entry in the equivalent competition for 2013.  It's now found publication in the journal Writers' forum 165, 2015, p. 51.  Many thanks to WF's poetry editor, Sue Butler, who asked me to let her have it for her 'In my own words' slot and has given me permission to reproduce it here.

WF also has a poetry competition, but monthly and without the stringent specifications of CV2'S challenge (see below).  Top prize in the WF competition is £100.  I might yet have a go.  And you?


Neon, the new one, with New Latin name.
We call it noble for its non-reaction,
but garish for its red-light energy,
like one jumped-up, pulling a bogus rank
into trapeze rococo, gambit after gambit
to take the place of record, and we fall
with a sententious relish on the story.

Please don't kick me, being no Stedman expert
(John Stedman, that is, maverick slave-fighter,
not Stedman as in church-bells and bob-changes),
starting to write as if I knew at all
his archive with its scraps and pots and bones
jangling reproach to mine, likewise chaotic
but less alive. His pictures were the draw.
I wrote the Stedman piece, a scrubby growth
unfed by knowledge, but, with help from kin,
meeting the questions, and it went online
to universal silence. In relief,
reporting to Committee, I admitted
imposter syndrome and the agonies
it had imposed on me. Not for the minutes.

The CV2 Two-Day Poem Competition required a poem produced in 48 hours and including, in 2013, all ten of the following words: neon, relish, scrubby, bob, gambit, rank, sententious, record, trapeze, and rococo. The competition weekend included, for Clare and me, a journey to Birmingham. The poem was written on trains and in a room of the Premier Inn.

One elusive word got placed when I told Clare I was including a reference to John Stedman. Clare, an aficionada of Dorothy Sayers' novel The nine tailors, thought first of the Stedman whose name is attached to some of the campanological terms in that book – and I remembered enough of those terms to see that this would fit the word 'bob'.

The Brum trip was for a memorial service to a friend, Jo Austen. My mind was in the right place during the service. The poem didn't distract me from the tributes to Jo.

Nothing from the memorial service appears in the poem.  At one level, what that means is that the first draft was probably completed before Sunday afternoon. But the poem's closeness to Jo's memorial does make another point become obvious.  Jo had cerebral palsy from birth. The poem's boasts about an occasional sense of professional inadequacy on my part are in perspective alongside what she had to work with in living well.