Poetry In Motion

PoetryBy some strange quirk of fate (not that I believe in fate), I managed to scrape into the final of Word Makers Spoken Word Slam Final.

A bit like a verbal version of Ultimate Cage Fighting, using the power of the English language instead of physical force and aggression, there were winners and losers, those who walked away smiling and those who bowed out bruised, bleeding and reduced to tears.

In very much the same manner that music can lift your heart or sadden your soul, poetry can reach the places other forms of spoken language never can.

Now it has to be said, that amongst some hugely talented poets, some of whom are fortunate enough to make a living from their work, I was carried from the cage (metaphorically speaking) battered, bruised and bleeding. But the very fact that any of my poetry was deemed to be good enough to be compared to theirs was a huge buzz and an honour.

Damien and Macca shared the prizes, both winning gigs in the Bournemouth area.

One of my efforts went like this …

Time Lapsed

The roads were quite slick in amongst all the trees
As I flew off to work on my Japanese steed
I was feeling at one, with the bike and had fun
Round the twists and turns of the morning works run

As I happened upon the Old Windsor road
This guy in his van, with his plumbing work load
Made a crazy manoeuvre right into my track
And the Fireblade squirmed as I throttled right back

I evaded the hulk of the white Hyundai guy
Got a really close look at the whites of his eyes
Picked the bike up straight with a blip on the gas
And vented my rage at this ignorant ass

Then all turned to red, as the Peugeot behind
Followed on even though he was totally blind
In an instant I found I had run out of time
And I struck it head on, without changing my line

I was launched off the bike without slowing at all
Splintering ladders on his roof rack halted my fall
Bent knees shattered the windscreen in front of his head
Whilst the on-looking drivers all assumed I was dead

I fell from the roof as a leather-clad heap
While the pain in my guts forced me, wincing, to weep
And my breath was slow coming in a stuttering gasp
As I lay there just wondering if it might be my last

Some people surrounded me, laid on the ground
And I was slowly aware of compassionate sounds
Someone bent down close, to take a hold of my arm
Protecting my twisted prone form from more harm

The stark reality of Now flooded into my brain
And connected events with this dull growing pain
I was checked by the medic who just by sheer chance
Was detained by the traffic, whilst I lay in a trance

He pronounced me unbroken, in arm, leg or neck
Though he firmly suggested my ribs should be checked
Then the ambulance came with its lights flashing blue
And again I was checked over by one of the crew

Coppers helped me to stand and they took off my lid
They asked lots of questions and wrote down what I said
Then they took me to sit on the ambulance steps
While they questioned the driver, who stood there and wept

It is said by some folks that when one nearly dies
That a montage swims by from events of our lives
But I saw, in slow motion, just a large bonnet, red
And the two huge white eyeballs in the car drivers head

Now it’s all but a memory from way in the past
And clearly that slow breath was never my last
I went on to ride bikes and none ever were wrecked
But I’ve never forgotten that time lapsed effect

Richard Blake © 2014

Sometimes we learn more from our defeats than from our victories, last night was one of those occasions.

On Wiping The Slate Clean

Wiping The Slate CleanSometimes we need to wipe the slate clean, take a deep breath, and start anew. With my impending change of career, this might just be the perfect time to do so. Having new goals, new horizons and renewed vigour is just the ticket.

I know that some people fear change, are loath to relinquish all the effort put into a particular path, even if that path may be taking them in the wrong direction. I am not one of those people, I embrace change and actually find it rather exciting.

Setting sail on a new career in teaching or writing, I intend to make the most of each and every day, and when that change does arrive, I will enjoy the excitement of being reborn into a new and exciting experience.

Chapter And Verse

Chapter And VerseTonight should be interesting, it’s my second appearance at the Open Mic Night, arranged by The Platform at the Mad Cucumber in Bournemouth.

Yes, the very same Mad Cucumber we frequent with our vegan chums, though tonight the audience will not be comprised entirely of veggie / vegan folk. This presents both a challenge, and an opportunity.

With luck, I’ll get time to perform four poems. One about the buzz that public performance gives you, much like chanting actually. One about how we are slowly destroying the Earth, another about our recent narrowboat holiday and the last about a certain single vegan female.

