I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Come on Judah; burst your chains

West Indies Lady, Grishkin de nos jours, has left a card
Inviting interest in her trade. She’s up to modern tricks,
Confusing me with talk of Frenching. Doubt I’m into that,
But might be tempted to enrol in paid-for discipline.

Bondage is listed but, Dear Lady, that’s not what I need,
I’d much prefer you tutored me on techniques of escape.
My malady consists, they say, of choosing prison’s bars,
Disdaining freedom; watch and see me throw away the key.

When asked to walk I’ve done so with a military step,
Restricted to the rhythms of four hundred years ago,
My doublet is a couplet and it nicely turns the verse,
The rasp of sagbut celebrates its regularity.

Forget my love of rules, they say, take to the air and fly
Unshackled, trusting to the chaos of mad liberty.
The lines may vary like the very isobars of life,
Unsettled as I am today, tomorrow I may shine

West Indies Lady, tell me more of how this discipline
Of yours works in a world where freedom is perforce prescribed,
Where ruleless rules can guide and airiness, somehow, contain,
And all for fifty quid, up front, and on the mantelpiece.


  1. This is different! And good - poetic prose, rhythmic ebb and flow, washes over me like warm water along the Gulf shores.

    So, how do you like this form of poetry?

  2. The Crow: Not at all. This is my first attempt at what's called vers libre and I thought I'd write some stanzas in vers libre dwelling on the problmes I have with vers libre.

    However I'm quite pleased about the interplay with the working lady who advertises her services in the old-fashioned type of phone box.

  3. I didn't realize vers libre meant 14.

  4. I caught that you were having doubts about this form. I liked your line: "When asked to walk I’ve done so with a military step, Restricted to the rhythms of four hundred years ago...", which clued me in that this was a poem, if you will, about the poem.

    Despite the unrhymed lines and the free verse style, what you've written feels poetic - words and cadence (oops! military reference not intended) - rhythm, which is what I meant by ebb and flow.

    I knew this was about your form, but I also enjoyed the suggestions involving the West Indies woman. In fact, until I opened your post to see the format, I thought I was reading the first para of a new story.

    What is it you don't like about the form - too free, perhaps? Does it feel as if you're skidding on black ice?

  5. MikeM: In vers libre one is free to choose; it could have been 17½. Followed by 5 on the next line.

    The Crow: Up until now - with one or two rare exceptions (a villanelle, for goodness sake!)- I've written Shakespearean sonnets. Their format is very tight: iambic pentameter, an ABAB CDCD EFEF GG rhyming pattern (which ends, as shown, with a rhyming couplet). People who are genuinely interested in poetry seem to think this is woefully unfashionable and a hindrance to expression.

    I can't pretend I'm genuinely interested in poetry though there are certain poems I enjoy. Certainly, I've read more poetry over the last three or four years than ever before, matching what I've read with what I've written. But my attitude is that of a dilettante.

    I started putting these things together out of curiosity, curiosity about myself, to find out whether I had the slightest fragment of poetic instinct. My tendency is to say I haven't but that's not entirely true: there have been lines here and there which might have qualified:

    The darkened nave entailed a womb of light
    Gilding our boyish group. Standing, we sang
    The Nunc Dimittis,

    Singer and monarch shared the irony
    Of heavy faces and of reticence

    but two or three lines is quite a few short of a sonnet. On two occasions (Receiving the news of my mother's death; A walk I took with VR soon after we met) I might say the poetic sentiment was sustained even though it was let down by technique.

    Here's the crux. For me, poetry is a deliberately artificial way of arranging words in the hope that an unusual effect will emerge. Given that premise I find it reasonable to regard poetry as a discipline - or at the very least, that it depends on discipline. Thus the sonnet suited me. But I have been urged to move on to free verse; in fact to join the modern majority.

    What you see is my first and possibly my last go at free verse, knowing quite well that it isn't free, since, as MikeM points out, each line contains 14 syllables. But lacking any instinct I had to have some rules, damnit. Re-reading it I can't see any one line that qualifies except, possibly, the last. Two good examples of faking it are to be found in:

    ...the very isobars of life,
    Unsettled as I am today...

    The rasp of sagbut...

    As Archie Rice says, in John Osborne's The Entertainer: "I have a go, ladies and gentlemen, I have a go." Something like that.

  6. It's really very beautiful.

  7. Ah, yes. I really like this. Will never forget the first time I walked into one of those London phone booths and saw the cards tacked up all over the interior! As a young American, I was, I guess, shocked by the up-front-ness of it all. Well worth hanging a poem upon, and one with some structure as well as liberte suits perfectly. You are a much better poet than you let on.

  8. I don't know if it's a poem or not but I like it. I'm never sure when prose becomes 'free verse'. Most prose can be turned into poem-like things by breaking up the line spacing, at least it seems so to me but I'm not sufficiently knowledgeable about poetic forms.

    Phone boxes around Paddington used to be treasure troves for found-poetry seekers as well as for the clients of services offered. But they've mostly been cleaned up now and in fact the gradual dismantling of phone boxes in favour of mobile phones is quite sad, isn't it? There was something nostalgically cinematic about entering those confessional-like red booths, finding the coins and having hurried conversations that were generally necessary.

  9. I forgot to add how much I especially like this line:

    " West Indies Lady, tell me more of how this discipline
    Of yours works in a world where freedom is perforce prescribed,"

    and the truth succinctly expressed therein.

  10. Beth: I appreciate your sentiment but, alas, scepticism raises its ugly head. All because of the comparative form of the adjective. One might be said to be much better than zero (it may even be better by an infinite amount; I'm not sure of this, but I like invoking maths wherever possible). And then we need to get into units: no grams versus 1 gm (pretty pathetic), no tonnes versus one tonne (see how I have spelt it specially for you) - sounds better.

    The card reference has its origins in truth. Someone brought such a card back to the office and we mulled about the meaning of "frenching". A graphics arts guy with more confidence than me rang the number and asked for a definition. He was told to drop in and find out. Little did I know... etc, etc.

    Natalie: You voice the problem expressed by the verse (with my own stuff I prefer that word rather than poetry). Who knows? I'm not sure this would ever be regarded as prose since each line carries 14 syllables and - on the whole - is stressed correctly. Bit too much of a coincidence.

    One disadvantage of what are referred to as the Gilbert Scott boxes is that they weren't just used for phoning. If you know what I mean...