Boy’s Name – Hubert Moore
The wooden post in the pond
where the kingfisher perches
is a bare post, and indeed
when they asked you your name
you couldn’t say anything.
You knew it of course. You’d answer
if somebody said it. Kingfishers
come back, they don’t abandon
their ponds. Look, it’s there
staring into the water.
You lost everything, home, family,
country. How did you bring
that totally warm smile
through immigration? Or did it come in
hanging under a lorry?
So much is closed down now,
barricade on the narrow streets
of your memory. It would be good
if, in its quite un-English plumage,
there on its post was the kingfisher.
But it’s not. There’s only a post. Enough
that your lost name – its kingfisher
colours I still can’t really pronounce –
flits between blackened houses
and comes laughing back to you.
The more observant among you may have noticed that I began with the Sunday Poem last week. ‘The blog post was upside down’ one reader tweeted. I’ve been wanting to give more prominence to the Sunday Poems for a while now, feeling that I’m doing poets a disservice by leaving them to finish off my ramblings, which were very long. Was anybody getting through said rambling to the poem, I wondered? And after all, the poem is the whole point of the thing.
So the Sunday Poem is now the head of this blog, and my discussion of the poem is the belly, and my rambling about my week is the tail. Except this week, the head, the body and the tail are mixed up, making my whole metaphor useless!
On Thursday night I read at April Poets in Lancaster alongside Lindsey Holland, David Borrott, Hubert Moore and short, open mic style sets from the committee of April Poets. It was a really lovely night. Carole Coates read a tribute poem to Elizabeth Burns, who recently passed away, which made me cry. I got to see Lindsey Holland, a good friend of mine do an longer reading for the first time. David Borrott is a good friend as well, and he did a great reading – he has a very quirky sense of humour – he is one of those poets whose introductions and poems can make you laugh out loud.
I met Hubert Moore two years ago in Aldeburgh. I spent a little bit of time with him then, and although I don’t know him very well, I went away with the feeling that he had a gentle soul, and very kind eyes! I didn’t get to see him at Aldeburgh, because I was doing an event at the same time as his reading, so it was great to be able to read with him on Thursday. He completely charmed the audience, and I bought his most recent book ‘The Bright Gaze of the Disoriented’ and extracted an agreement from him that I could feature a poem of his here.
I read his book cover to cover on Friday and thought it was really wonderful. It’s published by Shoestring Press and I am enthusiastically recommending it to you! Let me talk about the poem that I’ve picked for this week though. Hubert has spent nine years as a writing-mentor at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture and I think it is a safe guess to assume that it is from this experience that this poem is drawn.
This poem is both subtle and simple. It is walking many tightropes at the same time – between both subtlety and simplicity, between the kingfisher and the boy’s name, between what is said and what is unsaid, between what we know and what we don’t, between what the speaker knows and the speaker doesn’t know. Hubert has taken two disparate things – a kingfisher and a boy’s name and set them against each other and somehow, one illuminates the other.
The statements about the kingfisher ‘where the kingfisher perches/is a bare post’ or ‘kingfishers/come back, they don’t abandon/their ponds’ – these certainties, are set against everything we don’t know about the boy, the questions that are left unanswered, the boy’s silence about the thing that defines us, our name. I would also like to add in here that usually I don’t like poems with the word ‘memory’ in, and just look at how terrible that line would have been if Hubert had put, in Stanza four, ‘barricaded on the narrow streets/of memory’. Instead, he writes ‘barricaded on the narrow streets/of your memory’ which changes it from being abstract to concrete.
Hubert Moore deserves to be more widely known than he is. As another poet said when I raved about his work on Facebook recently, he is very self-effacing and humble and maybe this is why he isn’t better known. The Bright Gaze of the Disorientated is Hubert’s eighth full collection, and his fourth to be published by Shoestring Press.
Apart from reading in Lancaster on Thursday, my week has consisted of dashing up and down the country. On Monday I read at Cafe Writers in Norwich. Sadly, due to my having had quite a few Tuesdays off teaching to go to various prize ceremonies, I didn’t feel that I could have another one, so I decided, in my infinite wisdom, it would be a great idea to drive back to my mum and dad’s in Leicester after the reading (2 and a half hours ish), sleep there for four hours, get up at 4.30am and drive back to Barrow in the early hours of Tuesday morning to get back for trumpet teaching at 9am, because that is the kind of dedicated teacher I am!
I made it as well, feeling slightly zombified and in my first lesson, the teacher Mr M was very nice and made me a cup of tea, probably out of pity because I looked so terrible. The reading in Norwich was lovely, and Helen Ivory and Martin Figura made me a really wonderful meal before hand and were great hosts and the audience were enthusiastic, the open mic was great.
My ever generous husband had booked us tickets to see ‘Waiting for Godot’ at The Forum on Tuesday night as a welcome home present, and to be honest, I thought I would fall asleep, as I decided to go out for a Thai before hand, instead of getting the planned hour’s snooze. However, it was utterly compelling, and even running on four hours sleep and after eight hours of brass teaching, I really enjoyed it.
On Thursday I was in Queen Katherine Secondary School in Kendal all day. The timetable was pretty intense – 3 x 40 minute poetry readings to 100 GCSE and sixth formers each time, and then two 50 minute workshops in the afternoon. Although it was hard work, it was actually a really fun and pleasant way to spend the day – mainly due to the pupils being really polite and interested, and the lovely English Department, who made me feel really welcome in the staff room. Mr B, the Head of English, had even thought to sort out a school lunch for me which was nice.
On Friday I spent the day with a group of children at Dent Primary School. This is part of an extended project which The Wordsworth Trust and Tullie House are running. I’ve already done one workshop with this group at Tullie House a week or so ago, so this was the second time I’d seen the children. Dent Primary School are very lucky because they have an amazing and enlightened head teacher, who thinks it is a perfectly acceptable use of school time to take the children on a train journey and write poems on the way.
I asked the children to write down secrets that they noticed on the way, things that nobody else had noticed. I’m convinced this is the best way to get children writing poems. We also listened to some Michael Rosen before we left and W.H Auden’s ‘Night Mail’ when we got back. It feels like a real luxury to have this huge amount of time to spend with the children and I can already see their confidence growing in their own abilities and their imagination – I feel very lucky to be part of it.
I’ve already gone over my word count terribly by now, but I would like to finish by saying that today I’ve been at Nantwich Words and Music Festival and I had a lovely time. I got to meet some of the competition winners for the Nantwich Poetry Competition, and to hear some of the winners read their poems. I did a reading, and the audience were really lovely.
The other exciting thing that happened this week is that Seren have ran out of the first print run of my collection, and have done a reprint. I still have a few copies left of this first print run, so if anybody would like a signed copy for £11 (£10 plus p +p) please use the contact page and get in touch.
Tomorrow I’m off to the prize giving for the Manchester Cathedral Poetry Prize – where I’ll hopefully be meeting some of the winners and giving a poetry reading. I hope to see some of you there!