So rather varied subjects and topics, but the chance to broadcast my views about everything from Buddhism to veganism, overfishing to canal holidays. I’m sure some people will like some of the poetry better than others, some may not like it at all. But if I make one person think about things, and in some small way, change their lives for the better because of that, I will be pleased with the outcome.

What Is …

What Is PoetryRemember the scene in the movie Dead Poets Society, where Mr Keating is introducing the concept of poetry to the class?

He cites from the fictional weighty tome “Understanding Poetry”, by Dr. J. Evans Pritchard, Ph.D. which tries to describe a formula for evaluating poetry in pseudo-scientific terms:

To fully understand poetry, we must first be fluent with its meter, rhyme and figures of speech, then ask two questions:

1) How artfully has the objective of the poem been rendered and

2) How important is that objective?

Question 1 rates the poem’s perfection; Question 2 rates its importance. And once these questions have been answered, determining the poem’s greatness becomes a relatively simple matter.

If the poem’s score for perfection is plotted on the horizontal of a graph and its importance is plotted on the vertical, then calculating the total area of the poem yields the measure of its greatness.

A sonnet by Byron might score high on the vertical but only average on the horizontal. A Shakespearean sonnet, on the other hand, would score high both horizontally and vertically, yielding a massive total area, thereby revealing the poem to be truly great. As you proceed through the poetry in this book, practice this rating method. As your ability to evaluate poems in this matter grows, so will, so will your enjoyment and understanding of poetry.

Of course Mr Keating tears the theory to shreds and encourages the boys to rip the whole section out of the book, an action that comes back to haunt him later in the film.

But what is poetry, what is love? Certainly it appears to have a slightly different meaning to each and every one of us.

Here are my thoughts on poetry:

What is poetry?

What is poetry?
A simple question
But I think you’ll find
That the meaning is different
To each person asked
And it’s more of a state of one’s mind

What is poetry?
A stupid question
When asked out of the blue
‘Cos the meaning is different
So what’s this thing to me
May be that thing to you

What is poetry?
A searching question
‘Cos it holds our passions and fears
It can capture just an instant
And at any time later
Remind us of joy or tears

What is poetry?
What a question

You decide …

So what is love? I don’t think I’m even going to try to quantify or qualify that one.

The Angry Poet

An Angry ManSometimes, when anger wells up inside us, an outburst can actually do more harm than good.

But when it’s wrapped in poetry, the power is conserved but the harshness is somehow diluted, allowing the message to get through without causing an aggressive backlash.

Here’s a poem that encapsulates some of the anger I feel about climate change …


Mr Angry

My practice is that of a Buddhist
For practice makes perfect they say
So why do I still get so angry
When resources are frittered away?

The Earth has a finite collection
Of minerals, water and air
So why are we all quite so blasé?
It’s almost like nobody cares

They hoover the bed of the oceans
Till every fish has been caught
Then they freeze ’em till prices go mental
‘Cos profit’s their first and last thought

They cut down the trees in the forests
The lungs of the world it’s been said
To make palm oil for everyone’s cookies
Pretty soon Planet Earth will be dead

We marched in the sun at the seaside
In the hope that somebody would hear
Our demands that our leaders take action
To reverse all the climate change fears

But I fear for my grandchildren’s future
On a planet we all have sucked dry
They will never ever forgive us
When they find we’ve condemned them to die

Richard Blake © 2014

The Learning Process

Look Both WaysI love the way this poem beautifully encapsulates the stages of learning, and the long, long road to enlightenment …

  1. I walk down the street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
    I fall in.
    I am lost…
    I am hopeless.
    It isn’t my fault.
    It takes forever to find a way out.
  2. I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I pretend I don’t see it.
    I fall in again.
    I can’t believe I’m in the same place.
    But it isn’t my fault.
    It still takes a long time to get out.
  3. I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I see it is there.
    I still fall in…it’s a habit
    My eyes are open; I know where I am;
    It is my fault.
    I get out immediately.
  4. I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I walk around it.
  5. I walk down another street.
~ Portia Nelson

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