Sunday Poem – Terry Jones

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Evening everybody.  Ta daaaa!  The Sunday poem has arrived at last!  It has been playing on my mind all week – guilt that I didn’t write it up last week – wondering whether I should put it up in the week etc etc.  I know it will be worth the wait though.

I don’t have much news this week – I was at the music festival again conducting Year 3, 4 and 5 classes from one of my favorite schools in the ‘Class Music-Making’ session.  There were nine different classes in and we didn’t come in the top 3 but the kids didn’t seem to mind too much.  It was quite sweet afterwards actually, listening to their conversations.  I distinctly heard one boy (Year 4) say ‘Well it’s the taking part that counts.  And we’re all superstars just for getting up on that stage’!! Hee hee.

Today I’ve been getting ready for an all day music workshop that I’m running in a primary school tomorrow.  The purpose of it is to give the teachers ideas so that they can carry on and do music themselves as non-specialists, so I’ve been trying to cram in as much as possible.  I’ve nearly finished now – just have to write the last plan to go with the powerpoints and then I’m done.

I have no other extra schools workshops booked in for this year – it’s Easter Holidays in four days, and I’m feeling pretty cheery.  I even found some postcards in Barrow yesterday for a project that I’m involved in at the Poetry Business – – both the project and the poems.  The postcards are quite funny – I have a few of Cavendish Dock, where the submarines are built/stored/not quite sure and Piel Island, taken on a very grey day and looking much grimmer than it actually is (I love Piel Island) and a couple of Furness Abbey and one of the Town Hall.  I have to write a poem about one of these pictures on the back of the postcard and then send it off to Bank Street Arts.  I think David Tait is sending one from China so my Barrow one will sit nicely beside the more glamorous locations!

I’ve met Terry Jones twice – the first time was at Martin Malone’s book launch at The Bluebell Bookshop in Penrith.  Neither of us had pamphlets then, but we had a nice chat and I thought nothing more of it, except I kept noticing Terry’s name cropping up in various places – as winner of the Bridport Prize in 2011 for starters, judged by that lady of exceptional good taste, Carol Ann Duffy.

Then I met Terry at the recent launch of the Firecrane, published by New Writing Cumbria www.newwritingcumbria.org.uk/

I bought his pamphlet because I enjoyed the poem he read at the launch, and the way he delivered it, and because I like to support local poets, and because it was only £3.  I don’t know if it was on special offer for that day.

Anyway, I started leafing through it one night, and accidentally got engrossed and read it cover to cover.  It is one of the best pamphlets that I’ve read in the last couple of years for consistency of quality and exciting use of language, and I really would recommend getting over to www.poetrysalzburg.com and ordering yourself a copy.  It’s called ‘Furious Resonance’.  I think I like it so much because it is so different to how I write – the poem that I’ve chosen to post is thick with language – it feels like the sentences are coiled around each other.  And I like how he has managed to write about politics without bashing us round the head with it.

You will have read Terry’s work before because he’s been in lots of mags: Agenda, Brittle Star, Envoi, Iota, Obsessed with Pipework, Poetry Review, The Dark Horse, The London Magazine, The Observer, The Red Wheel Barrow, The Rialto and Under the Radar.  Terry also has his own website where you can find out some more about him: http://terryjonespoetry.weebly.com/

Here is the poem

Precious Jewel – Terry Jones
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall…

Shakespeare, Richard II, II.i.48-49

i

The rat-ship has landed: it came in with filth sails,
set of sun dusk sails, rag sails, grey shirt sails;
came in with its moon-slime wake, wet rudder tail in the water,
withered ghost-tree masts; came in with chewed sails,
alive and swaying, beads of water rats running down the hawser
with baby hands, with flea ears, leaving flapping washing sails,
sweat and flesh sails; coming in hand over hand, star-eyed,
all its twitching cargo sniffing the land-fall;
see them flop from the dirty pockets, hop ashore teeth bared,

see them swarm grey stone, skitter through the car-oil,
duck under the shadows of cranes, dart and double
through the razor fences and the hedges and the gates,
and behind them the dirty ship weeping its flag;
they sprint to A-roads, flea-cargoed, spreading and certain.
London and Birmingham, Sheffield and Bradford,
Glasgow and the towns, villages, hidden dreaming hamlets,
buy paint for the cross on your door, buy black paint
and listen for a bell now the rat-ship has landed.

ii

A rat has come to my window, scab-pelted, hard-eyed,
a black rat has come with his wife ferocious and true,
her naked babies hang on her tits; at the double-glazing
with one old language they cling on the ledge, peer
through the glass blinking in the unusual light: ‘Safer for you’,
he says, ‘and more simple if our shared blood ran thin as water
and you could forget the pests you create us to be:
just to be here tonight we have endured the unendurable, war,
faring through thirst, chased into corners with bloody clubs,
in an existence of darkness forced to eat history’s shit, condemned
if we bared a tooth, despised if we wept.  Is it that our voices
are pitched too high for you to hear, our movements
between the lines so sharp your fictions miss us?
Crouched hidden and dying, eaten by salt and moonlight

we saw your lights from the water: spread along the frowning coast
they were like precious jewels that turned then to finger searchlights
pointing us back to sea.  Neither I nor those with me I love
carry any identification, but we see and hear actutely
and our time in the shadows of the rotting ship is finishing.
Come here.  In a single reflection towards us
put your face to the glass, ears to the scratching at your borders.

 

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